Many Jews are suffering a loss of close relationships and political clout because of a failure to foster their culture in the home, a political commentator told 400 women at a Jewish Federation Council luncheon last week.
"We make family," speaker Ellen Cannon said, stressing the need to build a family commitment to Judaism into education and home life. "Amongst (fellow) Jews, we don't use the word 'neighbor.' We use the word mishpucha (which means family)."
The "glass ceiling" on women's advancement in the business world, shrinking real estate prices and the high percentage of women's income being devoted to child care in recent years have persuaded other educated women to return to motherhood as a vocation, but educated Jewish women lag behind in that trend, Cannon said. Then she ticked off these statistics:
* Non-Jewish women tend to marry between the ages of 21 and 24, while the average Jewish woman delays marriage to age 32.
* On average, Jewish women between the ages of 18 and 26 have no children; 46% between the ages of 27 and 34 have one child; 96% between the ages of 40 and 45 are having their first and only child.
* That translates to diluted political power because 55 million Christian families, some of whom make up the political force of the "religious right," have an average of 4.2 children. Their ranks are swelling while the Jewish population in America is shrinking.
"If you expect your political power to not be punctured by this crisis in the Jewish family . . . you are wrong," Cannon said.'
Cannon, a National Public Radio producer, was keynote speaker at the federation's annual luncheon, which raised $265,000 for Jewish charities countywide.
The federation sponsored a telephone fund drive Sunday in Orange County and nationwide.
Donations pay for outreach programs to support Jewish education, family counseling for Jewish couples who cannot afford it, youth leadership programs, Holocaust oral history and education programs, and aid for refugees who flee their homelands because of religious persecution.