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June 30, 2017     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 30, 2017

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 30, 2017 By Pamela Ruben My favorite Mother's Day gift was a refrigerator mag- net set with more Yiddish words than even my "Bubbie" (grandmother) spoke. Every time someone passes through my kitchen, they rearrange the magnets to make a sen- tence that speaks to them. My daughter's message reads, "My mother has chutzpa (boldness)." My neighbor left behind a note saying, "What's your shtick (talent, special area of interest)?" Although I only recognize about half the words (fortunately, it comes with a dictionary), there is something so appealing about the vocabulary that brings the text to life. Right now, I'm playingwith the magnetic words "plotz" (collapse from excitement), and "kvetch" (complain). I decided to bring my mag- net set to Orlando's Yiddishe Oy Vey! Yiddish keeps language alive maven (Yiddish expert), to see what a real specialist could create with it. On the third Thursday of each month, volunteer Yiddish instructor Joan Pohl can be found sur- rounded by a crowd of seniors at a Longwood/Lake Mary Senior Living community, eager to practice the Yiddish language during the one hour conversational class. For the past eight years, the longtime Winter Park resident has enriched and reconnected Yiddish speak- ers with a heritage that could have easily been forgotten. Pohl's class, sponsored by the Jewish Pavilion, brings a taste of the Yiddish culture and language to the 15-40 students who attend the monthly offering. She also supplies a "nosh" or snack, homemade by her mother, who recently relocated to Central Florida. Pohi, a retired speech Yiddish words that adorn Ruben's refrigerator. pathologist, welcomes stu- dents of all faiths and back- grounds. While most of the students hail from Brookdale Island Lake in Longwood and Oakmonte Village in Lake Mary, others commute from surrounding areas, even as far away as the Villages, for the one-of-a-kind chance to communicate in a forgotten tongue. Born in Israel, Pohl grew up in New York and Miami, and was the child of two Ho- locaust survivors, Aaron and Monya (Malka) Kornicki, from Poland and Germany. Her paternal grandmother, Rachel Kornicki, spoke Yiddish in the home while her parents were away at work. Pohl has fond memories of her Yiddish roots, and is happy to have a skill that she can she share with the senior community. Pohl noted, "Teaching Yid- dish is as rewarding for myself as it for the seniors. Though I am probably a generation younger than these seniors, their stories and childhoods are identical to mine. We are all the children of refugees, raised with grandparents and the Yiddish language in our homes. Spending time with other speakers (from beginner to fluent) has brought back feelings from my childhood and theirs, as well." She concluded, "I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my love for Yiddish and to give back to my roots. I love this language and culture of inclusion, where everyone is welcome, and where we 'come back to the past to create the future'. I invite community members of all ages and all Yiddish instructor, Joan Pohl (r) with husband, Frank, and mother, "Malka" backgrounds to join us for 'A Taste of Yiddish,' starting again in the fall. Knowledge of Yiddish is not required, just bring a sense of humor and a taste for learning." Come and "plotz" with the group, but save the "kvetch- ing" for later. Contact www.jewishpavil- or call 407-678-9363, to find out more about Yid- dish Class, meeting again in September. Tidbits from the Sand- wich Generation is a series of blogs by Pamela Ruben, Jewish Pavilion Marketing Director, about managing the multi-generations. Check out additional posts at www. For no cost help for issues pertain- ing to older adults contact the Orlando Senior Help Desk, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, at 407-678-9363 or visit www. By Steven M. Cohen and Sylvia Barack Fishman (JTA)--On Jan. 16, 1949, Toby Fassman married Max Cohen (Steven M. Cohen's parents, now both of blessed memory). At 24, Toby was among the last of her circle of friends in Brooklyn to marry, and several jokingly re- marked that Max had rescued her from lifelong singlehood. Today, if a 24-year-old Jewish woman were heading for the huppah, most would presume that she's either Or- thodox or reckless. Indeed, of 25- to 54-year-old American Jews who are not haredi, fully half are unmarried. While marriage rates peak around age 40 at 71 percent, they drop again to just 57 percent among those 10 years older. Of those 45-54, 13 percent have never been married and another 21 percent are divorced or separated. These patterns of mar- riage--and non-marriage-- are just a few of the startling findings we reveal in a new report published by the Jew- ish People Policy Institute in which we analyze data from the Pew Research Center's Portrait of Jewish Americans survey. Of course, the rise of singlehood, late marriage and non-marriage is not at all unique to American Jews, but is endemic to American society in recentyears. As the Pew Research Center reports, "The share of Americans who are married is at its lowest point since at least 1920." But for Jews and Jewish life, the postponement of marriage or lifelong single- hood hold disturbing con- sequences for Jewish com- munity. While intermarriage has long been understood as inhibiting Jewish engage- ment and connection, the same is almost as true of non-marriage. Take, for example, syna- gogue membership among non-haredi Jews aged 25-54: It reaches a healthy 65 per- cent among the in-married, but only a paltry 22 percent among the non-married and an even tinier number, 13 per- cent, among the intermarried. While almost all in-married Jews attend Passover seders (93 percent), that's true of just over half the intermarried or non-married (53 percent and 59 percent, respectively). And not only do the in-married act more Jewish, they feel more Jewish. