Since the beginning of our history, Jewish destiny has often been shaped not by individuals acting in isolation, but by movements of dreamers, seekers and activists inspired by a cohesive ideology. Sometimes these movements last a couple of decades; other times, they become permanent fixtures of Jewish experience.
For vast segments of the American Jewish community, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is not an entrance exam into Jewish adulthood, but the final exam of one’s Jewish affiliation. For all the effort that precedes the event — the immersion in Hebrew school, the preparation to be called to the Torah, the study of adult responsibilities — B’nai Mitzvah observances are more often than not followed by an immediate drop-off in Jewish affiliation.
Many experts have argued recently that Jewish population statistics reveal a community in the midst of stagnation or decline. Although studies vary depending on methodology and definitions of Jewishness, the soon-to-be released National Jewish Population Survey lends support to the view that our population has been shrinking since 1990.
The concept of clal yisrael teaches that the Jewish people are bound together in mutual experience, responsibility and destiny. In the United States and Israel, the countries in which the vast majority of the world’s Jewish population dwells, it has not always been easy to apprehend our shared experience.
The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life
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