I’m torn, really. On the one hand, I REALLY do not want to jump on the Pew Survey response bandwagon. Not at all. Even mentioning the study at this point I run the risk of losing a dozen readers off the bat. There have been some great responses to be sure, but far too many to keep up and if I am honest, my eyes glaze over at the mention of yet one more response.
I do realize that some are using the research as a call to action, while others are lamenting the woes of what it means to read statements like “the percentage of U.S. adults who say they are Jewish when asked about their religion has declined by about half since the late 1950s” and “secular or cultural Jews are not only less religious but also much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.” Either way, I'm concerned that a distinct mark that has been missed.
Because if the statements above are taken at face value and if there is any truth to the notion that we, as a people, are contracting, then how can any Jewish organization possibly turn anyone away?
And yet it is happening. Jews with disabilities are being told, “No, we can’t meet your needs.” Jews with disabilities struggle to have their voices heard and their needs met. Jews with disabilities want to be valuable, contributing members of our communities and we haven’t yet removed enough barriers to make this a reality. Parents of children with disabilities are still being hushed in services and are still hearing that their child is too much to handle in religious school.
If we are so worried about the Pew Study and what it means for Jewish identity in America, isn’t it time for us to more fully embrace those who want to be a part of an organized religious organization? Maybe we stop chasing the unaffiliated. How about helping our organizations to become fully accessible and truly welcoming to everyone who wants to walk through our doors?
Maybe I’m going out on a limb, but I'd be willing to bet that if we did this, we would all be nothing short of pleased at the ways in which “our numbers” have increased when the next big research study on Jews in America is released.