While the world’s Jewish communities are united by rapid communications and a common history, Jews in diaspora around the world are facing different futures based on such factors as assimilation, immigration and intermarriage.
Moment magazine (February) asked correspondents from around the world how Jewish life will change by the year 2100, and, in the process, reveals many current trends in these communities. European Jews were the most upbeat about their current and future situations, although they are facing new divisions.
Ruth Zilkkha writes that whereas European Jews once looked to America and Israel for direction and funding, but such factors as the fall of Communism, the anticipation of a common currency and a continent-wide economic crisis have turned European Jews more toward their own communities. A new breed of European Jewish activists are networking with each other and working on common projects and alliances.
In France — the largest European Jewish community with 60,000 Jews — there is an upsurge in synagogues and Jewish schools. At the same time, there are “new ideological fissures between Orthodox rabbis and the vast majority of moderate Jews…between Jews who wish to consider themselves above all as Holocaust Jews and those who cherish their French, even European, identity,” writes Dianna Pinto.
In England, there is a growing alienation between British Jewry and Israel; Italy, there is also a growth of assimilation. The resistance of Jewish leaders to any type of Jewish proselytizing which might help revive the community and make it less inward-looking is a major problem.
The influx of Russian-speaking Jews into Germany is creating the fastest growing Jewish community in the world. There are too few synagogues for the non-Orthodox, even though the number of such Jews is rising sharply, adds Bea Wyler. Revival is the word used to describe the situation in Poland, the Ukraine and even Russia.
The flow of immigrants to Israel has slowed in these countries, and Jewish organizations are being restored. The concern now is to form indigenous Jewish expressions rather than the exported (often Orthodox) varieties that have the most money behind them.
In Latin America, the situation is mixed. Mexico (with 40,000 Jews) reports stability and growth, while Argentina (with a community of 250,000) is facing a steady flow of emigration to Israel, the U.S., and other countries, as well as a drain on the Jewish population caused by intermarriage. South Africa, while having a high level of Jewish observance is seeing a rise in “Islamic fundamentalism,” a weakening of ties with Israel, and continuing emigration.
In Australia (with 100,000 Jews), 70 percent of Jewish children attend Jewish day schools, and there is a close identification with Israel, even if assimilation is beginning to make inroads into the community.
(Moment, 4710 41st St., N.W., Washington, DC 20016)