The Oracle of JTS Rebukes the Gender-Sensitivity of the Left

In his essay “Jews and the Jewish Birthrate” in the October edition of Commentary, Dr. Jack Wertheimer asserts that a better numerical future for American Jewry is dependent on not accepting gays or the intermarried, but rather by embracing “pro-natalism” policies like those in the Orthodox community.
Instead of seeking to redefine the Jewish family or even who is a Jew, as many are doing, Dr. Wertheimer suggests this is the stuff that has been a contributing factor to the American Jewish community’s paucity of numbers in the first place, and suggests that an inclusive policy towards gay and lesbians will further such attrition.

“In order to welcome Jews who live in unconventional family arrangements, and in particular to eliminate any negative judgment of gays and lesbians, the rabbis have rushed to scuttle what Judaism has always held about the centrality of marriage. They have done so, moreover, largely in order to address the discomfort, real or imagined, of the 1 or 2 percent of the Jewish population that is gay or lesbian, slighting their duty to instruct the other 98 percent on the Jewish understanding of sexuality and family.”

Some Jewish feminist groups may insist that the lack of appeal of Jewish continuity to at least half of the more liberal bulk of the other 98% was and still is partially driven by a feeling of gender inequality. But Dr. Wertheimer notes that, “The fact is that Jewish men have consistently outpaced Jewish women as intermarries,” and attempts to prove this through NJPS (National Jewish Population Study) statistics on the subject from the 1960’s to the present.
But if so, why?
This is where Dr. Wertheimer suggests something quite interesting.

“Is it true, as one hears, that Jewish men do not want to marry someone who reminds them of their mother, or that Jewish women do not want to marry someone who reminds them of their father? And if it is, why have they only recently begun acting on this disinclination in such massive numbers? Might it be the reverse—that, for example, Jewish men want to marry someone more like their mother than the typical young Jewish woman of today, and that Gentile women happen to fit the bill?”

Dr. Wertheimer fears that, “Until other sectors of the community are prepared to speak boldly and forthrightly about Judaism’s truly countercultural ideas, they will continue to lose larger and larger numbers of the next generation, and to face a smaller and smaller future.”

15 thoughts on “The Oracle of JTS Rebukes the Gender-Sensitivity of the Left

  1. the only way theres going to be a significant jewish future in the us is if we marry jews and have babies, the rest is just commentary.

  2. As the article notes, the real reason for our declining numbers is that too many Jewish women are choosing college, graduate school and careers instead of marriage and children. Just think how many more Jews there’d be if every Jewish woman between the ages of 16 and 46 were given fertility drugs (free of charge) and then gave birth to ten sets of octuplets each. Not only would we make up for losses during World War II, but we’d also be able to catch up to the goyim in terms of population.

  3. chemul, i think you misread the article, it pointed out that frum women are increasingly going to college/career, but they are still having lots of children. the problem is a 50% outmarriage rate (70% in los angels) and late marriages. if we married jews and at the same age as the majority population, we would have enough children to at least keep pace with the general population. and while i find your gentle mocking is smile inducing, our low jewish fertility rate is the biggest danger to the jewish community and worthy of a lot more disucssion than any of the other evils facing us.

  4. Hmmm.. Maybe JTS should think about revisiting the monogomy issue…. Or pushing a pre-college year of study in Israel as is common in the MO world… Or perhaps funders should institute a new megaprogram… *Birthrate Isreal*.. because its the rate of every Jew to populate the land… and what better way than to pay for that extra Jewish child?

  5. better yet, why not interrogate the focus on ‘catching up’ with anyone. the chinese are goyim, do you want to catch up with them? it seems jews got poisoned by the nazis definition on who is a jew and on jewish numbers (trying to lower their population) – so all the blather about declining numbers… quality, not quantity, people. what difference would it make if there were 50 million jews but jewish culture was all McJudaism? people need to stop worrying about numbers and go make your jewish and hopefully mixed community (that includes non jews (there are so many and they are so interesting, as we are!), non white ashkenaz english speaking jews, etc.) more full by living a creative, passionate and just jewish human life. cabrones.

  6. also, young jewish american women today (generalizing) are like my mother – on crack. my mother still had some connection to what it means to be a woman – whatever that means. the tradtl jewish focus on marriage as a construct to promote sexual order is great for some people, not for others. just like believing in god makes some people act with more kindness, whereas it makes many others (the majority, i feel) fatalistic and devoid of any responsibility for their (in)actions. and some of us don’t need to believe in god to live honest, kind lives. and still be jewish del cabo al rabo.

  7. Wow. Talk about out-of-touch. The fallacy of the article is that it assumes that liberal Jews take their values from rabbis or other “Jewish leaders.”
    Before taking gender sensitivity courses, the Provost should really study up on the Enlightenment and breakdown of rabbinic authority.

  8. The problem is lack of daycare for career minded contemporary women. All societies where the majority attain upper middle class status are having problems with birthrate except for those who have made daycare widely available. It won’t be solved on a religious level unless you can convince them to become the unmodern variety of orthodox, which is something I doubt will happen. Most frum women still take years off to raise kids. That isn’t pronatal so much as theological enforcement of a double standard. As for the other comments about lack of rabbinical authority. Well you have it in hasidic society because those societies moved here as entire communities from feudal eastern europe where rabbis were viewed as Jewish royals. It can’t be asserted in America.

