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Will My Grandchildren Be Jewish?

Will My Grandchildren Be Jewish?

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Question:

I fear for the future of the Jewish people. When I look at my family and where they are headed it is not very promising. My grandfather was a rabbi, but I am not sure my grandchildren will even be Jewish. What is the secret to keeping Judaism alive?

Answer:

I have yet to meet a Jew who doesn't proudly claim, "My grandfather was a rabbi." It seems that three generations ago everyone was a rabbi.

What they really mean is that their grandfather was an observant Jew. He probably had a beard, prayed every day, and was knowledgeable in Torah. He may have been a cobbler or merchant or baker, but he was a committed Jew.

Anyone who identifies as Jewish today only need go back three or four generations to find observant Jews in their family. And from there an unbroken chain of Jewish living that goes back more than three thousand years. Not that everyone has always been observant. There were plenty of unobservant Jews. But we don't know their grandchildren. They have been lost to the Jewish community.

Jewishness without Jewish observance cannot last more than a couple of generations. Unless they return to living Jewishly, the children of unobservant Jews will stop being Jewish altogether and assimilate. A family of unobservant Jews will lose one or the other - either the Jewishness, or the unobservance. You can't have both.

This is not a new phenomenon. Throughout Jewish history there have been individuals and groups who tried to keep a Jewish identity without Jewish practice. It has never worked. A vague Jewish ethnic feeling, devoid of any spiritual purpose and with no compelling message that is relevant to life, cannot last long. Only proud and authentic Judaism, that offers relevance and meaning, direction and inspiration, will stand the test of time.

In the times of the Chanukah story, a small band of faithful Jews stood up against the vast majority of Jews who subscribed to Hellenism, the Greek way of life. We celebrate Chanukah today because we descend from those faithful few.

The solution to Jewish continuity is no secret, it's obvious. Living breathing Judaism produces living breathing Jews. Do for your grandchildren what your grandfather did for you - be a living example of what it means to live a vibrant Jewish life. They don't need their grandfather to be a rabbi, but they need him to be a proud and practicing Jew.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Yakov Zingeser November 6, 2017

Only my father is Jewish, but I am planning to convert:
My Great Grandfather (My father's paternal grandfather) came to america from Poland and he wasn't Religious, it seemed that his family in general were not observant (They were reform Jews) on my Father's Mother's side they were more observant my Grandmother grew up "conservative" They came from Lithuania. I believe I have a picture of my ancestors from the 1900s and there was one man that was very religious with a beard and yarmulke and all that. I believe he was on my Fathers Father's Mother's side. With my family it took about 5 generations until one of them intermarried (resulting in myself) and about to assimilate, if I wouldn't have become religious and decide to return to my roots, my family would have completely lost its
Jewishness with my generation (it already has but I am holding together), I have one 1st cousin, but he is a homosexual so I doubt he'll have children. Reply

Chaim Fort Worth October 20, 2014

So all the Jews you meet claim their zeyde was a rabbi? NONE claim that to ME, EVER. My grandfather was NOT a rabbi. My father's father, was somewhat observant. BUT his own father was fully observant. I don't know what he did for a living, but he was not a rabbi. He came to the USA about 1922, about 12 years after his son, who was my zeyde. He could read & write Yiddish. So could my father. All 3 kept strict kosher & dovened daily.

My mother spoke a very frum Yiddish (e.g., the moon was called Lavanah) and kept strict kosher, but she did not know the alef bet. Her father spoke six languages, incl Hebrew & Yiddish, & corresponded with Israel. But he seems to have cared little about observance. He took his family to a small town near Fort Worth, Texas. His wife, my Bubia, cared very much & faithfully kept strict kosher under impossible conditions. She had four sets of dishes. Whenever she could not get kosher meat, she cooked dairy.

NO Jew has EVER told me his zeyde was a rabbi. I do not believe ANY Jew falsely thinks his zeyde was a rabbi. Reply

Anonymous Southeastern PA June 24, 2014

Those who do not learn from history... ...are doomed to repeat it. The comments here so far are not encouraging. The most recent one sounds contemptuous of the most exalted, beautiful heritage in human history. Many of the earlier comments talk about the difficulty in perpetuating Jewish heritage in the other movements.

There is a solution to both these problems: open your minds. Many commenters are insisting that life must be on the terms they dictate, not acknowledging that there is a G-d Who runs the world and is looking out for our long-run best interests.

If other movements aren't working out for you, why not try Orthodox? I went from secular to Modern Orthodox with the patient guidance of many wonderful outreach rabbis. The biggest network with the most trained professionals is unquestionably Chabad. Go to your local Chabad. Talk with the rabbi. Take classes. Meet people. (Hint: it's easier to meet when there's a mechitzah.) Allow yourself to learn. You'll be much happier! (I am!) Reply

Anonymous Albany May 12, 2014

I hope not Why should they be saddled with the nonsense I had to deal with? Reply

Chaim Detroit area January 23, 2014

You are right. Federation SHOULD provide day school scholarships And a few DO do that. And scholarships for summer programs in Israel. And scholarships to kosher summer camp.

