Parents who care deeply about Judaism and create a “Jewish” home have always been key to assuring a vibrant Jewish future. Nowadays, Jewish intermarriage rates in the United States stand near 50% and only half of Jews in America feel that being Jewish is very important to them.* Continuity has thus become a primary anxiety among leaders of a community now numbering 6.4 million or 2.2% of America’s population. * Despite a broad range of interventions, worries about the community’s prospects remain, and indeed a new one has arisen.* Will the American Jewish community turn inward and diminish its historic commitment to tikkun olam, mending the world?
With over two billion Christians worldwide, anxiety about passing on our tradition focuses less around our survival than around the kind of Christian we aim to educate and form. The critical question is how we pass on a compelling Christian identity—that is, a keen and profound sense of what it means to be a disciple walking the Way of Jesus Christ—in a world of diverse religions and cultures. How do we shape persons in the particularities of Christian life while also preparing them to live in a pluralistic world? How do we form persons to live by the values of the Gospel in a largely secular culture? How do we help persons resist simplistic answers to complex religious questions?
Similar to the Jewish community, Muslims living in the West and in America are living with double anxiety: first, of their children’s losing their religious and cultural identity, and second, with the fear of persecution. Since 9/11 this anxiety has increased because of Islamophobia. Finding such an environment unhealthy for raising children, some, including Bosnians and Turks, have returned to their homeland. Others take their children to their country of origin in the summer to reorient them with parents’ culture and religion. Others enroll them in summer camps in America for intensive religious education. Most mosques in America have either a full-time Islamic School or after-school program, as well as weekend Islamic schools. It is not surprising to hear Imams, or religious leaders, raising concerns in their Friday sermons about children’s losing their religious and cultural identity, and admonishing parents to practice their faith and inculcate it in the next generation. There is more emphasis on childhood education than on adult education.