In the wake of the 1990 Jewish population census showing an intermarriage rate in excess of 50%, declining synagogue affiliation, breakdown of the Jewish family, and the decrease of ritual observance, increasing numbers of thoughtful Jews are recognizing that a demographic revolution is taking place. It is an outgrowth of the wonderful freedom that Jews and gentiles alike enjoy in North America.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is that more than 90% of young Jewish women and men on college campuses interdate. Many marry people not born Jewish, and these young couples face three choices: identifying as Jews, identifying as Christians or with other religions, or identifying with no religion, a phenomenon that is taking place with increased frequency.
The trends shown by the survey demonstrate that in an overall society of increasing population, Jewish continuity and survival are not enough. In order to ensure the future of North American Jewry, our goal must be continuity and growth.
The heart of Jewish continuity and growth is our synagogues and synagogue movements. over 70% of American Jews pass through the gateways of our synagogues at some time in their lives, but synagogue affiliation remains too low. Our synagogues must be transformed into living Jewish communities - places for living in a Jewish milieu. We must reach out to unaffiliated Jews, including intermarried families, and encourage them to join synagogues and gain the benefits that Judaism can bring to them. Creating an environment conducive to supporting individuals in their spiritual quests must be the major focus of the synagogue. Ultimately, the synagogue is the central institution to join with the family in "reproducing Jews."
Our goals of Jewish continuity and growth are shared with Jewish federations across North America. Therefore, the development and implementation of a strategic plan for Jewish survival and growth require that we look to enhancing federation-synagogue cooperation and in addition look to federations for funding expanded programming focused on those areas most related to Jewish continuity and growth. There are communities where a growing partnership has been developing between federations and synagogues, including Boston, Massachusetts, and San Rafael, California, where great progress has been made in cooperation between synagogue and the federation communities and where UAHC and rabbinic leadership has played a very positive role.
Judaism has survived for more than 3,200 years because it has been able to adapt to changing conditions wherever Jews have lived. Our synagogue movements, our synagogues, and our federations must adapt to the changing conditions in which we find ourselves and must break down the barriers that have existed between them to find new ways to work together. A strong vibrant Jewish community, steeped in Jewish values, will not only have a positive impact for Jewish continuity and growth, but will also have a positive impact for all of North America and indeed for all nations.
THEREFORE , the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:
- Look to the future of the North American Jewish community in the context of Jewish continuity and growth rather than merely continuity and survival and urge its member congregations to adopt the same perspective.
- Affirm that the primary expansion of its programming must concentrate in areas most directly related to Jewish continuity and growth, including (1) programs directly related to issues of spirituality, faith, God and religion; (2) full and part-time education programs of pre-college students and college students and adults; (3) summer Jewish camping programs and temple youth group programming; (4) summer programs in Israel for high school and college students; (5) programs of outreach to unaffiliated Jews; (6) programs of outreach to interdating and intermarried couples and their families; and (7) programs involving our congregations in social justice issues and activities.
- Continue the efforts of the Reform movement to create dynamic and enticing synagogue communities that will become ever more attractive to individuals and enhance their personal and familial fulfillment. Concurrently, the Reform movement must, with sensitivity, "market" Judaism to Jews, both to those who are affiliated and to those who are unaffiliated (including intermarried Jews), using modern means of communication and education that will enable Judaism to enrich the lives of all Jews, wherever they live. These educational programs must include thoughtful responses to the fundamental question, "Why should I choose to be Jewish?"
- Affirm that in communities across the North American continent there should be a developing partnership between synagogues and local federations to raise the necessary financial resources to enhance programs directly related to Jewish continuity and growth, recognizing the integral relationship that already exists between the constituencies of our federations and our synagogues.
- Affirm that the UAHC and Jewish federations need to address with realism and effective action the demographic revolution that has taken place in North America and that our synagogue and federation communities must join together to give priority to programs for Jewish continuity and growth and help bring to fruition the words of Isaiah that we will be a "light to the nations that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."