Arabs to outnumber Jews in Israel, West Bank and Gaza in 2016


The number of Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza will equal the number of Jewish Israelis in 2016, according to Palestinian statistics.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in a report summarizing 2014 determined that the projected number of Palestinians in the world is 12.1 million, of whom 4.62 million live in the West Bank and Gaza, 1.46 million in Israel, 5.34 million in Arab countries and some 675,000 in  foreign countries.

The number of Palestinians and Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza will total about 6.42 million each in 2016 if current growth rates remain constant, according to the bureau, which determined that the number of Palestinians in those areas will total 7.14 million compared to 6.87 million Jews by the end of 2020.

The estimated birth rate of all Palestinians is 32.3 births per thousand, with 29.4 in the West Bank and 36.8 in Gaza. The rate is expected to decline to 29 by 2020, according to the bureau.

Census puts U.S. population at 320.09 million, up 0.7 percent from year-ago


The U.S. population is seen at 320.09 million people as of Jan. 1, up 0.73 percent from a year earlier, the Census Bureau said on Monday.

The Census Bureau said in a statement that the figure represents an increase of about 11.35 million people, or 3.67 percent, since the last population count on April 1, 2010.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds,” the Census Bureau said.

It said the combination of births, deaths and net international migration would add at least one person to the U.S. population every 16 seconds.

The Census Bureau projected the world population on Jan. 1 at about 7.21 billion, a 1.08 percent increase from New Year's day in 2014. It estimated that about 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths will occur worldwide every second in January.

Israel’s population grows slightly to 8.081 million


The population in Israel rose to 8.081 million — 148,000 more than on the eve of Rosh Hashanah a year ago.

According to data released Monday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the population grew by 1.8 percent, with 75.1 percent of Israel’s population, or 6.066 million people, listed as Jewish. Arabs made up 20.7 percent of the population. There were no significant changes in either group.

Those listed as others made up 4.2 percent of the population, including Christians and people without religious affiliations.

Last year, 163,000 babies were born and 40,000 people died.

In addition, there were 16,968 new immigrants to Israel in the Jewish year 5773, as well as more than 6,000 Israelis who returned to the country after living abroad.

The most popular names for boys were Itai, Daniel, Ori, Yosef and Noam; for girls they were Noa, Shira, Tamar, Talia and Yael.

Need for genetic testing raised by new initiative GeneTestNow


Significant advances in science enable us to no longer question what’s in our genes. This is especially important for Jews, who are far more likely to be carriers of certain genetic diseases than the general population. 

Education and awareness about genetic screening have been spreading throughout the nation and the December 2012 launch of the Web site “>victorcenters.org.

How much does it cost? Insurance companies often dictate the price tag for genetic screening. Some won’t offer a covered benefit until a woman is pregnant, since there is no liability until this point and testing earlier is considered a waste of resources. Costs can range from as little as $99 to thousands. 

Is a salvia test a good genetic screening? To eliminate all risks of being a carrier of Tay-Sachs disease, you should request to screen for DNA and enzymes, which can be done only with a blood test. Otherwise the test will screen only for DNA mutations, which misses a small percentage of carriers. 

Should I get rescreened before having another child? Hold on to your test results. It isn’t a matter of rescreening, but of updating your screening as technology advances and more information becomes available. In 2005, the Jewish panel of diseases covered only nine genetic diseases. 

Are online genetic screening tests sufficient? Direct-to-consumer testing might not provide counseling services, which are strongly recommended. To ensure the quality of testing, laboratories should be properly certified. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulates lab testing through the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Check to make sure the screener is CLIA approved. 

Consider purchasing life insurance first. Test results from genetic screening could make it difficult to buy life insurance, disability insurance or long-term-care insurance. Although, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 to protect Americans against discrimination based on their genetic makeup from health insurers or employers, not all types of insurance are included. 

NGO: Eritrean asylum seekers pressured to leave Israel


Israel attempted to deport 25 Eritrean asylum seekers in violation of international conventions, according to an Israeli NGO supporting the rights of migrants.

A group of some 25 Eritrean refugees were pressured by Israeli immigration officials to sign a declaration saying they would agree to be deported to Uganda and then discovered that they were scheduled to fly to Eritrea, the Hotline for Migrant Workers charged. The Eritreans refused to get on the plane.

A spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority, Sabine Haddad, told JTA that she did not know about a group of Eritreans facing possible return, but did say that hundreds of north Sudanese have agreed to be repatriated in recent months, as well as a small number of Eritreans.

Haddad added that her office is checking this particular incident, and said that in no case does Israel deport migrants against their will.

The Hotline for Migrant Workers told Haaretz that the asylum seekers were told they either can be repatriated to Eritrea or remain in prison in Israel for at least three years.

As a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Israel cannot deport asylum seekers. Israel grants Eritreans protection, but does not recognize them as refugees.

Eritreans make up more than 60 percent of the more than 60,000 illegal African migrants are who are believed to be in Israel, according to Haaretz.

Asylum seekers who return to Eritrea are in danger of persecution or even death at the hands of the Eritrean regime, rights groups say.

Haredi Orthodox account for bulk of Jewish population growth in New York City


Most of the growth of the Jewish community of New York over the past decade took place in two neighborhoods of Brooklyn, according to new data from a survey first published last year.

UJA-Federation of New York last week released more details from its 2012 demographic study to show that two-thirds of the rise in the number of Jews living in metropolitan New York City occurred in Borough Park and Williasmburg, two largely haredi Orthodox communities.

“When we examine the geographical profile and see where cohorts of the Jewish community — and their diverse characteristics — are found, we recognize both challenges and opportunities for communal leadership,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation's executive vice president and CEO. “A challenge because more people have more needs and those needs differ from area to area throughout the region. And an opportunity because there are now more people to engage in Jewish life and community.”

According to the survey, the number of Jews living in New York and its environs increased by 10 percent over the past decade, to 1.54 million, cementing its status as the largest metropolitan Jewish community in the world outside Israel.

According to the study's new data, Borough Park, home to the Bobov Chasidic sect and several other haredi communities, the Jewish population rose by 71 percent. In Williamsburg, the seat of the Satmar Chasidic sect, the population increased by 41 percent.

The data offer a glimpse of demographic trends that are reshaping the makeup of the world's most important Diaspora Jewish community. The 469-page study, carried out by a team of sociologists and claiming to be the “most comprehensive and detailed study ever conducted on local Jewish areas,” also shows significant changes elsewhere in the metropolitan area.

The number of Jews living in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights skyrocketed by 144 percent. The Bronx, a former bastion of Jewish life that had seen a long period of decline, is rebounding with the number of Jews rising from 45,100 to 53,900 in the last 10 years. More Jewish families live in a single Manhattan neighborhood, the Upper West Side (43,900), than in all of Cleveland, Ohio (38,300).

The study also addressed patterns of affiliation. In Brownstone Brooklyn –a large swath of Kings County that includes neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Red Hook and Windsor Terrace — Jewish residents reported relatively low rates of affiliation. About half the respondents in the area volunteered at charities, although not necessarily Jewish ones.

The highest proportion of married Jewish couples lives in Great Neck and the Five Towns area of Long Island. Residents of these suburbs on average gave more to Jewish causes, traveled more frequently to Israel and felt a closer connection to the Jewish state than respondents from almost any other county.

The survey also provided information about the religious affiliation of the community. About 40 percent of participants living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan said they identified with Reform Judaism, and more than 30 percent of respondents in the Queens areas of Flushing and Kew Gardens Hills were affiliated with Conservative Judaism.

Last year's findings showed a general decline in the number of those affiliated with both movements. John Ruskay, the executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said the data gathered by his organization had already been put to use in assessing the damage wrecked by Hurricane Sandy.

“Since the data was assembled just a year before the hurricane, we have a baseline that tells us about the character of communities that live in areas affected by the storm,” he said. “In the future, we’ll be able to gauge temporary vs. long-term impact on residents by comparing new data with this baseline.

Researchers interviewed 6,000 people living in 26 primary areas to compile information for the study. The study covered UJA-Federation of New York's catchment including the city of New York, parts of Long Island and Westchester County.

Study: Jewish population is booming in Brooklyn neighborhoods


The Jewish population of greater New York City rose ten percent in the last decade, to 1.54 million, a study found.

Two-thirds of that growth came from two haredi Orthodox neighborhoods, according to data released Friday by UJA-Federation of New York.

The data is part of a second batch of information from the demographic survey UJA-Federation conducted of the local Jewish population in 2012. The full report includes more detailed geographic data on the Jewish residents in UJA-Federation's catchment area, which includes the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. The greater New York City region is home to the largest Jewish community in North America. 

According to the study, most of the ten percent increase since 2002 occurred in the predominantly haredi Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park and Williamsburg.

The number of Jews living in Borough Park, home to the Bobov Chasidic sect and several others haredi communities, rose by 71 percent. In Williamsburg, the seat of the Satmar Chasidic sect, the population increased by 41 percent.

Other parts of the city also saw a dramatic rise in Jewish population. The number of Jews living in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights sky-rocketed by 144 percent.

The Bronx, a former bastion of Jewish life that had seen a long period of decline, is also rebounding. The number of Jews in the northern borough rose from 45,100 to 53,900 in 2012.

“The geographic profile give us essential current information so we can best respond with laser-like focus to regional and communal needs,” said John Ruskay, the executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “We, along with our network of agencies, area synagogues, day schools and many other communal institutions will use this data for planning to meet current and future needs of the Jewish community.”

Israel’s population rises to nearly 8 million


Israel's population is nearing 8 million, up almost 100,000 from the end of 2011, according to data released on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that the population of Israel stands at approximately 7,933,200; at the end of 2011 it was at 7.837 million.

The new figure includes approximately 5,978,600 Jews, or 75.4 percent of the population, and about 1,636,600 Arabs, or 20.6 percent. The 318,000 people categorized as “others” include 203,000 foreign workers, of whom some 60,000 are African migrants.

The Israeli population is considered relatively younger than that of Western countries, according to the statistics' bureau. In 2011, children from newborns to age 14 in Israel comprised 28.2 percent of the population and those aged 65 and over were 10.3 percent, compared to 18.5 percent and 15 percent on average in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Last year, 166,296 babies were born in Israel — nearly identical to the previous year. There were 2.98 children per each Jewish woman, also nearly identical to the most recent figures, and 3.51 children per Muslim woman, down from 3.75.

The population density rose to 347 people per square kilometer, excluding West Bank communities, from 288 in 2000. The Tel Aviv District is the most densely populated; the most densely populated city is Bnei Brak at 22,145 people per square kilometer.

