Writing in 1994, Irving Kristol warns about the demographic problems facing American Jews. By the mid-nineties, the American Jewish community was pursuing a path to assimilation through low birth rates and intermarriage. Both phenomena, Kristol argues, were not failures of Jewish communal policy, but instead the unanticipated consequences of its success. For years, championing the American liberal ideal of integration was central to non-orthodox communal policy.
If one is concerned about Jewish perpetuation, Kristol explains that the antidote must come from the Jewish religion. The “challenge” is to “find a way of incorporating the crucial religious dimension of ‘being Jewish’ into American life.”
The liberalism of the last two centuries liberated Jews from the ghetto and enlisted them as civic equals in Western society. The new challenge Jews will have to face is just how to live as equals in American society without committing demographic suicide.
They can best confront this challenge by seeing it as an opportunity, not simply a problem. The opportunity is one for the American Jewish community to reestablish a Jewish core, a religious core, as a key to its identity.