Oh… Sorry you missed us! There was a sale at Zabar’s, and our cell phone’s wouldn’t stop ringing… jew know how it is!
It has recently come out that there may be more Jews in America than we previously thought. A new report by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis tells us that there may be up to 7.4 million Americans who are, in some way, Jewish.
This is in contrast to a 2006 study by the AJC which held the number to be 6.4 million
This of course begs the question – Where were 1 million Jews hiding when we were trying to count them the first time around?
Clearly these semi-visible Jews are not easily found for a reason – they are the unaffiliated of the unaffiliated. A fringe so far away we didn’t even know they were there. Either that, or they were too busy on their cell phones to talk to the survey people. Despite the shouts of glee at the sudden boost in population, I am not personally banking on this lost million to suddenly revitalize the Jewish people.
See, all this ballyhoo by the powers that be about how many American Jews there are or aren’t is only serving as smoke and mirrors to distract us from more important questions.
Cause here’s the thing when it comes to Jewish life – and all you pollsters and survey makers – pay attention
Numbers don’t matter.
It really doesn’t matter if there are 6, 7 or 70 million Jews living in America. What matters is the kind of Jews they are and the kind of Jewishness they are creating. Is it alive and vibrant or stagnant and increasingly desperate?
Until we can come up with a successful formula that makes Jews want to be educated about their Jewishness and living fulfilling Jewish lives, obsessing over just how many of us there are is more futile than rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.
Are we a people with a mission or just a people with a shared heritage trying to live the good life just like everyone else?
If we put all our energy into an education system that worked, into providing more examples of what a committed Jewish life can look like, into Jewish identities based on more than just cultural consumption, into a Judaism with more history than the Lower East Side offers and more richness than a great lox spread can provide, then all this noise about population, intermarriage, assimilation etc. would just fade away.
And what a beautiful sound that would be.