West Bank settler population rises 4.5 percent to 350,000


More than 350,000 Jews are living in West Bank settlements, a 4.5 percent increase over last year, according to the Israeli government.

Peace Now, which monitors settlement growth, claimed that the number is inflated.

According to the Times of Israel, Israel’s Interior Ministry reported that 350,150 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, an increase of 15,580 from last year. Including eastern Jerusalem and other Jerusalem neighborhoods, the total population of Jews living beyond the Green Line that separates Israel proper from its administered territories is approximately 650,000. (Dani Dayan, chair of the Yesha settlers council, put the number at 550,000 in an Op-Ed that appeared Thursday in The New York Times.)

Knesset member Yaakov Katz said that “within four years,” there will be more than 1 million Jews living beyond the Green Line, and “then the revolution will be completed.”

In 2000, fewer than 200,000 Jews lived in settlements.

Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran said the figures may be inflated because they are based on Israel’s population registry rather than the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

“The growth occurs mostly in ultra-Orthodox settlements,” she told the Times of Israel. “Unfortunately the government promotes the construction of settlements and encourages the Israeli public to move to settlements.”

In his New York Times Op-Ed, Dayan wrote that the settlements are “here to stay.”

“Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria—not just in the so-called settlement blocs—is an irreversible fact,” he wrote, using the biblical reference to the West Bank. “Trying to stop settlement expansion is futile, and neglecting this fact in diplomatic talks will not change the reality on the ground; it only makes the negotiations more likely to fail.”

Why counting counts: Who knows who L.A.’s Jews are?


Susan Goldberg, rabbi of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, grew up in nearby Echo Park.

“There were no Jewish families around when I was growing up,” Goldberg, 38, said. Now that these neighborhoods are being gentrified, and a young, creative crowd is moving in, the Jews are coming, too.

Some five years ago, Temple Beth Israel, a nearly 90-year-old congregation, counted 30 individual members. Today, she said, “We’re bursting at the seams with young families, parents in their 30s and 40s who are living here, in Mount Washington, in Highland Park, in Eagle Rock,” Goldberg said.

But for all the anecdotal evidence that Jews are moving eastward, no one knows exactly how many Jews comprise this trend.

“We know they’re out there, because when we have events, they come,” Goldberg said. “But it would be so, so tremendously helpful to know where they are, who they are, how many there are.”

Los Angeles hasn’t done a Jewish community survey since 1997, and with nothing concrete in the works, organizations are “flying blind,” in the words of one demographer.

“No other large Jewish community has been without a study for such a long period of time,” said Jacob Ukeles, president of Ukeles Associates Inc., a firm that helped conduct New York’s recently released survey.

And that can have serious implications for how effectively a community responds to needs.

“We need to know who lives where, what they do Jewishly, what diversity exists among Jews, what needs they have, what resources they have and what they think on a variety of issues,” said Sarah Bunin Benor, associate professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. “That’s my take on it, from the perspective of somebody who wants to help Jews have a better life.”

Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said conducting such a study is “rising to the top of our agenda.”

“We really need to do it. We know we need to do it, and I believe we will do it. We have to figure out the resources and how we’re going to pay for it,” Sanderson said in an interview.

A study of Los Angeles’ Jews, who are believed to number between 500,000 and 600,000, would likely cost somewhere around $1 million. In most cities with large and medium-sized Jewish populations, Federation pays for a survey once a decade. Los Angeles conducted community surveys in 1950, 1958, 1968, 1979 and 1997.

When Sanderson took office in 2010, no study was in the pipeline, and he said he had initially hoped to launch one quickly. But as the impact of the recession became more severe, Sanderson said, funds continued to be redirected to such programs as the Emergency Cash Grants, which has provided more than $2.6 million in relief to 5,350 recipients since 2009.

“Now, with everything we’re doing, we’re still trying to put a survey on the front burner,” Sanderson said.

Federation hopes to launch the process in the next year, Sanderson said — if he can figure out where the money will come from.

But the more time that goes by without a survey, the less efficiently the community is spending its dollars, demographers say.

“If you have a Federation that says they are the planning body of the community, where are they getting their information?” asked Pini Herman, a principal at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. Herman was the L.A. Federation’s research coordinator for the 1997 survey; he has also worked on surveys in San Francisco, Houston and Seattle.

“The longer you don’t have a survey, the more you have to guess, and basically you’re snatching ideas and data out of thin air. And without any community study, there is no way to confirm or refute what they say,” Herman said.

Community leaders say they are eager to have current data.

“Synagogues call all the time, wanting to know where the Jews are moving. Are they moving into our area? Out of our area? Are we losing members because Jews are leaving this area, or for some other reason?” said Bruce Phillips, a principal, with Pini Herman, at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research and a professor of sociology and Jewish communal studies at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. Phillips has conducted or published research on more than 20 Jewish community surveys.

Other questions in Los Angeles also need answering. How many Iranian Jews live here, and what is there economic profile? Their Jewish identity? Their integration patterns?

What areas are people moving to and away from? Are nearby cities that are experiencing growth, such as San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas, doing so at the expense of Los Angeles, or along with Los Angeles? How many French and Latin American Jews have moved into the area, and are they being served? Has the Orthodox population increased, and if so, in what sectors?

Anecdotal evidence about subpopulations can be deceiving, Phillips said, as it’s easier to count visible Jews who are frequent users of community resources — for instance, the Orthodox, or immigrant populations. The unaffiliated are more likely to go undetected if you rely on visibility or data from Jewish organizations.

A topic open to debate is how many Israelis are in Los Angeles. While some estimate there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis in Los Angeles, Herman says his own research points to a number closer to a maximum of 25,000, a figure corroborated by the official Israeli count of how many people have left their country.

The Los Angeles Jewish population, once concentrated on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, is migrating toward the East Side and north to areas such as the Conejo, Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys.

Several organizations are investing both money and resources in the East Side, including Federation, which has funded a new staff person at East Side Jews, a nondenominational Jewish community that has attracted hundreds of young, hip Jews to its irreverent monthly holiday celebrations and social events. East Side Jews recently became part of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, an organization that is on a short list to receive significant Federation funding for a renovation and expansion project.

At the same time, Temple Beth Israel’s Goldberg said, Jews in the area remain underserved. When she needs to refer people for social services, she is often told that Jewish agencies don’t extend out to her part of town. In addition to leading Temple Beth Israel, Goldberg serves as rabbi-in-residence for East Side Jews, a position co-supported by Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which is also interested in being part of the East Side Jewish renaissance.

Indeed, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is in the middle of a $150 million project to restore and revitalize its historic sanctuary and campus in Koreatown. Before embarking on that project, the congregation commissioned its own demographic study of the area — roughly from West Hollywood on the west to Eagle Rock and Pasadena on the East, stretching from Adams Boulevard on the South up to Studio City and Glendale.

“I intuitively felt that young Jews were moving eastward, but intuition is not always right,” Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Rabbi Steven Leder said.

Their study, which cost them about $25,000, found around 30 percent growth in the area over the last 10 years, with the most significant increases in the population of childbearing and -rearing age. That information convinced the synagogue’s leadership to buy up the rest of their square block to make room for more parking, an expanded day school, religious school and social service center.

Having data has also made it easier to approach donors, Leder said.

“It’s important to know that there is hard data to support your assumptions when you’re trying to raise money,” he said.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s study was based on Jewish surnames in voter registration listings — a method that may have left out Jews who have a non-Jewish parent or who are married to non-Jews, a population that, anecdotally at least, accounts for much of the growth on the East Side.

Chicago Jewish population sees 8 percent growth


The Chicago Jewish community grew by 8 percent over the past decade, or more than 21,000 people, according to a new demographic study.

The study, which the Jewish United Fund and Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago commissions every 10 years, found that the number of Jews living in the Chicago area increased for a third consecutive decade, to 291,800.

Chicago’s overall population over the same period grew by only 3.5 percent.

The study comes as local Jewish federations have released or are conducting a flurry of demographic studies and the Jewish Federations of North America organization has moved away from surveying the Jewish community on a national level.

A survey released recently by the Portland-area federation in Oregon found a Jewish population of 47,500—more than double the number of Jews that community leaders had believed were living in the city area.

The Chicago study also found that intermarriage had increased from 30 percent in 2000 to 37 percent in 2010, and that more than 90,000 of the 148,100 Jewish households had at least one non-Jewish member.

At the same time, the survey found that half of interfaith families are raising their children only Jewish. Previously only a third had been raising children solely in the Jewish faith.

Among other findings, half of Chicago Jews have been to Israel, 86 percent of children aged 6-18 have had a formal Jewish education and nearly all the respondents said that being Jewish was important to them.

Amar: Non-Orthodox Jews taking over Israel


Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi wrote that he is concerned that non-Orthodox Jews are taking over Israel.

In a letter sent to Israeli rabbis to mark the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul, a time of spiritual preparation for the High Holidays, Rabbi Shlomo Amar said Jews must petition Israel’s lawmakers to prevent the influence of non-Orthodox movements in state and religious issues, the Jerusalem Post reported. 

These “liberals and reformers” have brought us to “our spiritual low point,” the rabbi wrote.

“They now have their claws in the nation of Zion, and are trying to impose the lifestyle of other nations on us. They established legions of warriors in the Land of Israel, whose purpose is to remove Torah from Israel,” he wrote.

Amar also called on Jews to pray for the non-Orthodox to “return to the right path.”

Boosting Jewish populations in Arab neighborhoods stokes tensions


It is said that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Galilee village of Peki’in since the days of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Always small, that Jewish presence dwindled in recent years to near zero. Then, this year, a group of about five religious Zionist Jews moved into the largely Druse town.

Michael Teplow, an Israeli lawyer who is one of the investors in the project, said the goal is to build a Jewish community in a place where Jews have especially deep historic roots.

But some Druse residents of Peki’in don’t see it that way.

“We fear these are extremists who want to make Peki’in into a Jewish village,” Mofeed Mohana, a former city councilman, told JTA. “They are buying homes and walk around with guns. We are not against Jews living here in equality and partnership, but we are against this.”

Teplow dismisses Mohana’s fears.

“I frankly don’t care what they think. My attitude is that a Jew has a God-given right to live in the Land of Israel and I’m not stealing anyone’s house—I’m buying it,” Teplow said. “What is Zionism? It’s Jews going back to their land. If you are going to put limits on Jews going back to their national homeland, you end up hampering Zionist goals.”

