Inherited Judaism

“My grandparents were not born in this country. Many, even most, of the Jews in Britain had grandparents who came here in the great wave of immigration from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1914. We are Anglo-Jews of the third generation. It is an almost universal law that inherited wealth lasts three generations, not more. The same applies to inherited Judaism. Ours is the last generation that can still remember booba and zeida from the heim, with their fluent Yiddish and undiminished Yiddishkeit. Ours is the last generation for whom Jewish identity can be sustained by memory alone. The Rebbe of Ger once pointed out that the ‘four sons’ of the Haggadah represent four generations. The wise son is the immigrant generation who still lives the traditions of the ‘home’. The rebellious son is the second generation, forsaking Judaism for social integration. The ‘simple’ son is the third generation, confused by the mixed messages of religious grandparents and irreligious parents. But the child who cannot even ask the question is the fourth generation. For the child of the fourth generation no longer has memories of Jewish life in its full intensity. Our children are children of the fourth generation. Already it is clear that what we took for granted, they do not. They do not take it for granted that they will belong to an Orthodox synagogue or indeed any synagogue. They do not take it for granted that they will marry, or marry another Jew, or stay married. They do not take it for granted that they will have Jewish children or that it is important to do so. Nothing can be taken for granted in the fourth generation, least of all in the secular, open society in which even a common moral code is lacking.”

Will we have Jewish Grandchildren?, p. 60