Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Toddlers of the Mosaic persuasion

The latest issue of PresenTense, Ariel Beery et al's new mag, is filled with articles about Jewish babies. As I might have mentioned, I think the most ridiculous thing about Judaism in America today is the community's emphasis on making more of us, as though, by refusing to marry a non-Jew, you're retroactively sticking it to Hitler. Surprise: racial anti-Semitism encourages neither conversion to Christianity nor Jew-Gentile mixing. If you're a Jew (or gay, disabled, Roma, etc.), anything short of suicide is sticking it to Hitler. It's that easy!

But back to PresenTense. First there's Ben Brofman doing the unthinkable and praising Birthright Israel for its emphasis on hookups. But it's a joke. Kind of. He even suggests, tongue in cheek, that the organizers distribute "intentionally defective condoms." Of course no Jews have STDs, so unlike secular hookup-fests, Birthright skankiness is nothing but a force of life and continuity.

Eric Ackland, in what appears to be utter seriousness, suggests Jews look to Orthodoxy if they want to have Jewish babies. In this he is correct-it is hypocritical, not to mention ineffective, for parents to be open-minded about their children's dating partners but then demand that these same children, after a few decades in the secular world, surface with Jewish spouses. While I don't share these natalistic views, it's indisputable that more Orthodoxy would lead to more Jewish babies.

In his bio, Ackland writes of himself, "He’d love to walk the walk and have a large family, he’s just gotta get hitched first. That’s the trick." And if the most promising candidate turns out to be a non-Jewish woman? Here's where we get to Ariel Beery's article. Ariel argues that Jews can stop worrying about intermarriage. Kind of. His point is that the threat to continuity is indifference, of which intermarriage is just a symptom. If you care about being Jewish, your spouse will too, whatever he may have been raised. After giving examples from the Torah of men marrying out, Beery discusses a Jewish woman whose husband not only converted but "ended up co-founding and co-directing NYU’s program for nonprofit management and Judaic Studies." A Jew is thus one who feels Jewish. Works for me. The catch with the communal vision of Judaism is, aside from the inevitable halachic arguments, where does this leave born Jews who've opted out? If the point of Ariel's definition is to expand the numbers of those who count as Jewish, wouldn't it ultimately lose at least as many Jews as it brings in?


Anonymous said...

The organizers of the International Jewish Orgy require that all participants be screened for STDs prior to the event.

Thank you for you concern.

Anonymous said...

How different is the idea of an International Jewish Orgy (http://www.presentensemagazine.org/mag/?page_id=148) for the purpose of repopulating a declining Jewish population from the "Have babies, get cash" http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/breaking/107109.html sponsored by the Russian Chabad? or from the Baby-Bonus is Italy, or from the similar program (http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20080303&s=joyce)
in which Russians are given a day off work specifically to have sex and make babies (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/12/russia.matthewweaver)?