The tension in Peki’in is playing out in cities and towns across Israel as a movement to boost the Jewish presence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities gains steam. In places like Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and Akko, seed groups of Orthodox Zionists are buying property in predominately Arab neighborhoods where there is a minimal Jewish presence, moving in and setting up yeshivas.

Supporters see their efforts as an attempt to strengthen the morale and infrastructure of local Jewish populations in such cities, where the Jews often are poor. The Web site for one such seed group in Akko, Garin Ometz (The Bravery Group), says its members are on a mission “to fulfill a vision that the city of Akko remain a Jewish city and become a leading, thriving city.”

Over the last year, both Akko and Peki’in became the site of violent ethnic clashes. Four days of Arab-Jewish clashes in Akko were sparked by an incident last Yom Kippur, and in Peki’in a Jewish-owned home was set on fire in 2007. Police at the time said they suspected the fire was set by Druse youth intent on sending a message to locals not to sell property to Jews.

Critics of the movement to bolster Jewish populations in Israeli Arab towns view the trend with cynicism. They say religious Zionists are transplanting tactics from the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, where Jews buy up property to establish exclusively Jewish communities. They say the Jews moving into Arab neighborhoods around Israel are not interested in good relations with their neighbors; they want to take over.

Jews involved in such projects say they are not out to push out local Arabs; rather, they seek to boost the Jewish share of the local population.

The Israeli government supports similar efforts nationwide, with various government ministries and the Jewish Agency for Israel long supportive of bolstering Jewish demographics in predominantly Arab areas of Israel, especially parts of the Galilee and Negev. This effort spans the political spectrum, and includes President Shimon Peres. But for the most part the government has sought to carry out the program by building new Jewish towns and neighborhoods rather than by establishing Jewish enclaves in Arab population centers.

“I think I speak for the majority of Akko’s Arab residents and Arabs from other mixed cities that we are not against Jews living here, too,” said Sami Hawary, director of Alyatar, an organization that promotes multiculturalism in the city, which is just north of Haifa. “But we prefer it’s not in the style of settlements with separate building projects like the ones we are seeing.”

Hawary was referring to plans in some areas to build apartment buildings specifically for religious Jewish residents.

In Jaffa, a group opened a yeshiva about four years ago in the predominately Muslim neighborhood of Ajami. Nearby, a real estate company called Bemuna, which advertises as catering to the “religious public,” bought a public lot of land with the intention of building a housing project. The company’s Web site advertises homes with “attractive prices” and a chance to live in a “Torah community.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel charged that Bemuna had an unfair and exclusionary policy and took Bemuna to Israel’s Supreme Court, which issued a temporary order barring the Israel Lands Authority from granting the land to Bemuna.

“We think people can live wherever they want to, but they cannot put up a housing project that basically says, ‘Arabs cannot live here,’ because that is outright discrimination,” said Gil Gan-Mor, the ACRI lawyer overseeing the case.

Bemuna did not return calls seeking comment.

About 20 percent of Ajami’s population consists of relatively recent Jewish arrivals. Most live in gated communities and large homes along the seafront. There are also other Jews, like Yehudit Ilany, a photographer and community organizer, who live among their Arab neighbors.

Ilany is among those who have been active against Bemuna’s efforts to come to the neighborhood.

“The language they use is of strengthening the Jewish community,” she said. “But pardon me, if that is their interest, why don’t they go to the neighborhoods of Jaffa where there are many economically disadvantaged Jewish families?”

New study finds 1 million more Jews in U.S.


A new study gives fairly concrete evidence that the American Jewish population could be more than 1 million people larger than believed — but if so, it means efforts to engage them may have been less successful than the community realized.

The United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 (NJPS) was widely viewed as flawed. Still, the Jewish community held to the survey’s estimate that there were 5.2 million American Jews.

But even using the same criteria as UJC did to define who is Jewish, it’s more likely that there are 6 million to 6.4 million American Jews, according to a Your handy guide to performing at Jewish functions

U.S. Jewish Population Rising; California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact


U.S. Jewish Population Rising?

The new American Jewish Yearbook reports that there are 6.4 million Jews in the United States. That’s significantly more than the 5.2 million figure provided by the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Study.

The yearly survey, published by the American Jewish Committee, is based on a tally of individual Jewish communities across the country. According to the survey, 2.2 percent of the American population is Jewish. New York has the largest Jewish population of any state with 1,618,000, followed by California with 1,194,000, Florida with 653,000 and New Jersey with 480,000, the AJCommittee said in a release.

California and Israel Join in Tourism Pact

The state of California and the state of Israel have jointly established a commission to encourage their citizens to visit each other, proving again that the Golden State is big enough to conduct its own foreign policy. At a recent ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, signed an agreement launching the California-Israel Tourism Commission. Both credited Los Angeles-based media mogul Haim Saban for the initiative to establish the commission.

During the ceremony, Schwarzenegger recalled that he has visited Israel three times, first as a body builder, then to open his Planet Hollywood restaurant in Tel Aviv and last year for the groundbreaking of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.

No breakdown was available on the number of Californians visiting Israel, or Israelis visiting California, however, the latest figures from Israeli tourism officials showed that between January-September of this year, 1.5 million tourists came to Israel, of whom 400,000 were Americans. In 2005, Israel had 2 million visitors, among them 533,000 Americans.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Iran Hosts Holocaust Deniers Conference

The Iranian government held a conference of Holocaust deniers and skeptics this week, a discussion of whether 6 million Jews actually were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

A report in The New York Times quoted the opening speech by Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which organized the event, saying that the conference would allow discussion “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”

Speakers at the event include David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in France over his denials of the Holocaust, the Times reported.

— Staff Report

Seattle Rabbi Regrets Xmas Tree Removal

A Chabad rabbi in Seattle expressed regret that his request to add a menorah to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s display of Christmas trees resulted in the trees’ removal.

“I am devastated, shocked and appalled at the decision that the Port of Seattle came to,” Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Pacific Northwest said in Monday’s Seattle Times.

Last week, Bogomilsky’s attorney Harvey Grad threatened the port with a lawsuit after not receiving a response to a request, first made in October, to install an 8-foot menorah, which Bogomilsky offered to supply.

Port Commissioner Pat Davis told the Times that the commission had not heard about the request until Dec. 7, the day before Grad was to head to court.

An airport spokesperson said it was decided to take down the trees because the airport, preparing for its busiest season, did not have time to accommodate all the religions that would have wanted a display.

The removal resulted in a firestorm of criticism, much of it directed at Bogomilsky, who said he never wanted to see the trees removed.

Thousands March for Hezbollah

Hundreds of thousands of protesters led by Hezbollah marched in downtown Beirut Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora either cede some government power to the terrorist group and its allies or resign, The Associated Press reported.

Hezbollah has been pressing for increased power since its war with Israel over the summer. Lebanese troops Sunday sealed off Siniora’s compound, as well as the roads nearby. Siniora and most of his ministers have stayed in the complex since Dec. 1, when Hezbollah launched massive protests aimed at toppling Lebanon’s Western-leaning government.

Senate Approves Red ‘Crystal’

The U.S. Senate certified the Red “Crystal,” paving the way for Magen David Adom’s acceptance into the International Red Cross’ bodies. The Red Cross approved the symbol which resembles a playing card diamond earlier this year, ending a decades-long shutout of non-Muslim and non-Christian groups such as Israel’s first responder, which rejected using the Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols as inappropriate. The Red Cross had also rejected the Star of David symbol used by MDA.

The Senate’s certification last Friday, the last day of Congress, protects the symbol’s copyright and follows similar legislation passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Israeli Hostages Said Wounded

Two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah since July were seriously wounded during their capture, security sources said. Israeli security sources last week quoted a declassified military report that said bloodstains and other evidence gathered at the site of the July 12 border raid in which Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were seized showed the hostages were seriously wounded.

To survive, the sources said, the two army reservists would have required immediate medical attention, something that may not have been available in the custody of the Lebanese terrorist group.

Hezbollah has refused to provide information on the captives’ condition, saying it would only release them as part of a swap for Arabs held in Israeli jails. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out a swap on Hezbollah’s terms unless the terrorist group provides information on the soldiers’ health. The captives’ families criticized the release of forensic details from the raid.

“I think this may be an attempt by the Prime Minister’s Office to lower pressure to get the kidnapped soldiers freed,” Regev’s brother, Benny, told Israel Radio.

France’s Dangerous Cocktail


On July 18, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon festively proposed to “all the Jews of France” “to move to Israel immediately … because in France today, one of the wildest forms of anti-Semitism is spreading.”

Sharon is wrong — not in his concern about a real rise in anti-Semitism in France, but because he explains it too simplistically.

Ten percent of the French population is of Muslim origin. Most are not fundamentalists who feel solidarity with the Hamas suicide bomb campaigns.

Those who attack the Jews are a tiny minority, and that is a reassuring fact. But they are forging alliances with other anti-Semitic movements, and that is a disturbing fact.

On French campuses — as well as on other European and American campuses — leftist anti-Semitism is rife. This anti-Semitism, under the guise of anti-Zionism, turns the Palestinians into the cutting edge in the fight against imperialism, capitalism and globalization.

For the fashionable rebels, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat equals Che Guevara, and to the same extent, Sharon equals Hitler. This is the source of the increasing delegitimization of a country that allows a “Nazi” to head it.

Classical anti-Semitism, from the days of the [French] Vichy and Petain regime (1940-1945), is clandestinely lifting its head, mainly in the circles of old France. We should remember the attack of the French ambassador in London against that “s—–y little country, Israel. Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?”

The ambassador, who served as spokesman for the foreign minister under former President Francois Mitterand, was sharply attacked in the British press but made no apology. His words, as opposed to those of Sharon last month, were not considered “unacceptable.” He is concluding his career as the French ambassador to Algeria, a very desirable job.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suggested including Russia, Turkey and Israel in Europe, the reply he received from the French was: Why Israel? “There is no geographic connection [that is true], no historical or cultural connection between Israel and Europe.”

This statement is the height of ignorance

There is a well-known joke: “Tomorrow we will kill the Jews and the bikers.” To which the punch line is: “Why the bikers?”

The disappearance of Israel would cause few tears in Paris.

Unfortunately, the present situation is linking the three ways of ostracizing the Jews and is thereby mixing a dangerous cocktail.

The fundamentalists are very warmly received by the good souls who oppose globalization. It seems that the politically correct protesters have found the new “deprived masses” in the intifadists — a substitute for the workers that they will never enlist.

From the extreme right to the extreme left, all of political France thundered against intervention in Iraq — rank-and-file militants, members of Parliament, trade union activists, ministers and government leaders.