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say that being Jewish is very important to them, as compared with just 40 percent of the singles and 25 percent among the inter- married. All over the Jewish world outside of Orthodoxy, we see shrinking numbers and older participants and fewer young Jews involved in organized or institutional activities. That's true of Reform temples, Conservative shuls, mem- bership organizations and federation campaigns. And all the wonderful alternative innovations--independent minyans, Chabad Houses, Base Hillels, Moishe Houses, social justice initiatives, Israel advocacy left and right--are simply not anywhere near compensating for the losses in legacy institutions. To understand why non- Orthodox Jewish activity at home and community is in such decline, we need only lookatdiminished numbers of young adult and middle-aged Jews who live with a spouse, and specifically a Jewish hus- band or wife. Child-rearing strongly shapes stronger connections with things Jewish, even be- yond marrying someone Jew- ish (by birth or conversion), in dramatic contrast with being single or married to a non-Jew. Those raising a child in the Jewish religion vastly surpass childless adults in Jewish engagement, and the childless in turn surpass those raising non-Jewish children. Take, for example, syna- gogue membership: 65 per- cent among those raising Jewish-by-religion children, 25 percent for those with no children at home, and 0 percent for those raising non-Jewish children. We see the same pattern for seder attendance: 96 percent, 56 percent, 28 percent. And so it goes for one indicator of Jewish engagement after another. In displaying a close con- nection between family status and religious involvement, Jews are not at all unique or even distinctive. Religious engagement has long been linked to life cycle. Ameri- cans-including Jews--in- creasingly join religious in- stitutions and practice home- based rituals shortly after they have children. Sylvia Barack Fishman's research found that intermarried Jews and spouses are often surprised at the strength of their feelings about religious identification after--but not before--their children are born. The baby boom of the postwar years occasioned a building boom of churches and synagogues. For Jews (and others), what is new is the extended years of singlehood and religious detachment, posing unprec- edented challenges to Jewish families, communities and institutions. So, recognizing that chil- dren-specifically Jewish children--are so vital to Jew- ish engagement, we can ask: How many Jews in the parent- ing years (25-54) outside of Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post via Getty Images Rabbi Jonathan Roos blows the shofar for nursery school children at Temple Sinai synagogue in Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2016. the haredi world are raising Jewish children? The startling answer is less than a third, and even less (21 percent) if we're talking only about children whose religion is Jewish. Fully 60 percent of this 30- year cohort has no children at home and 8 percent are raising non-Jewish children. What will it take for Jewish engagement at home, in the community, in institutions and elsewhere to thrive? Prob- ably the most critical answer: Jews will need to start mar- rying, marry younger, marry Jewish spouses and raise Jew- ish children. Over the past few decades, among those Jews outside of Orthodoxy, the rel- evant trend lines have moved in the opposite directions: less marriage, later marriage, intermarriage and fewer Jew- ish children--probably about 1.4 for non-Orthodox Jews, far below the 2.1 needed for population replacement. There are strategies that reverse these negative trend lines. It turns out that Jews who are more connected to other Jews through their adolescent and young adult years are more likely to marry, to marry younger, to marry Jews and to have Jewish chil- dren. Camps, youth groups, Israel travel, campus activities and young adult communi- ties all build Jewish social networks--more Jews in relationships with more Jews. These interventions of course contribute to Jew- ish cultural capacity and religio-ethnic commitment. But as important, if not more important these days, is that they build friendships that lead to marriage or romantic connections. Only by increas- ing the opportunities for Jews to marry, and to marry Jews, will we be able to significantly bend the trend lines. Creat- ing more Jewish marriages and filling more Jewish baby carriages inevitably leads to seeing more Jews in the pews, as well as other places where Jewish engagement gets acted out. We may notbe able to move the average age at marriage below 24. But perhaps by pro- viding opportunities we can increase the sheer number who marry and who marry at a younger age, when they stand a better chance of becoming engaged Jewish parents. Steven M. Cohen is research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and director of the BermanJewish PolicyArchive @ Stanford University. Sylvia Barack Fishman is the Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life in the Department of Near Eastern andJudaic Studies at Brandeis University, and also co-director of the Hadassah- Brandeis Institute.