Oct 22 2008
Fortunately for people who want to live Jewishly but find costs to be an obstacle and fortunately for communities that value Jewish continuity but can not make Jewish experiences affordable to all, the Jewish people have always relied on something dependible and close to home in their fight for survival - the family.
With a little initiative and creativity, families can find low-cost ways to teach their children about their Jewish heritage and give their children strong Jewish identities. Jewish families can borrow Jewish books from the library, subscribe to Jewish publications, play Jewish music in their cars, display Judaica and Jewish art in their homes, discuss Jewish topics at the dinner table, celebrate Jewish holidays with other Jewish families, visit Jewish museums, travel to Jewish historical sites, and so on.
Planning for the Future
It has been said that the external threats, such as pogroms, faced by Jews over the centuries served as unifying forces. Jews needed each other in order to survive in a Jew-hating world. In line with this idea, the removal of those external threats has contributed to assimilation. The more accepting the non-Jewish world has become of Jews, the less Jews have felt they need other Jews and the Jewish community for support and the more Jews have become open to giving up their Jewish ways in an effort to blend with the world around them.
Thus, the cost of Jewish living exceeded the value of Jewish living for many 20th century American Jews. While Jewish community efforts to lower costs and increase value have attempted to tip the scales in the other direction, fighting the assimilation of Jews in America, the "Land of Opportunty", has been a tough battle to win.
Recent events, specifically the 9/11 attack on the United States and the threat of a U.S.-led war with Iraq, have made American Jews more aware of the fragility of life. The "Situation" in Israel, that, between September 2000 and September 2002, has claimed the lives of over 600 Israelis (equivalent to over 30,000 Americans in percentage terms), injured thousands and shaken the economic, political and social life of the country, has rallied American Jews together in support of Israel. At the same time, anti-Semitism has been on the rise worldwide, even in America.
At the opening of the 21st century, the value of intensive Jewish experiences seems to be on the rise in America. Time will tell if more American Jews will become purchasers of intensive Jewish experiences, despite the high costs, in the years to come.