“Bush, Sharon — murderers,” shouts the street. “Sharon, Bush — contempt for international law,” declare the salons.

The rise of anti-Semitism, which is far from being a simple consequence of the intifada, is the twin of the anti-American wave that has landed on Europe since Sept. 11 and has flooded it since the war in Iraq. And since political France almost unanimously judges the American and Israeli leaders as violators of the law, it is not at all surprising that the fans of Hamas are running around happy and in a good mood in France, which identifies only two major enemies: Bush and Sharon.

But Sharon should be told: Refrain from unnecessary panic. The time has not come for Frenchmen of Jewish origin to lock their suitcases “as quickly as possible” in order to flee to Israel. France is not going through Kristallnacht. It is going through a rising wave of angry and pretentious foolishness. That happens occasionally in soft democracies.

The wave is also licking at other shores, and every citizen with common sense, whether Jewish or not, has an obligation to treat this contagious mental illness in his own home.


Andre Glucksmann is a philosopher. Reprinted with permission Ha’aretz. © 2004

L.A. Embarks on a Baltic Journey


There is a country whose Jewish community involves nearly all its young people, elects its leaders by democratic vote on the basis of character rather than wealth and is not driven by political and religious divisions.

The country is Lithuania, once a vibrant center for 250,000 Jews, where today some 6,000 Jews are rebuilding their institutions and community on the ashes of the Holocaust and Soviet rule.

The upbeat report comes from a small and youthful delegation of activists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, who arrived in mid-February to celebrate the official inauguration of the Los Angeles-Baltics Partnership.

Not that the three Baltic nations are a Jewish utopia on Earth. The demographics are askew, with elderly retirees making up some 40 percent of the community, while many of those who would now be the middle-aged pillars of the community immigrated after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to Israel, Germany and the United States.

Economic conditions are hard, particularly for the elderly, whose meager pensions are being eroded by the rising cost of living.

Andreas Spokoiny, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) director for the Baltic states, recalled that recently regular patrons at a Jewish senior citizens center stopped coming. When Spokoiny investigated, he found that the pensioners couldn’t afford the trolley fare to the center.

The most hopeful sign is that the young are taking over the responsibility for their community. When four of the five delegates were interviewed and asked their ages, two were 22, one was 25 and Spokoiny, the group leader, is 35.

One of the 22-year-olds was Inna Lapidus from Estonia, coordinator of the Jewish youth movement in the Baltics and a student at the Tallin Pedagogical University.

Her country’s pre-war community of 5,000 has recovered the most demographically with 4,000 current members, thanks to an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

“It’s haimish in our community, you feel like part of a small family,” she said.

Latvia has a Jewish population of 15,000, compared to 90,000 before the Holocaust. Simon Gurevichius, also 22, who gave the upbeat picture of the Lithuanian community, said that Jewish life revolved mainly around community centers, rather than synagogues. He was optimistic about the community’s future, saying, “I hope to create a Jewish family in Vilnius [formerly Vilna].”

Asked what impressed the group most about their visit here, Spokoiny answered, “It was discovering the richness of options for Jewish living available here.”

The Los Angeles-Baltics Partnership had its beginning some two years ago when the World Jewish Communities Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, headed by Nathan Sandler, embarked on a fact-finding mission to the three countries.

Working in conjunction with the JDC, the local Federation now funnels about $200,000 a year to the Baltics, said project director Lesley Plachta of The Federation’s Valley Alliance.

Beneficiaries include a hospital, schools, summer and winter camps, sports programs, leadership training and a research center.

A highlight of the delegation’s five-day visit to Los Angeles was “An Evening of Inspiration and Celebration” at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Sandler told the 500 guests that the partnership “is changing lives and rebuilding the foundations for Jewish life. It is strengthening Jewish identity. It is strengthening the bonds of Jewish solidarity.”

A new Federation partnership mission to the Baltics is planned for June, aimed especially at families and children.

Shortly afterward, the second World Litvak Congress will be held in Vilnius, Aug. 23-30, “to remember the great men and women of the Land of Litvaks, who became the pride of the entire humanity,” according to the words of invitation by chief organizer Dr. Simon Alperovitch.

For details on the congress, e-mail Litvaks@Litjews.org or visit www.Litjews.org . For more information about the projects the partnership is funding, including information about the June 2004 family mission to the Baltics, contact (818) 464-3211.

Aging: A Jewish Community Issue


When I first met Sarah, she was bent over her walker intently making her way through the gardens of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA). While her steps were merely a shuffle, her brown eyes were lively.

I often walk through our Grancell Village and Eisenberg Village campuses to visit with our 800 residents. I frequently ask the question: “What makes the Jewish Home Jewish?”

Sarah had a ready answer.

“I am the daughter of a rabbi and the wife of a cantor,” she said. “I have outlived all my brothers and sisters. My husband is gone. And now I have outlived my children, too. What makes this home Jewish is that when I outlive this [she taps her temple] then I trust this home and the community to take care of me.”

Sarah died peacefully last year at age 101. Her words stay with me. This simple story sums up our home’s mission — taking care of our elderly — and how crucial it is to involve the entire community in their support.

We are reminded daily through advertising and news stories of the “graying” of America. With increasing life spans and a growing population of those older than 65, our politicians debate budget allocations and changes in governmental programs without sufficient consideration of Sarah and the millions she represents. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) programs are stretched beyond capacity to meet the present and future needs. Somewhere in focusing on the numbers of the elderly, they lost sight of Sarah. We are Sarah.

A phenomenon in the graying hair of America is the whitening hair of our Jewish community. Jews are living longer than other groups in our nation. Currently, one in every eight Americans is “older” (65+). As the baby boom generation begins to turn 65, projections are that one in five people will be older than 65 by 2030. Surprisingly, our population of 85+ is growing even faster than the 65+-ers. The 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey reported that Jews older than 85 were already almost 2 percent of the population — nearly twice that of the general population.

Each year of increasing age brings challenges. Acute illnesses hit harder and long time “chronic” conditions (like arthritis or diabetes) are more difficult to manage. Walking is often dependent on a walker, cane or wheelchair. Eyesight and hearing are affected. The fear and risk of cognitive impairments grows. Isolation becomes a daily habit, loneliness an ache and the only companion television or a caretaker/housekeeper. Safety and personal security concerns limit evening outings and inhibit trying “new” activities. Ninety percent of seniors use Social Security as their primary income, and one-third of our most elderly live on less than $10,000 each year. Government resources are already inadequate. Remarkably, almost half of our oldest seniors live independently. But others, like Sarah, need help — either around the clock, or intermittently — to enjoy a life that can be enriching and fulfilling. At JHA, the average age is 90 and, like Sarah, one-third of our 800 residents have outlived spouse, siblings and children. Seventy-five percent of our 800 residents are able to receive the care of the JHA only because of welfare programs supplemented by the generosity of individual donors.

Sarah’s story, along with the sobering statistics, is a wake-up call. We cannot assume the government or someone else will take responsibility for our elderly; it is up to us. Supporting the frailest and most dependent of our seniors also demands a commitment to excellence in the quality and quantity of services provided. An old Chasidic quote rings true today: “The prosperity of a country is in accordance with its treatment of the aged.”

Choices we make now can assure that our Jewish elderly live lives of dignity and respect. We learn well from our elders, as from JHA resident Sylvia Harmatz, age 105: “How wonderful that there were people who had the foresight to build the Jewish Home. They have created a home where old people can go and spend the last years of their lives without worry. This is truly a haven.”

From another resident: “A reason to get up in the morning! Companionship, friendship. This is what I’ve found.”

Action is the next step and, like Sarah’s, it can be a small one. If you want to learn more about the needs and how to help, come and visit the JHA. Together with us, determine what you can do to make a difference today and tomorrow. Talk about aging with your peers and your children — it’s an important issue for us all and we all need to be involved. Life does not end because we get older, life ends when we stop living it.

Jewish Home for the Aging will break ground on its new residential medical center on Sunday, Feb. 8. For more information, call (818) 774-3000.


Molly Forrest is CEO of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging.

Immigration Plan Poses Challenges


President Bush’s Jan. 7 proposal to dramatically expand immigration to the United States ignited a national debate about this highly emotional issue. While this is a critical policy that will profoundly affect all Americans, it is a policy that must be of particular concern to American Jews.

Arguably, no group has benefited more from immigration to America than the Jews, and, arguably, no group has more to lose as a result of continued mass immigration to the United States.

The surge of violent anti-Semitism that has been spreading across Europe and the effort of European governments to sweep it under the rug are directly tied to the phenomenon of immigration (as The Jewish Journal reported in the Dec. 5 issue). Much of the current violence and venom directed against European Jewry has its roots in the large Arab and Islamic immigrant community and their European-born children.

The United States is not Europe, and it would be wrong to assert that this country will follow exactly the same path. But it would be wrong and reckless of American Jewry not to contemplate the potential challenges that will face American Jews and their interests 10 or 15 years from now, when the Islamic population of this country will likely outnumber the Jewish population.

It is an uncomfortable matter to deal with, and we must never fall into the trap of automatically assuming that every Arab or Muslim immigrant is a potential enemy, but neither can we ignore the real dangers that this sort of demographic transformation poses.

Unlike Europe, the United States has a long history of assimilating people from disparate cultures. However, there are many important differences between the circumstances of today’s immigration and that of previous generations.

Revolutionary advances in transportation and communication make it much easier for people to cling to their ancestral ties. Moreover, never in our history have we received large numbers of immigrants from societies that harbor strong anti-American attitudes.

The overt anti-Semitism we are witnessing on college campuses across the United States, promoted by increasingly assertive Islamic groups, may well spread into other areas of American life, as the population of Islamic immigrants and their U.S.-born children increases. Things may not deteriorate to the level that they have in France and elsewhere in Europe, where wearing a kippah or a Star of David in public is an invitation to be attacked, but life could become a whole lot less comfortable for Jews in America.

The rapidly growing Islamic population of the United States will likely have a profound effect on this country’s foreign policy, as well. Domestic political considerations could lead to a shift in U.S. Middle East policy, as a growing, vocal and well-organized Muslim voting bloc emerges.

American Jews and American supporters of Israel are not as smart as we like to give ourselves credit for. There is no doubt that groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are among the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington. But it is also true that for a long time, they have been playing the political game without an opposing team on the field. There has not been a substantial group of voters and political contributors who were as passionately anti-Israel as American Jews (and many Christians) have felt in support of Israel.

Until now, congressional support for Israel has been a political no-brainer. Supporting Israel meant Jewish votes if there were any in a member’s district and Jewish campaign dollars, even in states and districts without substantial Jewish populations.

