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Kevin Bermeister Headshot

Keeping Score on Jewish Assimilation

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On my walk through my local shopping strip on Saturday I overheard the florist comment that he'd sold more Christmas trees this year to Jewish families than non-Jewish families, and it got me thinking that the state of play for Team-Jewish is at a critical point of the game.

Co-opting fantasy sport as a analogy to highlight the solution to the problem of Jewish identity, I'd first have to conclude the Team is in trouble! Many of its players have lost site of the game objectives and support for their team is waning as a result. Statistics indicate desertion to other teams is occurring at record levels and over at Team Headquarters, that's not good for business. Professionals the world over have been investigating the problem, which some time back got so bad that self appointed directors of HQ spun off two new divisions hoping these new organizations would arrest the desertion problem. Instead of stemming the exodus, there was little change and now the minor divisions are struggling to stay alive, losing many of their players and members outright as well as to internal attrition.

In one New York study, commissioned on behalf of the divisions, a comparison was made to rivalry between Yankees and Mets fans. As the experts looked for information that could inform them they asked what, if anything, would make a Yankees or Mets fan switch allegiances? Further, they inquired whether a Yankees or Mets fan would ever contemplate purchasing an opposing team hat or item of merchandise to bring into their homes? In the resulting survey, some respondents reacted with such disgust even at the thought of answering the question the interviewer decided to drop it. The investigators conclusions were unanimous; such loyalty attrition among Yankees and Mets fans were so unlikely that it could not be used as meaningful data to compare to the Team-Jewish allegiance problem, which was obviously much worse.

The problems confronting Team-Jewish are not a product of the current identity malaise. In fact, to understand the present condition we had to take a giant step backward. First we had to discover what distinguishes a Team-Jewish fan from a Team-Jewish player. Surprisingly we found that the players and fans were so confused some fans thought they actually players and some players thought they should be in the stands -- what a mess! We went back in the history of the Jewish Club to figure out what the minimum requirements were for player selection and discovered there is a qualifying standard written in the Constitution's bi-laws. The experts began to understand that confusion has been present for a long time. In the Teams historical record when its headquarters and clubhouse were once fully functional, only at that time was it easy to distinguish a player from a fan.

When Team-Jewish competitors destroyed its headquarters and clubhouse, burning it to the ground on two occasions and damaging it less permanently on several other occasions, the Team was thrown into great confusion and disarray. Following the last destruction the remaining caretaker club directors eventually allowed members to establish loosely or even non-affiliated clubhouses. More recently, in one enraged act of rivalry, Team-Jewish players and members were targeted with such virulent, destructive violence and hooliganism that its membership and loyalties were decimated and took decades to recover. Over time, affiliated clubhouses formed new even more loosely affiliated minor divisions and with that, the new face of Team-Jewish, with all of its peripheral affiliates, eventually lost its shared commitment and allegiances to the core Team-Jewish objectives.

In the face of all of this confusion and detachment, it's important to restate the most basic Constitutional laws that outline membership requirements for Team-Jewish. According to the Club's original Constitution a player member is distinguished by their unbroken paternal and maternal lineage to a player member from the time of the Club's inauguration in 1312 B.C.E. Anyone else is a common member provided they can prove their unbroken maternal right to continuing membership. Special rules apply for new members wishing to join the club.

Armed with this historical understanding it becomes quite evident that Team-Jewish has simply lost its way. Its players and fans no longer connect with the Club their ancestors formed so long ago. They have even succumbed to internal rivalries and desires to adopt customs and practices of other club's. This divergent practice has gone so far that its players and fans regularly bring other club emblems, symbols, mascots and customs into their Team-Jewish homes. Loyalty began and continues to dissipate so fast that the fragmented Team Jewish affiliations were thrust into fixing the problem of attrition among members.

The Chairman of one Team-affiliate, Club Chabad, a man known only as "The Rebbe," sent its members to the ends of the earth to connect with Team-Jewish members and players to reorient them with the original club symbols, mascots, emblems and customs. To date, their efforts have been enormously successful. However, despite the miracle Chabad delivered to help save the Team from complete dissolution, attrition continues to take place at an alarming rate. So many Team-Jewish members are dissatisfied with their affiliates, or with joining new affiliates since so many in the past 2,000 years have failed, that only the re-establishment of the original Team Jewish HQ with its Clubhouse and facilities will enable its players and members to be distinguished and to flourish once again. In anticipation, the process of player, member identification should commence in earnest!

Members are the teams most important fans, they must be inspired and motivated to support the team. Mostly members must be given reason to be proud of their team in order to build the self sustaining support that will underscore efforts to spread loyalty to the entire Team. The Players who lead the team-member base come, as they always have, through the Levite's and their appointed captains the Kohanim. These are the Team-Jewish players that benefit the whole Team. The better these players are, the better off the membership at large will be.

Team-Jewish players come from anywhere in the world and representative selections will ultimately be made once Club Headquarters and clubhouse are rebuilt and directors appointed. In the decades ahead a scrupulous pre-selection process must ensue and although the great work of affiliated Team-Jewish clubs must continue, there is certainly an obligation on each to strengthen the players who will ultimately represent their proud communities in the critical selection for representation at Team-Jewish HQ. Marketing these players to their own communities is an essential part of the process, familiarizing and acquainting them will galvanize Team-Jewish players to be more in touch with the game, while simultaneously inspiring its members to support these crucial players. Distinguishing players from equally important members is surely the first step in beginning a return to an understanding of the Constitution through the affiliated Team-Jewish communities worldwide.

Activating the process through which members and players can identify the ordered and objective steps to Jewish return will be the vehicle through which Team-Jewish participation eventually succeeds in re-establishing loyalty to Jewish identity. This success, in turn, spurs pride in our Jewish ideal and the right to practice our Constitution without fear that our Club will be burned to the ground again. Our Jewish culture and symbolism is beautifully unique and, rightfully, the people of the world should witness its complete return so that Team-Jewish loyalty can once again contribute to a strong league regardless of whose side is playing.