June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Demise of the American Jewish Family

This is not really an appropriate article for the week of Purim but I am so disturbed by my experience and the reality that it is happening all over the U.S. that I had to write about it this week.

Recently, I received the sad news that my brother-in-law passed away. He is the husband of my beloved Mordechai’s sister, who died about 12 years ago from leukemia. His funeral took place in Malden, Massachusetts, the birthplace of many of the Glick children, in the funeral home that everyone in that family felt most comfortable using. I remember that I was introduced to Mr. Goldman, the funeral director, when I was a young bride, and was told that it was a problem for him because due to his occupation no one wanted to sit next to him in shul. An old superstition, I guess, because they had a fear that if they sat next to him a curse might have been cast on them by the malach hamaves (angel of death).

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were the parents of a son and a daughter. Obviously, my sister-in-law grew up in the same shomer Shabbat home as her brother, yet over the years she chose not to follow in the observant tradition of her family. She felt deeply Jewish and insisted on maintaining her Jewish palate, eating herring and gefilte fish as often as she could, but much of what she had seen and experienced as a child was no longer observed. Both of her children had a bar and bat mitzvah in their Reform temple, but there was never an inkling of Jewish learning outside of that. Their lives were similar to those of their non-Jewish neighbors and friends and they integrated into all activities. Both went to public school, grew up and married out of the Jewish faith and assimilated into the world, as so often happens.

That means that my nephew has a non-Jewish child and my niece has two children who are Jewish but do not have Jewish fathers. I think that if my in-laws were alive they would be crawling within their skin. I know this situation is a common one among so many of our families, and it was actually at the funeral that I felt overwhelmed with grief at what had become of this family. There was no shiva, the rabbi who officiated for exactly 15 minutes had never met the deceased, not one person got up to speak about him, and that was it. I am arranging for Kaddish to be said for him for the year.

I walked around the cemetery where practically every Glick is buried and sadly thought about the parents and grandparents of this family, who are buried on Har Hazeitim, and wondered what they would think about what happened to their progeny. As horrible as this is to digest, I realized this is just one family among the majority of Jewish families in the United States. Our families’ homes were destroyed, bodies were cremated in ovens, orphans became sole remnants of what were once huge families, and it was all for being Jewish.

Now, once again, our brothers and sisters are fighting for their lives and ours protecting what is actually the only real home we have and belong in. Most of the Jews who have become so assimilated do not even understand that despite the fact that they barely acknowledge their heritage, in the end the only safe haven we have is the land of Eretz Yisrael. The Nazis didn’t care whether a person was observant or not, whether they lived with a non-Jew or not, all were equally guilty of being born to a Jewish mother. In the case of a non-Jewish partner, their crime was living with a Jew.

I am afraid for our future. Our only hope is the Land of Israel. Kudos to Hillel, Chabad, JLIC, Olami and the many other groups on college campuses reaching out to the Jewish student population so successfully. Who can do anything but praise NCSY for the amazing outreach it has done and continues to do over the years. How many times did we have parents complain to us that NCSY was making their children too observant? We would be so proud of those young people and the parents who did acquiesce to the requests of their children. Look around in our shuls today and you would be surprised how many are in attendance because they came through the NCSY system.

I know I am not alone in my concern and sadness over what has happened to what was once a primarily Torah observant family and what has now left many of them floundering without a real direction. This phenomenon crosses every path of Yiddishkeit and no one seems to know what the solution is. What I pray for, especially when I see a caravan of cars parading up my street for the second week in a row, is that somehow a miracle should happen and reawaken their souls before it is too late and return us all from galut to our real home. Am Yisrael Chai.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected] 

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