The desperate son of a woman diagnosed with cancer sought advice from Rabbi Reuben Malekan before accompanying his mother to Mexico for shark-cartilage treatments. When the cure failed, the son again beseeched Malekan for support in claiming his mother's body. Emotionally spent and depressed by the experience, Malekan nevertheless went on that same day to perform a joyous wedding service, which typically includes his full-throated a cappella version of "Sunrise, Sunset."
"It's an art to get out of that sadness," said Malekan, a well-known Iranian-born rabbi from Los Angeles, who is a master at refocusing his mental energy to suit the emotional range requisite of daily clergy life.
The Jewish population is aging and shrinking, its birthrate is falling, intermarriage is rising and most Jews do not engage in communal or religious pursuits.
Yet a majority attend a Passover seder and celebrate Chanukah, Jewish education is booming, and many Jews consider being Jewish important and feel strong ties to Israel.
These are not dueling headlines, but parallel portraits contained in the long-awaited National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) 2000-01. Federations and Jewish communal leaders use these studies every decade for policy and planning decisions.