Jack Wertheimer writes about the problem of a falling Jewish birthrate in the October issue of Commentary. He writes with directness and insight:
Not long ago, a Manhattan rabbi stunned his congregants by informing them that the future of the Jewish people would be secured not through trips to Israel, not through the battle against anti-Semitism, and not through the continued upward mobility of Jews, but in the bedroom. What shocked his sophisticated Upper East Side audience had nothing to do with his allusion to sex; these days, it is perfectly acceptable to speak in public about intimate behavior. What is not permissible in polite Jewish company is an allusion to the decisions people make about their own family lives, or to the impact of those decisions on the ability of the Jewish community to sustain itself.
Wertheimer makes the fascinating observation that Orthodox Jews reproduce at rates that far exceed those of other Jews — and he ties this to the fact that the Orthodox marry earlier than non-Orthodox Jews. He dismisses those who try to explain the disparity as the result of educational levels or other sociological factors. His assessment:
In brief, we are in the realm of norms and values. Orthodox communal culture encourages child-bearing, and has more thoroughly insulated itself from the “substantial downward pressures” that, in the reasonable judgment of Frank Mott, are currently depressing the overall size of the Jewish population–and that may themselves be the results of a rather different value system.
Does this pattern represent an interesting parallel to patterns among Christians?