  9. Dameocrat,
    I don’t know if daycare will solve all the problems of the low Jewish birthrate, but that’s no reason not to solve it – it can only help.
    I think you have a great, pragmatic suggeston – perhaps consider elaborating with a specific Jewish angle to it.

  10. Well David, you have a history of objecting to trendiness (breast feeding during services, mixed gender circumcisions) within the conservative union, so I am a little confused as to what you getting at sometimes. I know those were satires, but I can’t eliminate the possibility that you also sincerely hold these views.
    My feeling is that conservative and reform Jews live in secular multicultural society, rather than the Jewish community. When the upper middle class gets distressed about birth rate, America as a whole, Jew and gentile will probably take steps to make day care move available at work, which is what most women claim to want. This will help the Jewish community enormously even though it isn’t specific to them. It can be attempted at the place of worship, or the day school, or Jewish daycares can simply be opened, but women really want it at their workspace. One can encourage Jewish employers who employ many Jews to do this, but I suspect this would be more applicable to traditional Jews.
    In American religion trendiness is unfortunately a necessity because people have so many other options. It is a free market of religious belief so groups have to compete. So for instance as long as a woman is discrete about breasts feeding since most women in my experience are. They put a blanket over it and so forth. Nobody sees anything. There is no reason to object. Women are still the primary diaper changers, and we see alot more of little boy weanies that most men so why freak out about mixed gender circumcisions. His hairless little tool is no more erotic that misquito bite boobies on children. How many times does one have to see under five-year-old boys in women’s public restrooms to no that this social taboo is a little exaggerated on your part.
    The more important issue for the conservative and reform movements is passing down sincerely held religious beliefs. Beliefs that are strong enough to create regular attendance. This has been a perpetual problem for non-authoritarian branches of Judaism since the holocaust. The Torah depicts a just and interventionist god. Where was God in the 1930s and 40s? It is a cliche by now, but it can’t be avoided. Rushkoff probably deals with this more effectively than anyone, by pointing out the definition of god in Judaism is an evolving one. Abraham is still in the Babylonian mold; he rejects the power of idols but doesn’t reject the existence of the gods they represent. Moses is a near Hebrew pagan who says, “Thou shall put no other Gods before me!” but doesn’t say there are no other gods. The prophets say outright there are no others and so forth and so on. There for a less interventionist but still compassionate god can be promoted. This idea can certainly be found in the bible as well, particularly in the passages which describe god as a parent. Parents aren’t all powerful creatures. Why should we expect this of God?

  11. I meant about daycare, which poses no structural problems, but offers an alternative.
    As for women mohels, no – I was indeed serious that I feel that is a problem, but I am quite aware that I am in the minority (in the Jewish world) with my position that:
    1) Circumcision is not only symbolic, but removes useful parts of a males genitilia.
    2) That “gender issues” are not only for the female gender. Rather, I would make the incindiary statement that there are male gender issues as , and no, not just gay ones.
    3) If you accept point 1 (like I do), then there are increased political issues with having public inter-gender gential mutilation. Please refer to the gender divide on the Lorena Bobbit issue, where men and women saw things very differently, at least until her absurd acquital.
    4) I have found plenty of grown traditional Jewish women quite willing to hurl circumcision at grown men at the shabbos table and elsewhere for all sorts of strange reasons, few of them friendly. The best way to make them stop is to bring up details of the penis anatomy, which for some reason many mod/ox and conservadox women find less appealing to talk about than slicing and dicing one, and a woman’s “need” to do so, for the purposes of “inclusivity,” of course.
    The repeated experience had suggested that in fact the that cutting the penis of a baby is in fact transferable on some level to the sexuality of grown people.
    I generally limit my issues with the Holocaust at this point to the current one of Holocaustism, and the gross misuse of it in the present to justify Zionism and victomology. I am not able to answer your theological points, as I am not a theologian.

  12. I am one of those snooty people that ignores a current affair type stories such as the bobbits and Amy Fisher. I deliberately form no opinion on them.
    Are you opposed to circumcision? Now that is interesting. My understanding is that mothers are more likely to object than fathers.
    Why is it less humiliating to get a ritual castration from another male? That might be perceived as being the tradition of a some potentate turning a slave into a eunich. If the exile in Egypt story is at all true, Hebrew/Jewish circumcision may have started there. Archaeologist have already found this to be a common mode of debt slave identification in ancient egypt.
    I think you are trying to make a point about this(genital mutilation) being something that is only incumbant on males so why be equal opportunity with the mohels? Is that it?
    The forskin to my understanding is autoerotically useful, but ultimately unecessary. I have no opinion on whether it should be removed since I don’t have a weanie. I have found this issue to be more fought over by males than females on boards like DU and Dkos though.

  13. I would say I have issues with circumcision.
    You wrote,
    “I think you are trying to make a point about this(genital mutilation) being something that is only incumbant on males so why be equal opportunity with the mohels? Is that it?”
    Yes. More follows (for me) from this, but at the very, very least, this.

  14. The challenges of a declining Jewish population and a high mixed marriage rate are real and serious but can somebody explain how excluding gay Jews is part of a solution? I know several gay Jewish couples who keep Jewish homes and are raising Jewish children–shouldn’t we be encouraging this if the issue is framed in terms of keeping people in the Jewish community and raising Jewish children? I guess if you’re homophobic the thought of a happy Jewish home created by gay Jews is unthinkable. (It’s not unthinkable in Reform Judaism.) A bigot is a bigot and if you’re a Jewish bigot shame on you.

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