The End of Secular Jews in America


The incredible and overt rise of anti-Semitism in the world is troubling, yet not as troubling as the astounding increase in the proponents of Jewish hatred in America.

Watching Senator Ted Cruz walk off the stage at an event the other night after Christians booed Israel and the Jewish people filled me with sadness.

Of course I felt gratitude to Senator Cruz for showing integrity and loyalty, but how sad that it is so acceptable to Americans to behave so visibly anti-Semitic.

I realize that anti-Semitism has never left the building, but there is a big difference now that has created a perfect storm against Jewish people. Three factors have been the game changers, and together they will quickly bring on the end of the Jewish people in America: the media, Jew-haters and the elimination of tradition.

First would have to be the media. For a group that has always been accused of taking their orders from Jews, it is shocking how anti-Semitic it has become. Israel has become some evil stepbrother the United States must endure, but would rather not.

Sadly, I see no end to this trend. If the media cannot defend the Jewish people against savage monsters that are determined to destroy them, there is little that will ever again bring them to our side.

Along with the widespread media bias the Jewish people suffer, there are also the blamers. People who actually believe the world would be better if Israel and the Jewish people just dissolved and were never heard from again. Of course when the Jews disappear they would like them to leave behind all the advancements in medicine, technology and areas too numerous to mention. The haters don’t mind benefitting from Jewish brains, despite the fact they would like to beat our brains out of our heads.

Yet, with all those who wish us harm, the true end of the Jewish people will come about at our own hand. It will be the Jews that ultimately destroy themselves, and history will record they eventually assimilated and self hated themselves out of existence.

If that sounds harsh, the reality is much more so. For anyone that takes the time to notice, the things that kept us a people are being driven to extinction by a new generation lacking the feeling and the Tom for what it means to be Jewish.

My late husband sold New York Times outside the bagel factory on Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings were such an important time for Jewish families. Fathers awoke, got dressed and went to pick up fresh smoked fish, lox, herring and a chub for brunch.

This wasn’t done solely in the city where I grew up; it was a ritual from New York to California to Montreal. It was the special family breakfast, even the pets joined in. Our dog Lamb Chop and cat Pywacket would sit patiently next to the table and await their bagel with cream cheese and lox.

Jewish people lived with certain traditions, bagels Sunday morning, Chinese food Sunday dinner and a fattening and greasy brisket on Friday nights.

Healthy, maybe not so much, but my father lived to 94 and my mother at 91 is healthier than some forty year olds.

When you were Jewish, you lived a certain lifestyle, and you knew what was expected of you.

No one really thought much about it, you just felt a certain inner knowledge that confirmed, “I am a Jew and this is my life.” You went to college, you married someone appropriate and grandchildren were not an option.

Then came a new generation, one that saw cream cheese as the enemy and a brisket or a Sabbath dinner was a heart attack on a plate. Challah was traded for whole wheat, rugalach were exchanged for power bars and smoothies replaced that sickeningly sweet purple concoction called wine you got to drink on Shabbat and holidays.

Suddenly it wasn’t cool to be Jewish anymore. Young people questioned the existence of God, although I thought that was settled in the sixties after the whole “God is Dead” debate.

But being Jewish is not solely about God. It is about an identity, one that enrobes you as a warm and comfortable furry afghan on a winter night. It is about enjoying a corned beef sandwich on mushy rye bread with crispy double-baked crust. About knowing your mother will go into the kitchen two weeks before Rosh Hashanah or Passover and not be seen again until the dinner is served.

Being Jewish is about knowing when the first crisp air of autumn arrived, so did the High Holidays. And laughing as your brother tried on last year’s suit and the sleeves were two inches too short.

It’s about searching the house for the eight Chanukah gifts and chanting your Bar Mitzvah portion for your grandfather. Attending Bar Mitzvah or Confirmation services and parties for all your friends, new outfits and dancing in your socks all night.

It’s about seeing everyone shopping in the grocery store to get ready for the invasion of family, and cooking while you chatted on the phone with friends about what you were cooking and how they made theirs.

I am in no way saying these things are not the same for Christians during Christmas or Easter, I am only saying the feeling of being Jewish has been eclipsed by a new generation that believes corned beef should be outlawed and delis are for 90-year-old men with pacemakers.

Yes, there is truly a disappearance of the Jewish lifestyle in America. So, if the lifestyle is gone, we are no more able to survive than deer when their entire forest has burned. The cocoon of Judaism has been torn and has not been replaced.

The younger Jews of today practice their form of Judaism, and this works for them, but once a religion has been watered down, that trickle will become thinner and thinner with each succeeding generation.

Years from now a child may ask when he is told he is Jewish, “what does it mean to be a Jew?” Sadly, his parent may not have a clue what to answer.

Norma Zager is a Jewish woman who lives in the USA.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counterpoint from home.

Israel and the United States are interrelated – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counterpoint” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.