Of course, they should do MORE of that, if they want the community to survive. Reply

JDV January 21, 2014

Staying Jewish Make day schools affordable. There are plenty of wealthy Jewish people in the US who could easily afford to provide scholarships. Why don't they/ Has anyone thought of asking? I wish someone had provided tuition assistance for my kids. i would have enrolled them without a second thought. Reply

Shoshana Texas October 10, 2013

To Anonymous and to others You say it is hard to meet single Jews in middle age.
True.
And harder when we are over sixty.
The matchmakers told me they won't even consider us if we can't bear children.
But I would like someone to be with, lovingly, in this world and the next.
And I attend shiurim regularly. All the students are the same gender as I am.
However, I doubt that I could attract anyone at a church-sponsored event, since I keep a strictly kosher home and would not go out to a non-kosher restaurant either.
People who don't keep kosher tend to object to that.
I once knew a man who said, "Why can't you just eat?"
[A reply came to mind, but I didn't want to insult him.]
I have been looking since 2006.
Maybe I could find someone in NYC, but my social security payments wouldn't even pay the rent on a one room apartment, and I have 4000+ books & keep buying more.
How could a 70+ woman survive alone in NYC? My relatives & friends & job are here.
I have a current pretty photo on Jwed.
What to do? Reply

Hanalah Houston October 10, 2013

My grandfathers were not rabbis. My father's grandfather was an observant Jew. My father himself kept kosher, as did my mother and her mother and all the mothers all the way back. So do I.

My child and his wife, his basherta, are observant Jews. I remember the first time he saw someone eat ice cream after a meat meal. He was nearly three years old. I had to explain that nonJews don't have to keep kosher.

He says the Shma with his children every night. They wear a kippah all day. The elder one requested to be allowed to wear tsitsit. He went to a Jewish nursery school where this was not so unusual.

So I have good reason to hope that THEIR grandchildren will be Jewish, thank GD, even though my own observance is not as thorough as theirs.

I don't know what I did right. Yes, I sent him to a Jewish school, and I kept kosher (and still do), and took him to services on Shabbos, but many people do all these things and their children still stray. Gd sent me a beautiful soul and I am thankful. Reply

Adam Edelstein Cooper City, FL via chabadsouthbroward.com January 24, 2013

I am pretty sure your assertion that Jewish identify is lost from a family after a few generations is observance is lacking. I think however your assertion we are all today decended from the Hasmoneans and their follows is historically unrealistic. The fact is that the vast majority of Jews were living in galut at that time and lived in Hellenized lands. So it is more probable that more Jews are decended from hellenized Jews living in the diaspora then those who were ultra observant freedom fighters in Judah. But like I said, I agree that assimilation, intermarraige, and conversion, can only be combated through Jewish religious education and observance. Only then can they be innoculated against the temptations deemphasize their Jewish heritage. Then their seed will forget it. For them, even though righteous gentiles will share in the world to come, they won't be Jewish. They won't participate in the redemption and joy we have been waiting for for thousands of years. Reply

Anonymous December 11, 2012

Excellent words of wisdom! Reply

Anonymous Newport, N. C. May 26, 2009

I am A Jew! Thank-you! Anonymous, USA, and Patricia Gonzales,You have encouraged and touched my heart! Reply

PATRICIA GONZALES San Benito, TX May 25, 2009

WILL MY GRANDCHILDREN BE JEWISH I concur with Anonymous of NC .. you state my feelings exactly as would I state them. I was born of a Jewish mother and Jewish heritage. Hard to explain, but I believe G-d instills in us what we believe. He gives us signs and lets us know if we are right or wrong. He is in control of us! Only if we let Him be .. and I let Him be my mentor, if that is the correct term. Reply

Anonymous USA May 8, 2009

Jewish, feeling left out Find a shul nearby and consistently go. Meet with Rabbi. Become involved with the Sisterhood. If you don't read Hebrew ask for help, a class. If you make your needs and intentions known , you will find a home. I live in maine with a single shul within 20 miles (that's close up here), and 3 that are 35+ miles away. I have found a home with the a shul further away. I'm not able to attend all the classes or shabbats due to work schedule but this is an ongoing process. Now considering moving closer. There is a welcome for you. Persevere! Reply

Anonymous Newport, NC September 20, 2008

I am a JEW ! I was stolen as a child, and raised by non-jewish step-parents, and in their non- jewish culture.
Somehow G-D's Holy Spirit led me to know I am a Jew, even though I had forgotten this for many years.
I belive G-D will always bring us back! Reply

natan Brooklyn, NY December 29, 2007

your basherte >>> I am beginning to think that my basherte isn't necessary Jewish!

No! your basherte is Orthodox! :) Reply

Anonymous NJ December 29, 2007

Interesting... Yet not completely on target. I am generally non-practicing, and call myself "Culturally Jewish". I observe the major holidays, but without going to shul. Every time I have attended alone, I have been made to feel left out. Families with young children attend, and the elderly. Young people in their 20s or 30s do not--at least not the Conservative/Reform temples in suburbia. Although I am committed to marrying a Jew and raising a Jewish family, it is not quite easy to meet a Jewish husband--I could have been married millions of times already to a non-Jew. I think the problem is our loss of communities that are accepting any Jew, not jut the ultra-observant and ultra-knowledgeable. If we fight against each other, we will all be lost to the world. Reply

Anonymous December 27, 2007

One of the greatest threats One of the greatest threats to Jews living in the US is intermarriage. Orthodox Jews or "traditionalist" take care of their own. But within Conservative Judaism, it is increasingly difficult to find a Jewish mate as one gets older. Those in their 20'2-30's have much more opportunities as the Jewish community provides some activities and organizations to help them meet each other. But so called "middle age" people often end up in intermarriage or remain unmarried.

Synagogues are geared for married couples. This is a long tradition. So, where are middle age Jewish singles to go? Unfortunately, many go to secular events and even "church sponsored" events and meet non-Jews. They date, they marry, they assimulate. This is a very serious problem and it is not confined to Conservative Judaism. Reform Judaism experiences this as well. But for a Conservative Jewish single, who attends services, and sometimes leads services, does some studying and chants some harftorah, it is a real problem which only seems to get worse each year. I am beginning to think that my basherte isn't necessary Jewish! Reply

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