Those built-in advantages are about to change. The Arab and Islamic leadership in the United States is actively planning and organizing to translate growing numbers into increased political clout.

Because of the way U.S. immigration policy is structured, we are likely to see a surge in immigration from the Islamic world in the coming years. Once an immigrant establishes a foothold in the United States, the law guarantees eventual admission for a wide range of extended family members. Given the political and economic conditions that exist in their countries of origin, it is certain that many will take advantage of the opportunity to settle in the United States.

The United States must never return to the pre-1965 policies that favored or disadvantaged potential immigrants based solely on where they came from. However, a policy that places all would-be immigrants on an equal footing and requires them to compete for admission on their own merits would be completely consistent with American values.

Unless provisions of the law that guarantee eventual admission for not only an immigrant’s spouse and minor children, but also parents, adult children and siblings (including their spouses and children) are changed, the Muslim population will grow exponentially. Without a braking mechanism on the engine of chain migration, the Muslim population of the United States, now estimated between 3 million and 4 million, will very quickly overtake a stagnant Jewish population of about 5.5 million.

American Jews can neither ignore our own history nor today’s realities. More than any other group of Americans, our lives and interests — and Israel’s — are likely to be affected by current U.S. immigration policies. American Jews and our leaders must balance nostalgia and our sense of fairness with rational assessments of what these policies will mean for future generations of American Jews.

We need only look across the Atlantic to realize what may await us if we don’t.


Ira Mehlman is co-founder of the American Jewish Immigration Policy Institute.

Settlements Plan Spotlights Dark Issues


The conventional explanation for Israel’s more controversial measures, including, in particular, the security fence under construction and the new marriage law passed by the Knesset, is that these are responses to the ongoing conflict. (The new marriage law cancels the automatic citizenship hitherto accorded Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens.)

But underlying that explanation, there is a darker and infinitely more problematic reality: Israel does not know what to do with or about the 1.2 million of its citizens (20 percent of the total population) who are Arabs — or, as they increasingly choose to define themselves, Palestinian Israelis.

While all the hubbub about fences and settlements and such continues, at quite a distance from the real-time radar screen, a new drive has been launched in Israel that perhaps more explicitly than ever highlights the issue — or, if you will, Israel’s dilemma. The World Zionist Organization is undertaking a project to build 30 new settlements in the Negev and the Galilee — that is, within the Green Line.

So wherein lies the problem? These are not controversial settlements in the West Bank or Gaza. No one questions Israel’s right to build wherever it chooses to within the Green Line. Everyone knows that too much of Israel’s population is concentrated in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, and that the Negev and the Galilee are relatively sparsely populated.

The name of this new program reveals its problematic aspect: "The New Challenge: A Zionist Majority in the Negev and Galilee."

Please understand, no test of Zionist conformity will be administered to would-be residents of the new settlements. The word "Zionist" in the title of the project is really a euphemism; the intention is a Jewish majority. But it would be at the least impolitic to say it quite that baldly, so the word "Zionist" is used as a substitute or subterfuge.

The treasurer of the Jewish Agency says essentially as much, explaining that "the settlement drive is the only way to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state."

Demography is on everyone’s mind these days. We’re told that such "painful compromises" as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may be prepared to make in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority derive from his appreciation that if Israel retains the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinians who live there, it will be only a few short years before Jews are a minority in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.

So in order to preserve itself as a Jewish state, Israel must disgorge the land it has occupied since 1967 — that, or as Israel’s far right members of the governing coalition would have it, disgorge the Palestinians who live on the disputed land.

But demography within the Green Line? Yes indeed, to the tune of $40 million a year for the project’s first two years — that’s Jewish Agency money — plus a promise not likely to be fulfilled of an additional $400 million from the government. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that "to attract Jewish families to Arab regions, the Jewish Agency plans to invest heavily in local educational resources" — better teachers, longer school days, an upgrading of regional colleges.

The irony here is that by every available measure — teacher training, dropouts, kindergarten availability, special education, per capita pupil expenditures and so forth — the Arab educational sector has never experienced anything near equality with the Jewish educational sector nor has it enjoyed the extraordinary infusion of funds that is here contemplated.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an Arab citizen of the State of Israel, told again and again that you have greater freedom and a higher standard of living than Arabs in neighboring countries. But because you are an Israeli citizen, your natural population of reference is not the Arab citizen of Lebanon or Syria, it is the Jewish citizen of the State of Israel.

And now imagine that you are informed that it is a goal of the Jewish people, as represented by the Jewish Agency, to see to it that "real Zionists" — never mind that a large number of those "real Zionists" are non-Jewish immigrants from Russia — outnumber you even in regions within Israel where your ethnic/religious group has long been predominant.

This is not about being gracious to the stranger, because we were strangers in Egypt. We are talking here about Israeli citizens.

The fact that 20 percent of Israelis are Palestinians creates real tensions around the definition of a "Jewish state." By all indications, Israel has done and is doing a miserable job in dealing with those tensions, aggravating them rather than defusing them.

To be sure, the conflict has exacerbated the problem — but think for a moment how very differently the conflict might have played out had Israel, from its inception, opted for genuine equality for its Arab citizens. The fact that Israel is explicitly a Jewish state need not have precluded it from making a real home for all its citizens.

Instead, it has relied on a mix of crumbs and rhetoric to address the matter. And now, 55 years into a policy of shameful neglect, it finds itself on the brink of a whirlwind and flails about in ways that will newly aggravate the already strained relationship.

It turns out that we here in America are directly implicated in this latest aggravation: the chair of the task force charged with developing the details of the program is the incoming chairman of the board of United Jewish Communities, and the project is part of Partnership 2000, a Jewish Agency program that links Diaspora Jewish communities with Israeli communities.

Sorry, folks. This is not the Zionism in which I was reared — nor the Judaism.


Leonard Fein’s most recent book is “Against the Dying of the Light: A Father’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope (Jewish Lights, 2001).

There’s More to Us


All this week there’s been some strange goings-on at the intersection of Us and Them.

Pop diva Whitney Houston spent a few days in Israel among the black Hebrews. “It’s home,” she said about Israel. “It’s a friendship I’ve never had with any other country.”

Meanwhile, Madonna donated $6 million to buy a building in London that will become the new West End headquarters of the Kaballah Center.

Closer to home, “The Producers” opened at the Pantages Theatre, deservedly regaling crowds with the adventures of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, two Jews who lie, cheat and backstab and yet somehow emerge lovable and heroic (see p. 25).

At the same time, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) was in town last week accepting the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente. He’s finding that he is gaining support as a result of being an observant Jew.

All this is happening in the real world, which is why I am having an increasingly difficult time following the hand-wringing and oy-veying of the unreal world, which I will call, the Jewish community.

In that world, experts, professors, bureaucrats and rabbis are bemoaning the imminent demise of the Jewish people. They marshal statistics, most recently from the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), to support their predictions that American Jews, like bluefin tuna and North Atlantic cod, are disappearing. Intermarriage is at 51 percent. Jewish women in their childbearing years are having only 1.8 children, while the replacement level to ensure population growth is 2.1 children. More Jews are dying than are being born, and unless we go out and have another .3 children, the Tribe is toast. As Leo Bloom moans in Act Two, “No way out, no way out, no way out.”

In the face of these numbers, the Jewish professional world has put forth a variety of sometimes useful and often very expensive programs designed to encourage Jewish identity.

But none of these solutions, undertaken as a response to the 1990 NJPS, has drastically improved the numbers of the 2000 survey. And I suspect that if we invest in similar programs and solutions starting now, the 2010 survey will look even worse.

So why is it that Jewish influence is expanding in popular culture while our actual numbers seem doomed to decline? Are we, like the burst of a summer firework, burning brightest the instant before our descent?

Or are these solutions bound to fail because we have, all along, wrongly defined the problem?

We are worried that there are too few Jews, instead of worrying that too few people are Jewish. The former is a problem. The latter is an opportunity.

Judaism has insights into the most profound questions we humans ask: What is the meaning of life? How can I be happy? Why do the innocent suffer? How do I raise good kids?

Judaism has commandments, laws and rituals that provide the discipline and tools we need to act upon these insights: to make the world a better place, to offer hope and comfort, to bring peace.

Judaism has much to recommend it. When was the last time you recommended it to someone? My guess is, never. Because the truth is, too many Jews can’t make a convincing argument for being Jewish even to their children, much less to strangers.

This week as we celebrate Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, who, drawn to the faith of her mother-in-law, becomes Jewish. It is a story we should take to heart. Some forward-thinking mainstream rabbis are doing the same, like Harold Schulweis at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. He realized long ago that Jews should actively engage intermarried couples and share the wisdom and beauty of Judaism with non-Jews. Call it marketing. Call it proselytizing. Call it good sense. As Ulla, the blonde bombshell in “The Producers,” sings, “If you got it, flaunt it.”

Judaism has got it, but we don’t flaunt it. “Rarely has there been a moment when the Jewish world view was so widely needed,” wrote Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein recently. “There is a genuine desire to learn about Judaism.”

There are currently about 200,000 converts to Judaism in the United States. Our first task is to make sure these Jews feel as welcome in our hearts and homes as your favorite uncle or aunt. We must also support rabbis and organizations who conduct responsible outreach to intermarried families, non-Jews and, of course, marginally affiliated Jews.

Rabbi Irwin Kula’s new public television program, “SimpleWisdom,” is one attempt to bring Jewish teachings into the public marketplace ina serious yet accessible way. “Judaism is used to make Jews more Jewish,” Kulatold The Forward about his program, which is produced by the L.A.-based JewishTelevision Network. “But what if that’s a too narrow definition for a3,500-year-old tradition? When Judaism is not about making Jews Jewish but aJewish response to human questions, what do you say?” One thing I say is, callNancy Rishagen, senior vice president for development at KCET, and urge her toair “Simple Wisdom” in a popular time slot: (323) 953-5300 or nrishagen@kcet.org .

The historian Salo Baron wrote in “Encyclopaedia Judaica” that from 586 B.C.E. to 100 C.E., the Jews grew from 150,000 to more than 8 million, mostly through unforced conversion. I’m sure the community experts weren’t bemoaning the Jewish Population Survey of 100 C.E. Our future, too, can be one of growth and strength. “There’s more to me than just me,” Leo Bloom says in “The Producers.” And there can be more to us than just us.

Why Be Jewish?


The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story, “A Clouded View
of U.S. Jews” (Oct. 9, 2002), which related the results of conflicting polls taken
to determine Jewish population numbers in America. One study claimed numbers
dipped slightly to 5.2 million, while a second poll claimed the Jewish
population increased to 6.7 million.

