Religion & Beliefs

Judaism In the Year 2040

As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, the largest international organization for adult children and other descendants of intermarriage, I sit through endless debates on outreach listservs and message boards about the future of Judaism, while keeping one eye on … Read More

By / October 8, 2009

As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, the largest international organization for adult children and other descendants of intermarriage, I sit through endless debates on outreach listservs and message boards about the future of Judaism, while keeping one eye on the intermarriage and Jewish population statistics worldwide.

Hop onto my time machine, I told my colleagues on one listserve. Welcome to Temple Beth Erev Rav (Temple House of Mixed Rabble), in Anywhere America in the year 2040.

  American Jewish Leaders In The Year 2040

Because 48% of all Jewish-identified college students in the year 2009 were children of intermarriage — Temple Beth Erev Rav in the year 2040 is composed mostly of adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage and interfaith couples. The senior rabbi is an elderly Gen X Jew, married to a middle-aged Millennial Jew. The young associate rabbi — a member of the post-Millennial generation — is an adult child of intermarriage and intermarried. She and her Catholic husband are raising the kids as Jews. They celebrate Christmas at her Catholic mother-in-law’s home.

The cantor is the grandchild of an intermarriage, and half-African-American. The president of the shul is a Chinese Jew By Choice. The congregation is very comfortable with the shul’s leadership — after all, it reflects them. The temple’s denominational affiliations and beliefs are unclear – it is Reform/Reconstructionist/Renewal and other "isms" not yet invented.

 

What Are The Year 2040 American Jews Like?

The Holocaust and the Jewish immigration to America and the founding of Israel are now a century away. The congregants of Temple Beth Erev Rav have the same emotional relationship to those events that the Jews of 2009 have to World War I — it’s ancient history! The Jews of Temple Beth Erev Rav have poor Hebrew skills. They know no Yiddish or Ladino. They don’t cook "Jewish foods" anymore.  But they are tenacious — they read — in Hebrew-English texts with transliterations and translations – the Tanach, study the siddur, pray and donate to the shul. Only a few of them study Talmud or midrash.

They are interested in God and Kabbalah and meditation and Hasidic mystical texts. They are interested in Jewish history, literature, sacred music and art.  The Society for Humanistic Judaism is also doing very well. Not all 2040 Jews will be theistic. Some will be atheists, agnostics and cultural Jews.

 

Where Are the Jews With Two Jewish Parents in 2040?

 

The Jews with two Jewish parents in Temple Beth Erev Rav are mostly over the age of 40 and form a small minority of Temple Beth Erev Rav’s membership. They are Jews born between 1946 – 2000.

 

Some of the Jews with two Jewish parents are quite comfortable with Temple Beth Erev Rav. They are intermarried.  Other Jews with two Jewish parents are married to similar Jews, but have adapted to Temple Beth Erev Rav because they grew up with many friends who were half-Jewish.

 

But other Jews with two Jewish parents felt dislocated and isolated in the new multicultural, multiracial Judaism of Temple Beth Erev Rav.  They have left Temple Beth Erev Rav for Orthodoxy, simply to have more Jews around them who have two Jewish parents and a shared frame of cultural reference. The "Jewish 2.0 continuity" efforts of the year 2009 — "social entrepreneur" efforts – all focused almost entirely on young Jews with two Jewish parents — disappeared long ago. Their heavy focus on self-referential, ephemeral Jewish topics — bagel jokes, Israel trips, discussions on intermarriage, arguments over Yiddish proverbs - which did not resonate with the adult children of intermarriage. 

After all, why would half-Jewish people be interested in discussions on why Jews should not intermarry? Jokes about overbearing Jewish mothers (when many half-Jewish people have Jewish fathers)? Nostalgic pieces on Jewish day schools and camps that few half-Jewish people ever attended?

 

Why Has The American Jewish Population Count Fallen So Far In The Year 2040?

 

Now, there are many adult children and other descendants of intermarriage in Temple Beth Erev Rav’s area who are not members of any Jewish organizations, and live in other faiths and cultures

 

Temple Beth Erev Rav’s membership is much smaller than it could have been, given the large number of adult children and other descendants of intermarriage living in its geographic area.

 

This is true of most surviving Jewish organizations in the year 2040. The Jewish population count in North American has dropped dramatically from 2009. It may be 30% to 50% smaller than it was in the year 2009.

 

This is because, in the year 2009, most Jewish establishment organizations actively snubbed half-Jewish people.

 

Of course, once a Jewish population study appeared in 2022, announcing that adult children of intermarriage had become the majority of college age American Jews  — and would be the majority of American Jews in the year 2040 — most Jewish organizations slowly began seeking out and welcoming adult children and other descendants of intermarriage. But that effort was too little, too late.

 

What Jewish Institutions Exist In 2040?

 

In the year 2040, the majority of mainstream Jewish spiritual and secular institutions, including the federations, have collapsed. The adult children of intermarriage, so long snubbed and ignored by them, simply wouldn’t  join or financially support them.

 

The Conservative Judaism movement is gone – its median age for its congregants in 2009 was 55 years old, and it never did organize effective outreach to interfaith families.  Most Orthodox Jews, with the exception of the smaller Modern Orthodox movement, have finally cut themselves off from the liberal, non-Orthodox Jews of America, as they had threatened to do since the 1980s.  

 

What Happened To Israel In The Year 2040?

 

There will likely be no Israeli flag in Temple Erev Rav and few mentions of it in the shul. Why? In the year 2009, one-third of all Israeli kindergarten children were Haredi/Hasidic ultra-Orthodox. The Haredi/Hasidim of Israel continued to have more children than other Israelis, subsidized by the Israeli government child payments.  The other fast-growing group was the Israeli Arabs.

 

In the year 2009, thousands of half-Jewish Israeli citizens, mostly the children of intermarried Russian Jews, were caught in a web of negative social policies and laws directed against them. Few voices were raised in Israel to defend them.

In the year 2040, the Haredi/Hasidim are poised to take over the Israeli government — they are at least one-third to one-half of Israel’s population. Their primary election promise, announced as far back as 2009, is to create a sort of "Halachic Republic of Israel," like the Islamic Republic of Iran.  In the year 2040, their election promises also include a commitment to exclude all members of interfaith families from the Law of Return, except those who have voluminous documentary proof of a Jewish mother or maternal Jewish grandmother.

 

The other largest Israeli population group in 2040 — the Israeli Arabs — are not disposed to allow a "Halachic Republic of Israel," so rumors of an impending civil war are widespread. It is said that the Palestinian State – created by a peace treaty in 2017 — will help the Israeli Arabs if they decide to revolt.

 

The groups that used to maintain a political balance in Israel – the chilonim (secular Israeli Jews), the half-Jewish Russian Israelis, and similar groups — are outnumbered by the Haredim/Hasidim and the Israeli Arabs, and started leaving Israel long before the year 2040.

 

So Temple Beth Erev Rav has little or no contact with Israel, other than graciously welcoming Israelis who have left Israel. How could America’s non-Orthodox, mixed descent Jews and its Modern Orthodox support "The Halachic Republic of Israel"?

 

The Future

 

This is our future. We’ve already created it through our Jewish lifestyle choices. We need to start planning how we are going to transition Judaism to its next era. It will be a Judaism unlike any that has preceded it.