Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jewish Identity and Acculturation

Two articles in The Forward with seemingly no thematic connection together tell an old and well-known story: In the modern era, well acculturated Jews (outside Israel) often have a weaker Jewish identity.

The first tells of a fascinating recently declassified KGB document, created in 1973 after Leonid Brezhnev had the agency find out which Jews were trying to leave the Soviet Union. Surprisingly to the authors of the report and its readers, the educated intelligentsia in Moscow and Leningrad weren't leaving, while the less educated ones from Georgia and the Baltic states, were. (We knew this back at the time, but had no connections to the KGB so as to inform them).

(Also, it's interesting to note that even the top brass of the USSR felt that facts were important to policy making. As regular readers will know, not everyone these days is so enlightened).

On a seemingly totally different topic, the American Jewish Yearbook attempts to understand the long-term impact of intermarriage on Jewish identity. I really don't mean to compare the American Jewish Yearbook with the KGB. Honestly. On the other hand, what can I say? The article seems to say nothing to assuage my suspicion that the further removed Jews are from a meaningfully Jewish life, the further away they are. However you might define "meaningful Jewish life", and there must be many definitions.

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