|BY THE TIME YOU FINISH READING THIS ARTICLE, AMERICA WILL HAVE LOST ANOTHER JEW.|
|By Eric Gillin||
There are only 13 million Jews left on the face of the Earth and I am one of them.
That's it. Just 13 million Jews. To put that into perspective, Spider-Man made $114.8 million its opening weekend, so if you assume that each ticket cost $8, that means 14 million people who went to see that movie in three days. That's right. More people saw Spider-Man in its opening weekend than there were Jews on Earth.
We account for just 0.2% of the world's population, which hypothetically means you could take a place like Dallas, where there's a million people, and there'd only be 2,000 Jews. In theory, every Jew in town could fit in the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas and sit together in one section of Texas Stadium. Imagine that.
Of course, that's all in the abstract. There are a lot more Jews than that in Dallas and in America as a whole. Four out of five Jews live either in Israel, where Jews have power, or in America, where Jews are extremely well accepted. More Jews live in New York City than in all of Europe combined.
As if the number of Jews out there -- just 13 million -- wasn't shocking enough, consider this illustration of how small we are at the moment. According to a breakdown of 1990 U.S. Census data, the name Joseph was the ninth most popular name, covering 1.4% of the American population. If we assume nothing's changed since then, that means there are 4 million Joes in the United States and just 5.2 million Jews.
Given the massive number of Muslims and Christians out there, we are one drop in the world's rapidly filling bucket. And yet we're one of the leading players in a tidal wave of hatred and violence and division in the world. Thirteen million people adrift in a sea of 6.3 billion people and half the world still thinks we set up the World Trade Center attacks?
THE WORLD STILL HATES JEWS.
Jews have been around for thousands of thousands of years, considered one of the world's first religions, mother of both Christianity and Islam and yet the whole world somehow has a problem with us. For thousands of years, Jews have been on the run, something we call the diaspora, fleeing the Egyptian Pharoah, the Roman Army, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany and so on.
Sixty years ago, we were hunted down in Europe like dogs and fled homes and communities, never to return. The Third Reich's "Final Solution" may have been stopped, but by the time it was, the "problem" was almost solved -- six million European Jews were killed. Today, just 60,000 Jews remain in Germany, where anti-Semite hooligans are silently tolerated the way the Old South treats racist crackers. The world still isn't a safe place for Jews -- just look at France.
In early January, Rabbi Gabriel Farhi, a leader of the Jewish Liberal Movement, a progressive group that aims to peacefully settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was stabbed to death on the streets of Paris. Months earlier, a pregnant Jewish woman was hospitalized after being attacked in Lyon, a Nice synagogue was firebombed and Marseilles' Jewish community was devastated after the Or Aviv synagogue was burned to the ground. (A week later, someone came back and torched the local Hebrew school.)
Throughout this, French schools have dealt with waves of attacks on Jewish schoolchildren -- all reasons why twice as many Jews fled France in 2002 as did the year before. Anti-Semitism in France is now en vogue in ways unseen since World War II. How else could the French ambassador to Britain get away with calling Israel "that shitty country?"
France is not alone. The rest of the Continent has similar problems with anti-Semitism as well. Lithuanian fans lead anti-Semitic chants during football games. Europe's Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated, anti-Semitic slogans have been appearing on walls and governments have done nothing in response. In an August 2002 report, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights concluded that France and Belgium were particularly adept at looking the other way.
The debate over geopolitics leaves these facts out, ignoring the wider context in which my people, and Israel, exist. For more than fifty years, Arabs have been actively trying to scrape the Jews from the face of the Earth. Make no mistake, this is the Arab world's Crusade. But while Christians had stone swords, these guys are playing with plagues and nuclear weapons. It's wrong to think this, but if the aim of the Arab world is to destroy Israel and they were successful, what would happen to a third of the world's Jews? Where would survivors go next?
ARE JEWS THE WORLD'S NATIVE AMERICANS?
All of this makes me think about the Native Americans, who like Jews, were victims of genocidal murder and were forcefully driven from their homes. Today, they've largely concentrated in Arizona, Oklahoma and Alaska and just 60,000 Native Americans remain in South Dakota. All that proud history reduced down and slapped on the side of football helmets.
It's a more interesting comparison when you consider that Native Americans are, statistically, in the same boat here in America. There are only 4.3 million Native Americans left, just 1.5% of the total population of 284.4 million, according to recently updated Census data.
But while Jews are shrinking the Native Americans are a growing part of the U.S. population. According to the National Jewish Population Survey, there were 5.2 million Jews in America as of 2000, down 300,000 from 1990. At that rate, American Jewry shrank by about one member every 20 minutes. Meanwhile, according to U.S. Census data, Native Americans grew by 500,000 over the same span and have had a 4% growth rate over the last 50 years, better than both blacks and whites.
AMERICA'S BLESSING IS A CURSE.
In many ways, America has become the reservation that Jews can most depend on. But in fleeing for the great melting pot of America, Jews have only swapped evils. Our salvation here may well be our end, as Jews marry non-Jews and generations of children grow up with two incompatible religions or none at all. In the world of Jews, there's no way to be "both."
Back in the 1990, the National Jewish Population Survey concluded that 52% of all Jews were marrying non-Jews. And since Judaism has been historically averse to the evangelizing and proselytyzing used to promote conversions, there's no reason to believe that the number of Jews is going to start rising anytime soon.
First off, American Jews underestimate the problem, with nearly 66% of all respondents saying anti-Semitism was a greater threat than intermarriage to Jewish life in the U.S. As the Jerusalem Post said in a recent editorial, "With the breakdown of the racial, ethnic and religious barriers, opposition to intermarriage in most liberal societies now smacks of racism. In such an environment, in the absence of religious commitment, even a strong Jewish education no longer represents a guarantee against intermarriage. Diaspora Jews are simply being absorbed into their host communities like water to a sponge."
And secondly, the Jewish population is aging rapidly because young Jews are having so few children. The median age of the Jewish population in the U.S. is 41, pretty much out of the child bearing years, versus just 35 for the rest of the American population. More than half of all Jewish women between 30 and 34 haven't had any kids. All told, Jewish women have 1.8 children, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children.
Six thousand years ago, Judaism emerged as the world's first monotheistic religion and since then, nearly all of the worlds big religions and empires have tried to wipe us out. To be a Jew is to be a survivor in exile a master at adapting to alien, often hostile worlds. Every time we've been persecuted, Jews have emerged and prospered despite our enemies. (It's a totally ignorant stereotype, but there is some truth in the joke that Jews control the banks and media.)
Sixty years ago, European Jews made their final exodus to Israel and established a safe haven for Jews. But instead of shelter, all Israel has provided is storm, as the Arab nations around it spent decades launching attacks from all sides. Today, the majority of Jews live in America where they can peacfeully coexist with other religions.
But even the blessing of safety has become a curse. Hard demographic trends make it clear that I am part of a dying people. No one wants to say this out loud, of course, but it's clear as day. American Jewry shrank by 5.4% over the past decade. And in Israel, Arabs will eventually outnumber the Jews, something that Knesset has been hotly debating.
To be fair, some estimates say the Jewish population rise and could hit 15.6 million in 2080. But we're shrinking and shrinking as a percentage of the world's population. If nothing changes, the number of Jews in America will hit 2.294 million in 2080, where we'll account for just 0.7% of the U.S. population.
How cruel. America is Israel's benefactor and closest ally, helping keep a Jewish homeland safe. This country has more Jews than any other country on Earth. And yet my proud religion is melting away in the warmth of America's freedom, like a hunk of cold butter in frying pan.