This is something David ben Gurion (d. 1973), the principal co-founder and first prime minister of the modern state of Israel, is reputed to have said. My research hasn’t yet been able to confirm that claim; nevertheless, given current trends, the concept may be borne out in the not-too-distant future. Certainly, the Jewish national movement founded in the 19th century, Zionism, asserted that if the Jewish people hoped to last, they would need a country of their own, and the Holy Land had been promised to them by no less a personage than God. At the time, to be sure, Jews and Judaism had managed to survive nearly two millennia in diaspora. Still, where were the Hittites now? ...
The United States, its long-term xenophobia to the contrary notwithstanding, has prided itself on being a melting pot. And the latter designation is not without merit. You don’t need to go to Hawaii to discover large-scale intermarriage across various ethnic groups, not only among individuals from Western Europe but increasingly across continental and racial divides. It’s become a point of pride to claim that you are a “real” American because you have a few percent of Cherokee or Navajo blood. And there are increasing marriages and children that are multi-racial. Vice President Kamala Harris is a poster child for just such mixtures, and few African-Americans these days are pure-blooded Africans.
So, getting back to tolerance and the future of Jewish Americans, here are a few pertinent statistics, mainly from the Pew Foundation. In 2020 there were an estimated 7.15 million Jews in the United States, roughly 2.2% of the total national population. Historically, 17% in 1970 were intermarried. (I was one.) By 1990 that proportion had risen to 43%, in 2013 to 58%, and in 2020 to 61%. That’s not the whole story, however. Some 72% of non-Orthodox Jews—with the Orthodox comprising just 9% of American Jewry in 2020—were intermarried. Any U.S. President would love to have an approval rate that high! By contrast, only 2% of Orthodox Jews were intermarried in that year. But here’s the statistic that really caught my eye: Of current U.S. adults with just one Jewish parent, 82% are married to non-Jews. Tolerance may indeed kill us as intolerance—even pogroms and the Holocaust—never could. Time will tell. Maybe someday in the 22nd century people will say, “I have six nationalities, four continents, eight ethnicities, and, I’m told, a few percent of Jewish blood.” And you know what? So long as they are good, ethical, caring human beings, that would be just fine with me.