Throughout our history, Jews several times largely abandoned Judaism. From the golden calf to the widespread paganism of the era of Judges to the movie-star worship of our days, Jews often lapsed from the religious high road. Many Jews welcomed Antiochus’ Hellenistic reforms; the Jews of the Roman world’s Diaspora intermingled with pagans enough that the donors’ lists of unearthed synagogues include pagans; the modern assimilationist reformist movement is not unique. Judaism has changed drastically throughout history: from the liberal worship-at-home altars to the First Temple Judaism; an Ark-less worship in a Temple devoid of the Divine Presence; ending the line of prophets and bringing about the closure of the direct link to God; the polluted Second Temple, violated by pagan brutes such as Pompeus; the Temple-less rabbinical Judaism; the Shulchan Aruch religion of a “wall around the wall around the law.” But there is a critical difference: at every other turn, Jews honestly re-shaped Judaism to serve God in changing circumstances, but modern reformists have created a pagan ethics movement which uses emasculated Jewish terms. The reformism is related to Judaism in the same way that Russian jail slang, full of Hebrew words, is related to the Biblical Hebrew. Rabbinical Judaism allowed the Temple-less Jews to live Jewish; modern reformism allows them to assimilate American.
The voluntary devastation of the Jewish population is not historically unique. Most Jews refused to leave Egypt during the Exodus, to leave Babylonia with Ezra, or to leave America for Israel. In Nehemiah’s time, Jews intermarried prodigiously. Today too, we see some positive trends: many conservative Jews reject the reform movement’s ideas and embrace Orthodoxy; religious Jewish populations in Israel and the West are growing. But the proportions today are totally different.
For all the exaggerations of ancient historians, Jews constituted a respectable percentage of the civilized world then. Jewish presence was considerable in Europe just seventy years ago. A century ago, the number of Jews and Arabs in the world was about equal, around twenty million each. Today, the Arabs at 300 million are twenty times the number of Jews. Such disparities are not realistically recoverable. Moreover, globalization, mobility, and open societies threaten Jewish survival. In earlier times, assimilation was slow: some Jews baptized, and some gentiles married into the Jewish people. The trends were slow, giving the Jews enough time to adapt and react, to re-group and restructure our Jewishness. Today we cannot keep pace with assimilation: the entirety of American Jewry perished in only two generations; the intermarriage rate among the young atheists has hit 90 percent.
So the divine plan for Jews is either to let us perish as a people, or to be left only in Israel. The messianic scenario involves substantially all Jews moving to the Land of Israel. The Bible recognizes King Cyrus a messiah even though most Jews refused to return to Israel; the messiah need not return everyone. There are two ways to assure that almost all Jews return: make everyone return, or make those who don’t return perish. Jews refused the first option, so we may be witnessing the second one unfolding.