There Are Losses That Go Beyond Just Numbers
"Philadelphia by the Numbers" (Cover story, Jan. 14), which dealt with the recently released population study, omitted another devastating phenomenon: the transfer of Jewish wealth to non-Jews.
In the past, throughout the Diaspora communities, this transfer often occurred through violent expropriation from Jews by hostile governments; now it is happening every day when a Jewish person passes away, and the heirs are his or her non-Jewish children or grandchildren, with the resulting effect of reducing support for Jewish causes.
Your article bemoans a search for solutions. I think that Jewish education will ensure the continuity of the Jewish people, and will result in the financial support of Jewish causes that your article is rightly concerned about.
The Federation should invest more heavily now in Jewish education to reap the rewards in the future. Otherwise, Federation itself will become bankrupt -- just like the Social Security system, with an aging populace needing services and not enough younger participants to support the system.
Open Embrace: Effective Means of Welcoming
Interfaith marriage has been a part of the Jewish experience since ancient times, and I am pleased to learn that the new population study may reinvigorate the debate over how contemporary Jews should respond to the challenge (Cover story: "Intermarriage: No Laughing Matter," Jan.21).
What may be of less debate is the simple truth that people connect with those who accept them lovingly and without judgment. It is my observation that the "Tevye strategy" of rejection and shivah has had little positive effect on retaining and encouraging involvement at a pivotal moment in a young couple's life.
I can speak for no other parent, rabbi or leader, but in my extended family and 35-year congregational experience, the open embrace of warmth and welcome has been effective.
Often, after making people feel genuinely accepted, we have been able to effectively address spiritual and cultural accessibility. Attitude may not be everything, but in response to interfaith marriages, each one presents a critical chance for effective Jewish growth.
Rabbi Bradley N. Bleefeld
Parents Must Take Firm Stance on Intermarriage
I felt compelled to respond to Alex Cohen's comments regarding intermarriage in his second letter to the Jewish Exponent ("He Wasn't Asking to Be Thanked for Intermarrying," Jan. 21).
I was particularly enraged about his suggestion that Orthodox Judaism is the only way to be an observant Jew, and that, if you don't strictly adhere to that, then you are as much to blame for Jewish discontinuity as is someone who marries a non-Jew.
Is he kidding?
One of the beauties of Judaism is that there is no one way to observe. I am a Conservative Jew and don't consider myself any less a Jew than those who follow Orthodoxy.
And I believe that, even if your home does not observe the rituals, it is still possible to instill a feeling of Jewish pride in children, and give them reasons to stay within the faith and prevent intermarriage.
Sending kids to Jewish camps, having them participate in Jewish youth groups, and visiting and spending time in Israel all help impart a sense of Jewish pride and identity.
I taught my sons from about age 10 on that it is just as easy to date and fall in love with a Jewish girl as it is with a girl who is not of the same faith.
I also believe that while dating relationships may start out innocently enough, they can lead to serious relationships, so why even start dating someone who's not Jewish?
My sons are now 23 and 24, and I am happy to report that they are dating -- and have only dated -- Jewish girls. There are enough things that can go wrong in a marriage without having differences with race or religion.
I believe that parents must take a strong stand on the issue of intermarriage if there is any hope for Jewish continuity.
Cherry Hill, N.J.