by Michael Nachbar | The imminent decline of the original western religion.
In 2050 there will be no non-Orthodox Jews in America. As intermarriage becomes more prevalent, the race will dilute, as half-Jews and quarter-Jews become far more prevalent. 72 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry, and partial Jews will become more likely to do so. Those with mixed ethnicity will feel a less compelling connection to their Jewish backgrounds.
Jews seeking to marry within the religion will face a dwindling pool of eligible candidates, as fewer and fewer people qualify under the condition of the mother’s Judaism. Those seeking a Jewish marriage will be forced to settle in Jewish communities just to find a selection of potential mates.
For most Jews in America today, it is more of a culture than a religion. Surveys of Jews show that a majority do not believe in God, and barely 10 percent attend synagogue weekly. The only bond connecting the majority of the Jewish population is a strictly ethnic and cultural one, and those raised in mixed families do not experience those same bonds as fully.
Some Jews who see the writing on the wall and want to subvert the decline of American Judaism are converting to Orthodoxy, which is experiencing a slight resurgence. In the midst of a decline in the number of Jews in America, the number of Orthodox Jews is increasing. The great strides that Judaism took toward liberalization in the twentieth century are a point of pride for most Jews, but now many believe they must abolish those reforms in order to preserve their religion and culture. Modern Orthodox Judaism absolutely requires keeping kosher and abstaining from sex during menstruation. Though women have made progress within Orthodoxy in recent years, they are still far from viewed as equals. Orthodox rabbis universally condemned the award winning 2001 documentary “Trembling Before G-d,” which examined the conflicted lives of homosexual Orthodox Jews highlighting the status of gay rights in Orthodox culture. When so many Jews are unwilling to restrict their choice of spouse in order to preserve Judaism, it is highly unlikely that many Jews, wholly liberal, will be willing to compromise their values and join the Orthodoxy.
Americans pride themselves on their nation being a melting pot, but have always resisted assimilation to a degree. Children, whether Jewish, Italian, Indian, or Dominican, joke about the pressure to marry within their culture placed on them by relatives. While most Americans claim to support interracial marriage and fully subscribe to the concept of marrying for love, they become more conservative when faced with the prospect of their culture blending into society. The vast majority of Americans had ancestors who immigrated to this nation and brought elements of their native cultures with them. Elements from these cultures have allowed descendants of immigrants to bond over their shared heritage.
On the surface, the idea of wanting to preserve these cultural elements seems laudable. Unfortunately, doing so requires placing restrictions on choice of partner in marriage. If two people marry from different cultures, their children will adopt a combination of the parents’ backgrounds. Over many generations, this will dilute cultures, allowing only certain elements to survive. While those with a close connection to their native culture will rue its decline, uniquely American traditions will replace them. All Americans, no matter their background, can enjoy eating turkey on Thanksgiving, watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, and having parades on New Years. The development of American cultures unique to regions give neighbors shared experiences and encourage them to bond: Bostonians gather to watch the Red Sox, Texans go hunting with friends and family, Louisianans celebrate Mardi Gras, and Delawareans compete to craft contraptions that launch pumpkins.
Religion has been dealt two significant blows in the past century. Scientific discovery has exposed significant inconsistencies in “sacred texts,” and the social policies of religions have been forced to reluctantly modernize in the face of accusations of being unjust. Despite these setbacks, religion remains viable in America due to a nacute desire for community. Many of the increasingly common secular Jews admit that they only continue their active Judaism because it gives them opportunities to socialize with relatives and peers. In today’s era of fast-paced technological advancement and competition in the workplace, many feel isolated. Perhaps the best way for skeptics to curb the prominence of religion in America is to create alternatives that offer that same sense of community without mandating specific beliefs. Members of the first monotheistic religion will once again lead the way.
Mr. Nachbar is a senior majoring in Quantitative Economics.