Can Orthodoxy save American Jews? Further thoughts

Would Orthodox Jews compromise, move to Israel or fight if Anerica turned against their way of life? Op-ed.

Marc Berman , | updated: 10:00 AM

Jewish Heritage Month celebrated at Capitol Hill
Jewish Heritage Month celebrated at Capitol Hill
Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce

In a recent op-ed for Arutz Sheva, I analyzed the continuing decline of American Jewry, both in numbers and in influence. I noted that, despite the decline, the population of Orthodox Jews has been rising.

Nonetheless, I speculated that the increasing number of frum Jews might not save the community. That is because Orthodox Jews may be the Jews whose presence in America is the most threatened by Antisemitism, the danger also being the ongoing hostility of courts and politicians to traditional norms of religious practice.

To date, the brunt of this hostility has been targeted at Evangelical Christians. But Orthodox Jews may be next in line.

I further conjectured that, if the situation became unbearable, the bulk of American Orthodox Jews would most likely emigrate to Israel.

The article concluded, “Who would have thought, even 10 years ago, that the demise of American Jewry in the “Goldeneh Medina” might happen so soon?”

In response to the piece, several readers commented with trenchant points. Here are some of their observations, together with my additional thoughts:

A few comments took issue with my “surprise” at the potential for an imminent termination of the U.S. Jewish community. They noted that Rabbi Meir Kahane (HYD) long ago predicted the departure.

Now, I have read some of Rav Kahane’s books, and met him when he visited my college. To the best of my memory, his prediction was that traditional Antisemitism, likely occasioned by a massive economic downturn, would be the catalyst that would drive Jews out.

Perhaps my memory is faulty. But I do not recollect that Rabbi Kahane forecast that “equal opportunity” persecution of both Christians and Jews by courts, legislators and bureaucrats would be the catalyst.

Other commentators focused on the potential response of Orthodox Jews to any future attacks on halakhic observance. These readers theorized that many Orthodox Jews might simply accommodate their halakhic practice to the new “woke” ideas. (Unlikely and unlike, one might add, our forefathers, who were willing to die rather than fundamentally compromise our religion.)

I must concede that this point in certain Open Orthodox circles may be somewhat valid. Even in the absence of governmental coercion, we already see ostensibly Orthodox rabbis who waiver. Some, for example, support nontraditional marriage. Others feel the need to apologize in public, in shul, for allegedly “hurtful” portions of the Torah.

Nevertheless, my (admittedly unscientific) impression is that mainstream Orthodox Jews, would not be willing to compromise on any of the essentials of Yiddishkeit merely to fit in with an increasingly leftist and Woke society.

The next observation by some readers was that the situation in Israel going forward might not be much better for observant Jews than in the States. After all, Israel’s Supreme Court is well-known for issuing edicts hostile to religion. Mind you, not to traditional religious practices in general (as in America), but to Orthodox Judaism in particular.

Again, another point with at least some validity. Also a good reason why one would think that all streams of Orthodox and traditional Israelis would be uniting to effectuate judicial reform, especially if aliyah increases their numbers.

One would think. But the recent decision by some formerly in the National Camp to join a coalition with leftist and even anti-Zionist parties has rendered such reform impossible. At least in the short run.

A final thought: History is not inevitable. Current trends may reverse. Rulers and judges do not last forever. Of all people, we Jews should realize these things.

How might a reversal of the current dominance of leftist values, both in Israel and in America, be brought about? That is something I hope to write about in the future.

Marc Berman writes on politics, law, culture, and religion. He can be reached at He is also a chazzan (cantor) whose latest recording, a rendition of the classic Yiddish song “Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen,” can be found here.