OPINIONSrnThe Future of the Jewsrnby Jacob Neusnerrn”A people still, whose common ties are gone;rnwho, mixed with every race, are lost in none.”rn—George CrabbernFaith or Fear: How Jews CanrnSurvive in a Christian Americarnby Elliott AbramsrnNew York: Free Press;rn237pp., $25.00rnThe Vanishing American Jew:rnIn Search of Jewish Identityrnfor the Next Centuryrnby Alan M. DershowitzrnBoston: Little, Brown;rn412 pp., $24.95rnThat Americans of different ethnic orrnreligious origins intermarry surprisesrnno one—half of Japanese-Americans,rnmore than half of all Catholics, nearlyrnthree-quarters of Italian-Americans, 84rnpercent of Polish-Americans, and so on.rnBut where others declare a religiousrncatastrophe, Jews call down heaven andrnearth in prognostications of gloom,rncounting the years to the last Jew in thernUnited States, who supposedly will die inrn2076. These two books, taking up thernhyped demographic question, ask theologyrnto address a problem of sociology.rnBecause of their remarkable confusion ofrncategories neither works terribly well, butrnwhile one is measured and well-crafted,rnthe other spurts streams of words ontornpaper in an interminable flow of impressionsrnand opinions. Elliott Abrams advocatesrna reversion to Judaism as the finalrnsolution to the American Jewish problem;rnAlan M. Dershowitz demands thernrejection of Judaism as a religion to solvernthat same problem. Expert in what hernknows from personal research and eschewingrnwhat he does not, Abrams hasrnwritten a thoroughly professional study.rnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Religious Studies at the Universityrnof South Florida and a professor ofrnreligion at Bard College.rnDershowitz, a hobbyist and parvenu, setsrnforth an intellectually vulgar and self-celebratoryrnexercise in amateurism.rnAbrams’ book is concise. The crisisrnthat precipitates his reflections involvesrnthe decline of the proportion of Jews inrnthe United States population (3.7 percentrnto 2 percent) and of Judaism amongrnthe Jews themselves (“one-third of allrnAmericans of Jewish ancestry no longerrnreport Judaism as their religion”). Thernmajority of Jews married after 1985 weddedrnnon-Jews, and only a quarter of thernchildren of those marriages are beingrnraised as Jews: thus the phenomenonrnAbrams describes as “the vanishingrnAmerican Jew.” Having surveyedrnthe history of the Jews in the UnitedrnStates, and Roman Catholic, mainstreamrnProtestant, Evangelical, and Jewishrnviews of Christianity’s views of thernJews and Judaism, he returns to the questionrnof assimilation by intermarriage.rnNone of this has much bearing on thernquestion that prompted the book in thernfirst place, but it does set the stage forrnAbrams’ advocacy of Judaism in his discussionrnof “the flight from Judaism.”rnNot only do the vast majority of AmericanrnJews not practice Judaism inrnany form, they reject religion entirely.rnPolls show that while three-quarters ofrnAmerican blacks, 57 percent of whiternCatholics, and 47 percent of whiternProtestants declare religion to be importantrnin their lives, scarcely a third of Jewsrndo. And of this third, an indeterminaternproportion have in mind ethnic identityrnwhen they speak of religion. A majorityrnof Jews claiming strong ties to the Jewishrncommunity do not pay their dues. “Jewishness,”rnmeaning ethnic sentiment, replacesrnJudaism the religion in any form.rnSurrogates for religion (“civil religion”)rninclude philanthropy, activities in supportrnof the state of Israel, liberal politicsrnin the cloak of “prophetic Judaism,” andrnmemorialization of the holocaust: “Inrnfact, 85% of American Jews say that thernHolocaust is very important to theirrnsense of being Jewish. Fewer Jews savrnthat about God, the Torah, or any otherrnfactor.” But these fundamentally ethnicrnformulations of personal and even publicrnidentihcation are losing purchase as ethnicityrndissolves in the melting pot.rnAmerican Jews have mostly abandonedrnthe religion of Judaism, Abramsrnsays, whether in Orthodox or any otherrnform. His prescription is simple: “A decisionrnto place Judaism back in the centerrnof Jewish life would mean that the AmericanrnJewish community must reevaluaternits struggle for secularism. It wouldrnmean a rethinking of relations betweenrnOrthodox and non-Orthodox Jews. Andrnit would require each Jew to rethink hisrnown religious life and practices.” ButrnAmerican Jews do not affirm “the ‘apartness’rnthat Judaism demands.” The reasonrnthis fact provokes fear, in Abrams’rnwords, is simple: “Whether AmericanrnJews can commit themselves anew to therngoal of survival, to reversing the demographicrnpatterns that threaten their collectivernfuture, depends on whether thevrnOCTOBER 1997/37rnrnrn