Thus they care about Mark Zuckerberg and were genuinely upset when he married a non-Jewish woman or commented on how his favourite food was pork from pigs he slaughtered himself. They watch the adventures of Howard Wolowitz on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory and see in him the typical modern Jewish American despite his proclivity for non-kosher food, prostitutes (in the early seasons) and a Polish Catholic wife (later seasons). In short, they see Jews who have little to no connection to actual Judaism and begin and end their assessment of their Jewishness with their lack of refusal to deny that they're Jewish.
I therefore enjoyed the article Rav Avraham Gordimer wrote on Cross Currents recently and not just because this was his first article in a long time that didn't attack Open Orthodoxy. I enjoyed it because he identifies something that makes Orthodoxy work in a way that non-Orthodox "streams" of Judaism don't and it isn't something superficial.
He begins by noting that demographically Orthodoxy is in a position of strength. Although it is the smallest group in North America it is also the youngest, the fastest growing and the one with the highest retention rate. When it comes to the largest communities like New York and surrounding areas the statistics are impressive when it comes to growth in shul attendance and rate of increase of Jewish school numbers. He brings a mneumonic from a different article to explain this:
The “secret” of Orthodox retention and expansion can be summarized by a five-letter acronym: PRICE.
That is, they exhibit extraordinary Passion about Jewish norms and purpose. They perform numerous religious Rituals. They maintain high rates of Informal association (more spouses, friends, and neighbors who are Jewish). They engaged in Community — be it in synagogues, organizations, charities, or political-like activity. And they undertake Educational activities, be it learning groups for themselves or sending their children to day school, overnight camps or to Israel for a very influential gap year.
Similarly, non-Orthodox Jews who follow the same path exhibit extraordinary success in raising their children as committed and active Jews.
The Orthodox have shown that the price of intensive Jewish living has its rewards. The question is how many others will be willing to pay the PRICE to assure a rich Jewish life for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren.
But then he goes on to make the most important observation.
However, it is not commitment to Jewish identity, Jewish culture, or even Jewish preservation that drives people to invest well beyond their means and then some, and to strain themselves beyond imagination, for the sake of Torah education and the fulfillment of Mitzvos. It is rather an awareness of a holy obligation, as expressed in God’s Mandate, that propels Orthodox Jews to sacrifice everything for Torah and Mitzvos without second thought.
In other words, it isn't the actions but the purpose behind the actions that matters the most.
Now one could easily point out that many members of the Orthodox community along with many institutions fail on this exact point. Too often we emphasize ritual over understanding, rote over internal involvement. As the steady flow of OTD's out of Orthodoxy (something this article doesn't talk about) proves, Torah observance without meaning behind it doesn't create committed Jews, it creates sheeple that, if they begin to think about the emptiness of their practice, pack their bags and leave.
So at the same time that Rav Gordimer has identified the secret of Orthodoxy's success he has also identified a serious limitation that we must constantly address and never take for granted that it's been permanently dealt with. Our practice must be for a purpose to mean something.