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Will Your Grandchildren Be Jewish?
By Aaron Moss
 

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, not a rabbi, 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 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 the 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.

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Posted on December 11, 2007
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