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The Demise of Orthodox Judaism? Hardly! (January 2018)

Rabbi Mike

This weekend Carol and I attended a cousin’s wedding in Chicago. Don’t get me started on the issue of having a wedding in Chicago in early January—it was freezing, but apparently it was here as well!

Our cousin Josh comes from a Conservative Jewish family, as does his Elana, his bride. Both have become what most would consider “modern Orthodox.” The aufruf on Shabbat, when Josh was given an aliyah as the groom-to-be, was in an Orthodox shul, and the officiant at the wedding was an Orthodox rabbi who, along with his wife, introduced Josh and Elana. So the weekend was a rare immersion for us in the world of modern Orthodoxy.

Some 50-60 years ago demographers and sociologists of the American Jewish community were predicting without any hesitation that Orthodox Judaism and Jewry would disappear from the American scene, and that any Jews who cared enough would be either Conservative or Reform. Contrary to these predictions, Orthodoxy not only survives, but continues to grow and thrive. Our brief encounter with this world was a stark reminder of this. Conversely, it is the non-Orthodox Jewish world that struggles to be viable and sustainable.

The bulk of Josh and Elana’s friends in attendance were young modern Orthodox men and women in their late 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s. They are well-educated and most are young professionals. They are knowledgeable and committed, observant, comfortable and confident in their Judaism. They participated in the rituals naturally and with fervor. The opening dance at the reception (some would say “hora,” but this would minimize the experience) most have gone on for 30 minutes, and these young people sang the Hebrew songs along with the band and danced with joy and enthusiasm.

We often say that our young people are our future, and it is clear that American Orthodoxy is assured well into the next generation. Those of us in the non-Orthodox world face the challenge of instilling the love, commitment and passion for Jewish life and Torah in our youth. May we be up to that challenge!

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784