The video is pretty straightforward. Produced by MASA, an organization that brings diaspora Jewish youth to Israel and heavily subsidizes their participation in various long term programs, the video notes that 50% of Jewish diaspora youth are going to “assimilate” and will thus be lost to the Jewish world. It urges Israelis to contact any young Jews they know overseas and urge them to participate in a long term program in Israel with Masa so as to stem such assimilation.
Many have taken umbrage with the message of course. Esther notes that “If people are treated as if they’re lost to Judaism, they will be lost to Judaism.” Ed Case over at Interfaithfamily.com calls this “the most stupid, ill-conceived effort coming out of Israel in many years…” adding that “Israeli leaders simply do not understand that many intermarried couples, and the adult children of intermarried parents, are actively engaging in Jewish life.” Rabbi Laura Baum, founder of ourjewishcommunity.org, an online Jewish community, commented that “The reality is that intermarriage exists and can even enhance the Jewish community. Trying to prevent intermarriage is foolish. An ad campaign like Masa’s will only push people away from Judaism. Israel, like much of the organized Jewish community throughout the world, needs to embrace the present realities and figure out how to engage blended families.” Kung Fu Jew over at Jewschool stated “I am not lost. Fuck you very much, Masa, excuse my manners. The scary voices of Jewish continuity say that 50% of young Jews have only one Jewish parent. Which is great. It means my generation is twice as international, twice as multicultural, twice as diverse, and twice as blessed with mutt-like intelligence and fearlessness of boundary-straddling.”
Sigh. Never mind that the video never said anything at all about intermarriage, it’s telling that even the video’s critics see intermarriage as synonymous with assimilation. And why not? Here are some inconvenient truths. Most children of intermarriage have been found to not identify themselves as Jews: “38 percent of the teens identified as Jews if just their mother was Jewish, and only 15 percent if their father was Jewish.” Couple that with a large rate of intermarriage found amongst non-Orthodox diaspora Jews and it’s clear something is going on that is kind of scary. SimpleToRemember.com took the numbers and crunched them and found that if you start with 100 Conservative Jews today, after 4 generations you will be left with 29. 100 Reform Jews will shrink to just 10 and Unaffiliated Jews will be reduced to 7. these aren’t even necessarily halachic Jews. Just people who identify themselves as Jews.
Of course it is entirely possible that that those Jews that remain will be all wonderful and cosmopolitan and everything, like Kung Fu Jew, but there just won’t be that many of them. And of course as a community we ought not shun the children of intermarriage! there’s a lot we can do to reverse these numbers by being as welcoming and as inclusive as possible. But you still can’t deny the pernicious influence of diaspora assimilation on Jewish life.
Masa realized this when they launched this campaign. And as Dan Brown alluded to in his blog, the purpose of the campaign wasn’t really to actually get Israelis to call their coreligionists in Babylon and urge them to be better Jews. Most Israelis are puzzled by diaspora Jewish issues. The point was to spend $800,000 in the hopes of getting several times more that amount from the Israeli government so as to expand the program.
Me? I kind of agree with Dan. There was no real expectation that Israelis would beg Jews overseas to save their Jewish souls by coming to Israel. However, Israelis always know who is on MASA because of the neat-o backpacks and t-shirts Masa participants always wear. What the video is essentially telling Israelis to do is to uh… get with Masa participants as often as possible. For the sake of the future of the Jewish people of course. It’s one big national booty call to duty. Don’t let them fuck each other and go back to America like they usually do. Get with them and entangle them in an Israeli affair that will uh… last a lifetime.