SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Dec. 7)
The American Jewish community was reported here today as having a high rate of acculturation — acceptance of new culture traits — but a very low rate of assimilation. The report was presented by Dr. Marshall Sklare, professor of sociology at Yeshiva University, in an address he delivered at the annual convention of the Jewish Funeral Directors of America, held at the American a Hotel here.
“There is no expectation that widespread assimilation will take place in the present generation,” he said. However, he predicted that American Jewry may face its “survival crisis” within the next two generations. The next generation of American Jews, he said, would face greater difficulty in conveying the “increasingly diffuse Jewish heritage” to their children. The crisis may come at that juncture, he said.
The form of the crisis, said Dr. Sklare, would not be the “vanishing” of most of American Jewry but a “shaking out process” in which some Jews would remain Jews and the others would assimilate. A polarization could take place in which the strongly committed Jews would coalesce into a solid core group and the less committed Jews — the “marginal” or “peripheral” group — would lose a certain percentage of its people.
The core group may then consist of between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 people, said Dr. Sklare. These people would be the Jews involved in the structures and institutions of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish life. The secular Jews, who are not involved in any of these religious movements, were most in danger of losing their Jewish identity, he said.
This secularist group, he continued, has no “organized educational or institutional framework” for its people. This group, which had been active in the Socialist and Yiddish culture movements, shows the “poorest prognosis” for survival, he said. In spite of this, the “deep desire” on the part of Jews to retain their identity must not be underestimated, he declared. The predictions of a generation ago, which stressed the disintegration of the Jewish community, have been invalidated. “American Jews are retaining bonds with the Jewish community,” in spite of acculturation, he said.