Reactions to the Times’ numbers were as diverse as the
respondents. Some called for an increase in Jewish education and outreach,
while others proposed we should increase our numbers by abandoning the
traditional reticence to proselytizing and put more resources into embracing
potential Jews. I couldn’t disagree more.

At a time when more than half of Jews marry non-Jews and
assimilation rates continue to skyrocket, I believe that the focus of Jewish
outreach programs should be to our very own people. Rather than focus on how
many we are, we should concentrate on who we are, what we represent and making
the smallness of our numbers pale in comparison to the might of our actions.

Our sages tell us that before the Jewish people received the
Torah at Mount Sinai, God offered the Torah to the other nations of the world.
Each nation asked God what was in it. Once they heard about all they would be
asked to give up, they said “no.” Whether it was the prohibition against
murder, adultery or stealing, each nation found a reason to refuse God’s gift.

Finally, God turned to the smallest nation on earth and
asked if they wanted the Torah. Without even asking God what was in it, the
Jews said “yes,” and a covenant was formed. And in the centuries since, the
Jews — more than any other people on earth — have been mercilessly persecuted
and hated beyond contempt. Why are we so hated?

Perhaps an even more important question: In this day and
age, why care? As more and more Jews live assimilated lives, marry non-Jews and
raise their children with little understanding of what it means to be Jewish,
one could ask, why even be Jewish?

As terrorism threatens to engulf the globe, as rampant drug
use by the younger generation threatens the quality of our futures, and as
greed replaces compassion, I say that today more than ever, the world needs the
Jews.

The Talmud asks why God chose Mount Sinai of all places on
which to give the Torah. In Hebrew, the word for hate is “sin’a.” When God gave
the Jews the Torah at Sinai, hatred came down to the Jews. The world hates us
because we received the Torah, the very thing they rejected.

Since then, the reasons for Jew hatred have been many and
varied. We keep ourselves separate, and we’re hated for being different.
Assimilation is no guarantee either.

Assimilation in Germany led Jews to consider themselves
Germans first, Jews second. They dressed like their neighbors, ate like them,
worshipped on the same day, even married them. Instead of stemming the
anti-Semitic flow, this only served to change its course. History clearly
proves that whatever the Jews happened to be doing, became the reason for
anti-Semitism.

What then is the real reason we are hated? To understand the
fundamental motivation is to understand what it means to be Jewish. So it is to
our greatest enemy that we turn to discover the true reason we are reviled and,
therefore, who we truly are.

Hitler hated us because of the “curse of conscience” imposed
upon western man by the Jews. The central balance of human existence is good
vs. evil, as we see so clearly in the world today. The function of the Jews is
to represent good. What the Jewish people do for good or evil determines the
amount of good or evil in the world.

If Jews do that which is called good (e.g., following the
Torah), we increase our relationship with God and thereby bring His presence
more into the world. When God’s presence is more readily felt, the acceptance
of evil decreases. People become more careful of their actions and do less to
harm others.

To the extent that we reject Torah, however, and become more
like the nations of the world, we move away from God and allow more evil into
the world. This is what Hitler understood. Those opposed to good are opposed to
the Jewish people. And so he set out to destroy the messengers of good in the
world — the Jews.

What we need to realize is that there is no point in
abdicating to our enemies the determination of why they really don’t like us.
We would be much better off if we determined who we are and what we can
accomplish in the world, and not twist ourselves into pretzles trying to become
something we were never meant to be.

By understanding the role of the Jew in the world, we can
have a proper sense of self. One’s sense of self is rooted, among other things,
in one’s heritage and one’s history. When you erase your heritage, you rob
yourself and your children of self-knowledge. The beliefs of your ancestors are
part of you. They shaped you. To not know what shaped you is to not know your
true self.

This is definitely a case where quality is much more
important than quantity.

The Ground Floor


A lot of the problems and promise of Los Angeles Jewish life were on display last Tuesday evening in Bob and Marcia Gold’s living room.

The Golds live in a envy-inspiring home high upon a bluff in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The greater Los Angeles Jewish community, all 4,000 square miles of it, pretty much ends here, where the lights of Portuguese Bend disappear into the dark beyond of the Pacific Ocean. Next stop, Catalina — or Kauai.

The South Bay extends from Westchester to San Pedro. According to a 1997 population study by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, it is home to 45,000 Jews. Most of them live in the seaside cities, such as Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach, and in the suburban aerie of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. People at the Golds’ house believe the actual number of South Bay Jews to be far less than 45,000, perhaps half as many. But they agree with the survey that the South Bay is among the Southland’s fastest-growing Jewish communities. Along with the young urban professionals moving into the coastal towns, there is a vast infrastructure moving into El Segundo and environs to support the burgeoning film production facilities there. "Manhattan Beach is Hollywood," said Rabbi Ron Shulman of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay.

Most of the dozen or so men and women who came to the Golds’ house that evening were members of Shulman’s shul, which is on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. They gathered to brainstorm ideas for the future of the larger South Bay Jewish community. Decades old, it is, like many similar communities, facing a time of growth and change. "We have a strong synagogue community," Shulman said, "but not a strong Jewish cultural community."

Shulman’s Conservative congregation has 600 families and boasts the largest United Synagogue Youth group in the Southland. Other synagogues, like Temple Menorah and Congregation Tifereth Jacob, are also flourishing. But outside of synagogue life, when it comes to a sense of a larger community, there is no there there. As symbolic proof, they pointed to two buildings, one that exists, one that doesn’t. The Jewish Federation’s South Bay headquarters on Palos Verdes Boulevard has long stood underused. Expected to be the center of Jewish communal life when it was acquired over a decade ago, it is now a reminder of the lack of organized South Bay Jewish life outside synagogues.

The other symbol: "There’s no deli here!" one of the woman said to loud agreement. "We can’t even keep a good deli open."

The people at Tuesday’s meeting want a deli — who doesn’t? — but more importantly they want to expand and enrich Jewish life in their part of Los Angeles. The catalyst, they hope, will be about $1 million coming their way. At the meeting, Federation President John Fishel and South Bay Federation rep Margy Feldman told the group that the Federation plans to sell the old Federation building and invest the proceeds of about $1 million into South Bay Jewish life. The question that this group and groups from a variety of synagogues are gathering to discuss over the next year is how to take a small windfall and create community.

The challenges they face are familiar to anyone in Jewish life these days: How do you get Jews who are uninvolved or marginally involved out of the house? How do you do triage among all the communal needs: teen services, eldercare, recreational needs, Israel advocacy, Jewish education? How do you reach across ages and denominations and — even in a single geographic area like the South Bay — distance?

Fishel said that as well as being dispersed, the Jewish community throughout Los Angeles is diverse — "concentric circles of communities, which sometimes intersect and often don’t." A single solution, he said, will never suffice for everyone.

He said one possibility, in these lean times, is to think in terms of programs rather than capital. The Federation has been very successful in creating community by engaging in social service programs like KOREH L.A., which sends volunteers to area school to teach English literacy. It’s true that software is cheaper and more adaptive than hardware, but some in the group still gravitated toward the model of a come-one-come-all Jewish community center. In places like Orange County and Austin, Texas, where people pursued dreams of major multiuse Jewish community centers, they were able to inspire donors and bring those uninvolved Jews out of the woodwork. Then again, there are no guarantees.

But this group has at least two things going for it, beyond the million bucks. One, the people who turned out to discuss their community’s future are young men and women. They were very conscious of picking up the mantle of leadership from the previous South Bay Jews who had built up the successful synagogues. Two, this city’s Jewish community is relentlessly entrepreneurial. The Wiesenthal Center, the Skirball Center and the Shoah Foundation are just three examples of Jewish enterprises that were created from the ground up, based on an idea and a plan, right here in Los Angeles. They are proof positive that once the Jews of the South Bay set their sights on what their community needs, they can create whatever it is they want.

And maybe even get a deli.

Jewish Survey Missing Data


Much-anticipated parts of the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) will not be released as expected next week because some of the data has been lost.

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), which is funding the $6 million study, is canceling all events pertaining to the 2000-01 NJPS at the Philadelphia gathering of its General Assembly, which begins next Wednesday.

And the UJC, the umbrella of the North American federation system, is launching an independent investigation into the lost data, JTA has learned.

“It is true we are delaying the release of the study,” Stephen Hoffman, UJC’s president and chief executive officer, said on Wednesday. “The reason is there have been some questions raised that I don’t believe we have adequate time to get answers to.”

The revelations could cast doubt on the entire NJPS, the most extensive and costliest demographic study ever conducted of the American Jewish community. The lost data apparently concerned methodological details about who was surveyed, rather than their responses to survey questions.

“Some people with serious reputations believe the study is sound and it could have gone forward and will stand up to the test of time,” Hoffman said. “That could be the case — but I didn’t feel comfortable with these questions to go forward [with releasing further NJPS data next week as planned].”

Last month, the UJC released initial findings from the NJPS, showing the American Jewish population declined 5 percent to 5.2 million since the last study in 1990, and that birth rates were dropping and the community was aging.

Hoffman said that had he known of the missing data before the release of that information, he would not have approved the release of those initial conclusions.

“There may be aspects of it [that are inaccurate],” he said, referring to the initial data released. “I don’t know.”

Hoffman said he only learned of the missing data Tuesday, one week before the information from the NJPS about Jewish identity and intermarriage was due to get released at the annual UJC gathering, which brings together much of the organized American Jewish world.

“I feel it would be irresponsible to go ahead and release the study while these questions are still unresolved,” Hoffman said.

“There will be some people who will be disappointed,” Hoffman said of the implications for the General Assembly. “I’m personally disappointed.”

But there “are other things in Jewish life,” he said that delegates will focus on.

At the heart of the mystery was that Hoffman only learned Tuesday that the firm conducting research for the NJPS, Roper Audits & Surveys Worldwide, lost some data for the study two years ago during initial telephone calls.

Meanwhile, “other issues like that have been coming up in recent days,” he added, though he declined to elaborate.

One source familiar with the NJPS said the missing data concerned lists of those people telephoned for the survey, their phone numbers and how often they were called.

Two-thirds of that data was lost, according to the source.

But the source maintained that while this information was important in determining the accuracy of the survey’s methodology, he did not think that it would undermine the ultimate conclusions, specifically those relating to Jews and Jewish identity.

“I don’t know how much has been lost,” Hoffman said. “The issue is 29 hours old. All I’ve had time to do is make the decision to not have the data be released.”

