In the last week, much has been made over the results of the 2013 Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, which found that fewer Jews of the Millennial Generation (usually identified as being born between the years 1982 and 2001) feel attached to the Jewish religion and the State of Israel as do their Gen-X/Baby Boomer parents and Greatest Generation grandparents.
While many older Americans are lamenting the seeming waywardness of Jewish teens and young adults - Alan Cooperman, deputy director of the Pew religion project, commented to the New York Times that “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.” - the truth is that, as the New York Times put it, Jews aren’t sticking with the religion because parents haven’t been “sending their children to Jewish schools.”
Independent research done by Radio Chavura finds that this is especially true in Colorado where fewer than 5.5% of our estimated 18,400 Jewish children attend the state’s five Jewish schools (Beth Jacob High School, Denver Academy of Torah, Denver Jewish Day School, Hillel Academy of Denver, and Yeshiva Toras Chaim) and intermarriage rates are among the highest in the nation. Radio Chavura, Colorado’s only Jewish radio show, airs Sundays at 6:30 pm on 990 KRKS AM in Denver, and is available for download through the iTunes store.
With 43% of of Jews with no Jewish day school education background intermarried (compared with 7% of Jews with a Jewish day school background) and 46% of children of intermarried couples not raised in the Jewish religion, Radio Chavura’s research team found that - unless more Colorado parents enroll their children in Jewish day schools - Colorado will - in a generation - have 7,000 children who do not identify with the Jewish religion who had a mother or father who was Jewish and didn’t attend a Jewish day school.
Dean Rotbart, co-host of Radio Chavura, recently explained the implications of these data to a groups of community leaders gathered at the Denver Academy of Torah’s Parlor Meeting.
“This is a demographic death knell for Colorado’s existing Jewish community,” Rotbart explained to the day school leaders and parents in attendance. “Whether you support the Allied Jewish Federation [now officially known as JewishColorado], AIPAC, the Jewish National Fund, or our local synagogues, I’m sure everyone here can agree that Colorado cannot afford to lose 7,000 potential community members.”
Among the most shocking data that Radio Chavura gleaned from the recent Pew Survey is that - of the 7,000 “lost Jews” of tomorrow’s Colorado - 2,900 will not support the State of Israel - financially, spiritually, or otherwise.
“This is an outrageous and costly forfeiture,” observes Rotbart. “Jewish day schools are a community asset - not just institutions that the parents and grandparents of Millennials should be caring about. Anyone concerned with the survival of our Jewish community should be financially supporting our Jewish school system and actively recruiting new students. Our focus for the next decade needs to be on reducing the number of lost Jews to 6,999 - and then down to none.”
To contact Dean Rotbart and learn more about Colorado's Jewish day schools, email him at email@example.com.