Population Study Statistics Underscore Challenges Facing the Jewish Community

Inside Leadership

Population Study Statistics Underscore Challenges Facing the Jewish Community

Findings Were Anticipated by the Reform Movement

(NEW YORK, October 8, 2002)-Responding to the findings of the United Jewish Community's population study released today, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said the data underscore the need to address how we can strengthen and support the changing Jewish family.

STATEMENT BY RABBI ERIC YOFFIE
President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

The results of the UJC's population study released thus far underscore challenges that the Jewish community faces. While the findings seen in the data are trends that we at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations have long anticipated - indeed, the departments of Jewish Family Concerns and Outreach and Synagogue Community made a presentation at our June Board of Trustees meeting about these trends - we need to give serious thought to the implications of the findings for our synagogues.

In his June presentation, Rabbi Richard Address, director of the Department of Jewish Family Concerns, told the Board that instead of talking about the "changing Jewish family," we need to address the challenges that the "changed Jewish family" poses for the Jewish community.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations has begun to address those changes. Indeed, we created the Department of Jewish Family Concerns to provide support for those coping with divorce, custody issues, single parenting, infertility, adoption, blended families, older adults, and gay and lesbian inclusions. Among the UAHC's initiatives are the following:

  • Materials for individuals and congregations to help with the challenges of an aging population, including A Time to Prepare: A Practical Guide for Individuals and Families in Determining One's Wishes for Extraordinary Medical Treatment and Financial Arrangements and guides to long-term health care planning and ethical issues such as the termination of treatment and living wills, euthanasia, and the allocation of scare medical resources.
  • Study guides and resources for those in our community who are struggling with infertility, including information on genetic screening and adoption.
  • Three synagogue based programs for engaged couples, expectant parents and new parents: The Aleph-Bet of Marriage, Having a Jewish Baby, and Jewish Parenting Made Simple.
    The data released today will give added momentum to the work of the department and, we will need to have serious dialogue about what we, as a Movement, can do to support and strengthen families, give support to our aging and sandwich generations, address the balance of work and family, and assist those who seek to have children.

You will recall that more than a decade ago, when the 1990 Jewish Population Survey was released, the statistics on intermarriage caught much of the Jewish community by surprise and caused great alarm and concern. The Reform Movement, however, was not caught by surprise. We had already seen the trend and created our Outreach programs to reach out to interfaith couples and welcome them into the community. Rather than bemoan the statistics, we creatively and forthrightly addressed the challenges, and, as we now see, our efforts have brought a new vitality to our Movement. Similarly, we will not bemoan these findings; rather, we will continue to work to meet the challenge these changing demographics pose to the Jewish community.

Published: 10/07/2002

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