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The “hot-button” topics in our ever-changing society rarely have much staying power. They seem somehow to fizzle out of their own accord, having made a lot of noise, spawning countless op-ed pontifications but rarely leading to substantive change or benefit in our lives and societies.

The main issue facing world Jewry is its shrinking population due to the ravages of assimilation and intermarriage, declining birth rates and the failure of the non-Orthodox in the Diaspora to hold on in any meaningful manner to their youth. Yet a cursory glance at Jewish media and current discussion would leave one to believe that the greatest issue that we must contend with today is where the Women of the Wall should be allowed to light their Chanuka menorah.
There is no doubt in my mind that decades from now this currently important issue will have little resonance in the Jewish world. Sixty years ago, when I first began my rabbinic career, the issue of mixed pews in the synagogue was dominant. It no longer is. Mixed pews has not in any way increased synagogue attendance nor contributed in any way to family stability in the Jewish world.
The slogan then was “the family that prays together (meaning side by side during the services) stays together” has been proven by time to be just another irrelevant slogan. There are far more regular worshippers in synagogues that maintain separate seating than in those that have mixed pews.
The damage done sixty years age in this matter is pretty much beyond current repair. But the issue itself is today completely irrelevant to the future of Judaism and the Jewish people.  
The issue of countering assimilation should be paramount to the Jewish communities in the world. Accepting intermarriage carte blanche only worsens the problem. And the problem is exacerbated since the wolf is guarding the henhouse, with many of the heads of the Jewish organizations, who should be fighting assimilation and intermarriage, assimilated and even intermarried.
Reform should be in the forefront of this battle and instead it is one of the chief enablers, with dire results. We can all be compassionate towards individuals and couples but it is difficult to reconcile that misplaced compassion with the willful destruction of the Jewish future.
More Jews perhaps have been lost to assimilation over the past seventy years than were destroyed in World War II. There will be no museums built or memorials erected to commemorate these losses. The tyranny of overriding political correctness has made this most relevant issue irrelevant, since it is not nice to talk about it for fear of offending others. 
The keepers of the faith, mainly but not exclusively Orthodox, are always fair game for discussion and criticism. But nary a word is ever heard or written about what the true cause of assimilation is and who in the Jewish world are its main abettors. Somehow many feel that this is not relevant to the discussion of the problem, while others feel that it is not really a problem at all.
The security and welfare of the State of Israel would seem to be one of the most important and relevant topics in the Jewish world. But again there are many who for various reasons do not deem it to be so. It is not the number one political issue in the eyes of American Jewry and even amongst many who live here in Israel. It appears that other issues – such as perceived unlimited personal liberties – take precedence.
Having struggled so long and bitterly to achieve our state and its independence it is unthinkable to me that there are those in the Jewish world who advocate giving it up in favor of all sorts of pie in the sky imaginary scenarios of a better world. To me, all other issues pale into irrelevance in comparison with the security and safety of the State of Israel and of its inhabitants.
This has nothing to do with the imperfections that exist in the government, policies and citizenry of the state. It is just elementary that the existence of the state and its security and stability is the prime issue that faces the Jewish world today.
Why this is not understood and not even a matter of discussion is puzzling to me, to say the least. In the long run of history many of the current issues, personal faults and countless organizations will have proved themselves to be irrelevant to the Jewish future.
Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein

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