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History anyone?

Reader comment on item: The Orthodox Future of Judaism

Submitted by Adrienne Scholz (United States), Mar 8, 2005 at 10:44

This whole hysteria about mass assimilation of nonobservant Jews strikes me as absurd. In the four thousand years of Jewish history, there has always been a certain percentage of the population who drifted away from strict observance. The prophets railed about it. The sages of the Talmud discussed it at length.

The phenomenon was one of the major contributors to the events now commemorated during Chanukkah. Jews drifted away during oppression in the shtetlach, as "marranos" in Spain, and as dhimmis under Islam.

In short, assimilation is nothing new in Jewish history. What is unusual is the fact that in America such people were able to retain for a while some sort of a "Jewish" identity without the strength of faith required at all other times and places in history. Anywhere else, these non-observant Jews would have immediately converted out or otherwise completely cut off any attachment to Judaism or Jewish culture. The existence of an intermediate stage between observance and complete assimilation is the historical oddity, not assimilation itself.

Mr. Pipes is quite right that this anomaly will eventually fade away, just as all other such attempts have faded (consider the pro-hellenic Jews of the Maccabees' time). And the faithful will continue as they always have, surviving whatever hardships are thrust upon them because they believe that Hashem has a purpose for them.
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