The Quality of American Jewish Life
The issue of whether the current state of American Jewry offers grounds for predicting an optimistic or pessimistic future has been argued for many decades. In this volume of the American Jewish Year Book, the debate is presented as formulated by two well-known scholars more than three decades ago: Steven M. Cohen and Charles Liebman.
This assessment is as true today as it was in 1987 when it was first published.
For several decades, serious scholars have predicted that increased intermarriage, declining birthrates and widespread assimilation would bring about the weakening, perhaps even the disappearance, of American Jewry. More recently, however, these dire predictions have been challenged by new studies pointing to a vibrant Jewish community, working confidently for a secure Jewish future.
The first section of this chapter presents Steven M. Cohen’s original “Reason for Optimism.” The second part of this chapter presents the late Charles S. Liebman’s “A Grim Outlook.” In a surprising reversal, in the third section of this chapter, Steven M. Cohen offers a contemporary update that more resembles the original essay by Liebman than his own 1987 statement.
KeywordsContemporary Jewry US Jewry Assimilation Intermarriage Denominations Judaism
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