However, Hoffman said that Jim Schwartz, UJC’s director of research for NJPS, “was aware” of the missing data at some earlier point, though Hoffman said he hadn’t spoken directly with Schwartz yet about the matter. There were no plans affecting Schwartz’s position at this point, he added.

“It would be unfair to jump to conclusions about anybody’s particular role,” he said. “I’m not casting any aspersions at the moment.”

Schwartz could not be reached Wednesday for comment, despite several attempts.

After the General Assembly, the UJC will secure “an outsider” who is “totally objective” to launch an investigation into the missing information. The investigative team might include UJC staffers as well, Hoffman said. Such a probe would presumably attempt to learn exactly what information is missing, how it got lost, how significant it is, who knew about the missing information and why they did not inform senior UJC officials.

“I want to know if there are any other issues they haven’t told me about, either from staff or the technical team” or Roper researchers, Hoffman said.

June Wallach, a spokeswoman for Roper, said the company would have no comment at this time.

Hoffman said he had no idea whether the UJC would take action against Roper, which apparently lost the information from its computer system.

Several lead members of the National Technical Advisory Committee of demographers and social scientists that consulted with UJC’s staffers working on the NJPS said they were participating in a conference call Wednesday about the survey, though they declined to comment further.

Hoffman said he did not know if the co-chairs of the advisory panel, Vivian Klaff of the University of Delaware and Frank Mott of Ohio State University, knew about the missing data. Reached Wednesday, Klaff would only say he would be joining the conference call on the NJPS. Mott did not return calls.

Egon Mayer, director of the North American Jewish Data Bank at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he had heard about the delay this week though he didn’t know the reasons for it.

“I think some very important conclusions were reached by the UJC management that led them to this decision, which I’m sure they reached very reluctantly,” he said.

Stephen Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life for the American Jewish Committee, said he had heard of the delay but preferred waiting until the UJC got to the bottom of the issue.

“I’d rather not have the data than have data that is mistaken,” Bayme said.

Findings Reveal Demographic Shift


This is the American Jewish world, by the numbers, as revealed in the just-released National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001 (NJPS)

The Jewish population now stands at 5.2 million, down
5.45 percent from 5.5 million in 1990.

Jews represent 2 percent of the general U.S.
population, which stands at 288 million, an increase of 33 million from 1990.

The Jewish population resides in 2.9 million Jewish
households, with a total of 6.7 million people in all those households.

This means that 1.5 million of those people — one out of every five people living in a Jewish household on average — are not Jewish.

The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of local Jewish federations and sponsor of the study, released only the demographic findings this week.

Other parts of the study, which will address issues of Jewish identity and affiliation, will be released at the group’s annual gathering in Philadelphia at the end of November.

Among the key findings released on Tuesday:

Age:

The median age of U.S. Jews is 41, up from 37 in 1990,
and in contrast to the median age of 35 in the general U.S. population.

19 percent are age 65 and older, up from 15 percent in
1990, compared with 12 percent in the general population.

19 percent are age 17 and younger, down from 21 percent
in 1990, compared with 26 percent in the general population.

Gender and Marriage

51 percent of U.S. Jews are female, 49 percent are
male. The gender distribution is the same as the general population and is
unchanged from 1990.

54 percent of U.S. Jews aged 18 and older are married,
compared with 57 percent in the general U.S. population.

26 percent aged 18 and older are single and never
married, compared with 24 percent in the general population.

30 percent of Jewish men are single compared with 22
percent of Jewish women.

9 percent of Jewish adults are divorced, 4 percent are
separated and 7 percent are widowed. All of these figures parallel those in the
U.S. adult population as a whole. The NJPS numbers regarding Jews who live with
their boyfriend or girlfriend have not been released.

59 percent of Jewish adults have married once, 13
percent twice and 2 percent three times or more.

Fertility:

Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing
years, aged 40-44, have an average of 1.8 children, which is below the
replacement level of 2.1.

52 percent of Jewish women aged 30-34 have no children,
compared with 42 percent in 1990 and 27 percent among the general population in
2000.

National Origin:

85 percent of Jewish adults were born in United States.

Of the 15 percent of foreign-born Jews, 44 percent come
from the former Soviet Union ( 20 percent from the Ukraine, 13 percent from
Russia, the rest from other parts of the former USSR) and 10 percent each from
Israel and Germany.

Population by Region

There has been little change in the regional distribution of Jews since 1990:

43 percent of Jews live in the Northeast, compared with
19 percent of the total population.

22 percent of Jews live in the West, compared with 23
percent of non- Jews.

22 percent of Jews live in the South, compared with 35
percent of non-Jews.

13 percent of Jews live in the Midwest, compared with
23 percent of non-Jews.

38 percent of Jews live in a different region of the
country from where they were born.

Households:

The average number of people per Jewish household is
2.3, down from 2.5 percent in 1990, and compared with 2.6 percent in non-Jewish
households.

30 percent of Jewish households have one person,
compared with 26 percent of non-Jewish households, up from 24 percent in 1990.

38 percent have two people, 13 percent have three, 12
percent have four and 8 percent have five or more (compared with the general
population, where 14 percent have four people and 11 percent have five or more).

Education:

24 percent of adult Jews have a graduate degree, and 55
percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, as compared with 5 percent and
28 percent, respectively, in the general population.

Employment:

62 percent of Jews are employed full-time or part-time,
just 1 percent higher than in 1990; broken down by gender, 68 percent of Jewish
men are employed, 56 percent of women are.

21 percent of Jews are retired, up from 16 percent in
1990 and compared with 16 percent of non-Jews.

59 percent of Jews work in management, business and
professional/technical positions, compared with 46 percent of non-Jews who work
in those areas.

Of the 59 percent, 41 percent work in professional or
technical positions.

Income:

$50,000 is the median income among Jews, compared with
$42,000 among non-Jews.

19 percent of U.S. Jews are defined as low income,
earning $25,000 annually or less, compared with 29 percent of non-Jews.

Surveying ‘America’s Jewish Freshmen’


When Adam Bergman researched colleges toward the end of his senior year at Milken High School, he looked very closely at the quality of their soccer teams and not so closely at the size of their Jewish populations.

"I don’t consider myself religious at all. I have never chosen a faith," said Bergman, the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. As he approaches his freshman year on the soccer team at UC Santa Cruz, Bergman is not looking to have a Jewish experience.

Bergman, however, is not alone in his religious neutrality. "America’s Jewish Freshmen," a survey recently released by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, reveals a surprisingly low level of Jewish identification among students raised in interreligious families. The study, which asked incoming college freshmen to identify their religious preference, found that 40.2 percent of students raised in families where only the mother was Jewish identified their religion as "none," and 40 percent raised in families where only the father was Jewish identified their religion as "none." Of the students who were raised by two Jewish parents, only 6.2 percent claimed "none" as their religious preference.

"America’s Jewish Freshmen" profiles this rapidly growing segment of the student population who, like Bergman, have never chosen a faith, but have at least one Jewish parent. The study labels this category of students NR/JP (no religious preference/at least one Jewish parent), and compares them to self-identified Jewish students in areas such as their academic and family backgrounds, degree and career aspirations, and leisure activities. The study also compares Jewish and non-Jewish students in the same categories.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life sponsored "America’s Jewish Freshmen," in hopes of assisting Jewish educators to address student needs.

The study was conducted by Linda J. Sax, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA, and is based on data from CIRP’s Freshmen Survey, which has tracked more than 10 million students at more than 1,600 baccalaureate institutions for the past three decades. "America’s Jewish Freshmen" represents the first analysis of the CIRP survey’s Jewish sample, both by analyzing the 1999 CIRP Freshmen Survey and comparing it to the past 30 years of data.

"There’s a lot of stereotypes about Jewish students, but I wanted to see in reality how they compare," Sax said.

The study compares the responses of 8,000 Jewish students, 232,000 non-Jewish students, and 2,000 NR/JP students. It gives insight into one finding of the CIRP Freshmen Survey, which shows that while 5.4 percent of the student population identified themselves as Jewish in 1970, the figure dropped to 2.6 percent in 2001.

Among other things, "America’s Jewish Freshmen" found that NR/JP students were more often raised in homes where their parents were divorced or separated, compared to Jewish students. NR/JP students were also more likely to earn B averages in high school and less likely to earn A averages. They were more likely to aspire toward doctorate or masters in education degrees, but were less likely to aspire toward medical degrees.

"This is one category that Hillel will try to engage on campus," said Jay Rubin, executive vice president of Hillel. Rubin emphasized the importance of Jewish Campus Service Corps fellows reaching out to this group of students in particular, rather than waiting for them to come to Hillel. The survey notes that "although NR/JP claim to have no religious affiliation, Hillel looks to engage them in Jewish campus life because they have at least one Jewish parent and have not affiliated with any other religion." Additionally, despite differences, NR/JP students typically resembled Jewish students more than they resembled non-Jews.

"These students lack a traditional Jewish home life. We have an important opportunity, maybe an obligation, to provide them with the Jewish experiences that they failed to get at home and to provide them with a warm environment that will inspire them Jewishly…. We have to create programming with that in mind," said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel.

"We’re at the beginning stages of learning what the research tells us," Rubin said. He does, however, offer several suggestions for program implementation based on some of the statistics, which he derives mainly from the part of the survey comparing Jewish and non-Jewish students. For instance, Jewish students have a stronger intention to participate in community service while in college. Rubin suggests "alternative spring breaks," such as one where students from USC Hillel helped build health clinics in Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

Additionally, the study found that Jews are more likely than non-Jews to be interested in business, medicine, law and the arts. Rubin suggests Hillel internship and mentor programs and highlights several arts programs, including an a capella choir.

While the survey will undoubtedly be a valuable tool in aiding efforts of Jewish educators, Sax emphasizes that the data does not represent college students, but rather students who are about to enter college. She hopes that the study is a steppingstone to follow-up studies. "The ultimate goal is to see how they [Jewish students] develop throughout college," Sax said.

Conquest by Birthrate


A leading Arab think tank is backing an old strategy — to defeat the Jewish State from within by encouraging the growth of its Arab population.

The prime proponent of the conquest-by-demography theory is Wahid Abdel Maguid, chief editor of the Arab Strategic Report, the publication of Egypt’s premier think tank, the Al-Ahram Institute. The institute is part of the group that runs Egypt’s semiofficial newspaper of record, Al-Ahram.

"We are capable of increasing the demographic threat against Israel, if we demonstrate the necessary determination," Maguid declared in a recent interview with the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper.

