Thursday, August 11, 2022

It was a bit surprising to see Rabbi Efrem Goldberg fall victim to the rabbinic temptation to bemoan society’s purported moral decay in “America Is in a State of Moral Decline,” (July 14, 2022.) With a naive nostalgia for, presumably, the 1960’s “Mad Men” era, Rabbi Goldberg writes, “moral decline can be seen in the deterioration in civility, the increase in litigation, the lack of integrity, out-of-wedlock births and breakup of families, vulgarity, promiscuity and immodesty.” But he provides no statistics to back up these assertions, most of which are conveniently subjective and impossible to quantify.

With respect to the few objective categories that he offers, an increase in litigation is a bit of an odd way to determine moral decline, particularly in light of the continued growth and complexity of the business community. Out-of-wedlock births have risen alongside changing social norms, which one could argue is a sign of moral decline, but I am unsure of what is meant by the “breakup of families” as divorce in the United States has actually been decreasing and recently hit a 50-year low, according to census data. It is easy to point to vulgarity, promiscuity and immodesty as evidence of moral decline, but it is far from clear that these areas are worse today than they were 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.

As a Modern Orthodox community, we pride ourselves in applying nuanced and scientific analysis to complex issues. Let’s not hastily throw our wonderful, albeit imperfect, host country under the bus.

Michael Gottlieb
Fair Lawn
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