I’ve been intrigued, this week, by a series of graphs about Jewish observance and non-observance in North America. Two graphs and three cities caught my eye.
The first graph details the percentage of Jews who keep kosher. Toronto scores the highest – admittedly only a ‘mere’ 30% closely followed by Bergen County, New Jersey. Las Vegas is at the foot of the table, with 5%.
The second details the percentage of Jews who ‘always, usually or sometimes’ have a Christmas Tree in their homes. In this graph the pattern in the Kashrut graph is neatly inverted. Toronto and Bergen are at the foot (10 & 17% respectively) and Las Vegas – home of all that glitters – scores a heady second position with 34%.
There are perhaps two messages for me, and I hope for the rest of us. The first message is that there is not a single American county or city in the information recorded where the percentage of Jews keeping Kosher is greater than the percentage of Jews who ‘always, usually or sometimes’ have a Christmas tree. That’s depressing.
The second message is the correlation between the assertion of Jewish identity through positive acts of affiliation and assertion through ‘negative’ acts of avoidance of being like everyone else. It has, I suspect, always been thus. The original word for our people – Hebrew – etymologically suggests disassociation; standing apart from and opposing. It’s not politically correct, it’s not necessary cosy, but the maintenance of a healthy Jewish identity requires not only acts of affirmation, but also acts of distancing. Being both a part of our local societies, and apart from them is and has always been the Jewish way. May we never forget it.
More graphs and demographic indicators are at