Israel’s Arab population is estimated at some 1.2 million, compared with approximately 5 million Israeli Jews.

However, the Arabs’ birthrate is far higher than the Jews’, and Maguid estimates that Israel’s Arab population will equal its Jewish population in 34 years’ time through natural population increase.

Israel, of course, is not unaware of the demographic threat. Israeli surveys also warn of the dangers the Arab birthrate poses to Israel’s nature as a Jewish State, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stresses the need to bring as many Jewish immigrants to Israel as possible.

Maguid outlines a five-pronged strategy for making sure this "population bomb" can be accelerated, thus defeating Israel without another major Arab-Israeli war. Several of these processes already are under way, though not as part of a concerted Arab strategy:

Limit or reverse emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. In fact, levels of immigration have fallen sharply from their highs in the early- to mid-1990s;

Bring Arabs living inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders into close alignment with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, encourage them to spurn their identity as Israeli citizens and give them decision-making roles in the anti-Israel campaign. This development, which began with the Oslo peace process and which has been encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, saw its fullest expression in the Israeli Arab riots that accompanied the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000;

Maintain a continual intifada to discourage Jewish immigration to Israel and encourage Israelis to emigrate;

Build worldwide condemnation of Israel as a "racist" state to prevent Israeli pressure on Arabs to leave Israel or to reduce their birthrate. (This fall’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, was the apex of this effort to date.)

promote an influx of Arabs into pre-1967 Israel through infiltration and marriage. According to Israeli media reports, this is occurring now.

Maguid proposes that future anti-Israeli actions be spearheaded by Arab citizens of Israel, and be coordinated with the Palestinians and other Arab states.

He believes that Arab infiltrators into Israel should focus on marrying Israeli Arabs, making it virtually impossible for Israel to expel the illegal immigrants — at least without opening itself to charges of racism.

The population battle already has been joined, though not yet in the organized way Maguid advocates. According to Israeli estimates, more than 50,000 Arabs have moved into Israel since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

They are mainly Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians who enter Israel to find work, and take up residence in Israeli Arab communities. Security sources claim that some have carried out or supported acts of terror, and some are believed to be agents of the Palestinian Authority.

A key battleground of the future may be in the field of aliyah. One plank of the new Arab strategy should be undermining Israeli aliyah efforts, Maguid argues.

He urges Arabs to meet with candidates for immigration to Israel — especially in the ex-Soviet states — and tell them that living in Israel will present more daily hardships and security threats than they currently experience.

This is hardly new, however, as the Arabs and Palestinians mounted a fierce — though unsuccessful — propaganda effort to persuade ex-Soviet leaders not to allow Jewish emigration in the early 1990s.

Key to discouraging aliyah will be continuing the intifada, Maguid says. He also recommends stressing the feelings of "marginalization and disappointment" that some Russian immigrants reportedly feel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon constantly stresses his commitment to Jewish immigration from the Diaspora, often talking of bringing 1 million more Jews to Israel in coming decades, especially from the former Soviet Union, South America and South Africa.

The Palestinian Authority also recognizes the importance to Israel of immigration. Its spokesman condemned Sharon’s proposal for increased immigration as a "powder-keg" likely to set off a new explosion in the tense region — even as the Palestinian Authority insists that some 4 to 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants be granted a "right of return" to homes they left in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

The Palestinian Authority statement expressed fears that new Jewish immigrants could be placed in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Maguid’s fear is that — even if settled within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, as are the vast majority of immigrants — these immigrants would help Israel maintain a Jewish majority.

Both Sharon and Maguid would agree on one thing: To the winner of the population battle will go control of the state. Should the Arabs become the majority within Israel, Maguid has no doubt about the type of state that would be imposed.

"Palestine can be made Arab again — Arab, and not binational — Arab Palestine," he writes. In a new, Arab-dominated state, those Jews who wished to remain, could live "strong and respected under the umbrella of our Arab culture," he proposes.

Is Demography Destiny?


The new U.S. census figures have generated banner headlines this month, though no one seems to have a clue what those numbers portend. The big news, of course, is that America’s Latino population has ballooned almost 60 percent in the past decade, surpassing 35 million. More than 43 percent of Californians younger than 18 are now Hispanic, compared with about 35 percent a decade ago. In both the city and county of Los Angeles, Latinos have replaced whites as the largest ethnic group.

"The Anglo hegemony was only an intermittent phase in California’s arc of identity, extending from the arrival of the Spanish," Kevin Starr, the state librarian, told The New York Times. "The Hispanic nature of California has been there all along, and it was temporarily swamped between the 1880s and the 1960s, but that was an aberration."

Since most Jews are white, we find ourselves being a kind of minority squared, a minority within this new white minority. But Jewish groups have long seen this trend coming. They began their outreach to the Latino community years ago and have stepped up efforts in the recent past. What they have discovered is a community much more complex than the demographers’ numbers would lead us to believe. The word Latino hardly describes the tremendous linguistic, cultural, economic, political and national diversity of the region’s "non-white Hispanics." In Los Angeles, demography is not destiny but a test, perhaps a triumph, of democracy.

Now consider Israel. There are 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 300,000 Jews. For Israel to incorporate largely Palestinian areas would mean the certain dissipation of the Jewish character of the state, either through the democratic process or by enforcing an apartheid-like hegemony over a non-Jewish majority. Thus Israeli leaders from Yitzchak Rabin to Benjamin Netanyahu have sought out a compromise with Palestinians that would essentially trade land for security. The United States’ former lead Mideast negotiator, Dennis Ross, has said that demographics makes an eventual rapprochement and agreement inevitable, although Yasser Arafat seems determined to prove him wrong.

On Saturday night we’ll read the Passover story. "Behold," said Pharaoh, "the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply." If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know "dealing wisely" was Pharaoh’s way of saying, "Kill them." So Moses led us away, to multiply elsewhere. Does Arafat see himself as Pharoah, hoping to drive the Children of Israel into the sea? Or does he imagine himself Moses, leading a tribe that will eventually outnumber its enemy? In Israel, demography is destiny.

These refelctions on head-counting come at a time when human genome decoders have determined that at the genetic level, the concept of race is scientifically meaningless. "Race is a social concept, not a scientific one," Dr. J. Craig Venter, head of the Celera Genomics Corporation in Rockville, Md. told The Times. "We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world." It turns out that .01 percent of our genes is reflected in our external appearance: in other words, in our obvious Black-ness, Caucasian-ness or Latino-ness.

Jews, of course, are not a race, despite Hitler’s best efforts to categorize and exterminate us as one. We belong to a religion and a culture that embraces all races. There are black Jews and Latino Jews, and though the mind boggles, there is nothing other than a century of animosity to prevent there being Palestinian Arab Jews as well. To be a Jew is not, at the end of the day, a question of race, nationality, skin color, genetics or birth. It is a matter of what you believe and how you behave.

In this light, the admonition of the ancient rabbis against counting Jews seems sublime. When all the head-tallying and label-fixing is over, we must remember that quantity is less important than quality. In the end, it is not bodies that matter most, but souls.

Israeli Jews to Outnumber Those in U.S.


Jews in Israel will outnumber Jews in the United States in two decades, part of a shift in Jewish population by which Israel will become home to a majority of the world’s Jews by 2050, says a study in the new edition of the “American Jewish Year Book.”

The study concludes that trends indicate rapid growth in Israel, home to a younger Jewish population than anywhere else. It says that a few other nations will see short-term growth in their Jewish populations but that decline will set in outside Israel after 2020.

The study, titled, “Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000-2080,” was written by three Israeli demographers, Sergio Della Pergola, Uzi Rebhun and Mark Tolts, and will appear as a chapter in the year book. The 2000 edition is to be published this month by the American Jewish Committee.

The study may lend itself to ongoing discussions among Jewish organizations in the United States on how to increase communal identity and commitment among American Jews, especially in the face of a high rate of marriage between Jews and non- Jews, a trend seen as threatening to Jewish numbers.The study says the current global Jewish population is 13.1 million, of which 5.7 million live in the United States and 4.9 million in Israel.

The authors base their assumptions on a “medium” rate of fertility and continued emigration by Jews from the nations of the former Soviet Union, and they project the world Jewish population will rise by 2020 to 13.8 million with 5.6 million in the United States and 6.2 million in Israel.

The relative youth of Israel’s Jewish population plays a part in the projection. “Already today, approximately 48 percent of all Jews 15 years old or younger live in Israel, a figure expected to rise, depending on fertility, to 57 to 62 percent of the world total by the year 2020,” the study says.Still, some cautioned against placing too much weight on such population projections.

“The Diaspora is not disappearing and it’s not going to disappear,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Reform synagogue organization.

This article appears courtesy of The New York Times.

Flawed Methodology


No one seems to believe what Pini Herman does. While all observers – particularly outside of the Orthodox community – take for granted the phenomenal growth of the Orthodox, he continues to stand behind the seriously flawed methods he used in the Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey of 1997. That’s the one that no one can believe, the one that claims that Orthodox numbers have actually declined in L.A. When his office stonewalled several requests from the Orthodox community to examine the raw data, a little skullduggery on our part turned up what really happened. The L.A. survey was not a census, but a survey of a smaller number of households, whose results are then extrapolated statistically. For that to work, you have to sample the community according to its actual composition. If 30 percent of your respondents call themselves Conservative, then you assume that the larger population also has 30 percent Conservative Jews. If your sample is off, so are your results.

That is precisely what happened. Those who made the calls got their phone numbers from two sources: random-number calls and the Federation list.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see why the Orthodox were seriously undercounted. Neither of the two methods used by the census-takers accurately measures Orthodox demographics. The first fails because the Orthodox are not uniformly spread throughout Jewish Los Angeles. They are heavily concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods. Taking a random sample from all neighborhoods seriously undercounts us.

The second sampling list – drawn from Federation sources – is even more problematic. Orthodox Jews give charitably to scores of recipient agencies, far beyond the per capita giving of other parts of the Jewish population. But Federation is not one of their favorite causes, for a variety of reasons. Using any Federation list for a general census, then, is a guarantee for undercounting the Orthodox community. And the sample takers reported that there was much greater responsiveness to their questions from members of the Federation list than the other!

Additionally, the phone method relies on the willingness of people to answer a series of questions over the phone. Ask yourself who is more willing to answer those questions on a Friday afternoon – a member of a Reform household with 1.4 children, or a mother of eight, frantically trying to finish her Shabbat preparations?

If the U.S. Census Bureau employed methods as unscientific to downgrade African American strength, there would be a congressional inquiry. Luckily for Pini Herman, it’s only Federation money he’s using.