Friday, April 11, 2008

When Political Correctness Goes Off The Deep End

JTA recently published an article about opposition to the prayer for the State of Israel among certain Jews in the United States.

Although I disagree with them theologically, I can almost understand the Haredim who object to the prayer on the basis of the fact that Moshiach has not yet arrived.

But the critiques coming from the left are pathetic.

The article summarizes a meeting of "20 members of the Altshul, a lay-led minyan in Brooklyn" by saying that, "Congregants at the meeting also challenged the prayer's conflation of religion and politics, its tone of Jewish triumphalism and exclusivity, and its seeming denigration of Diaspora Jewry."

I love that expression: "..it's seeming denigration of Diaspora Jewry." Yes, let's ignore the Torah and most of the prayers in our siddur and pretend that being a Jew in America is just as good as being a Jew in Israel.

But this comment really makes me nauseous. "...We wanted something a bit less militaristic and that prayed for peace for the Palestinians, too."

Let's all pray for the well-being of the souls of Haman, Chelmnicki, Hitler and the Hamasniks whose occupation and preoccupation was/is to kill Jews.

This sickness is what happens when political correctness goes off the deep end.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Integration and Impatience

Bibliotherapy. It describes something I have been doing intuitively most of my adult life. In the psychotherapeutic literature, bibliotherapy generally refers to reading books on a particular topic for the purpose of healing from some emotional problem. But I created a course of Israeli bibliotherapy as a way of feeding my obsession, without losing every friend I have.

Over the last few years, there were times that I would read several books a week on topics related to Israel. I thought (and probably spoke) of little else. I ticked off a lot of people.

I recently noticed that the amount of Israel talk coming out of my mouth lately is greatly diminished. That doesn't mean that my interest in Israel and my commitment to making aliyah have diminished. Quite the opposite.

It means that I have so integrated the idea that, with Gd's help, I will be able to move to Israel in five more years, that it is no longer a flaming issue. I know my place is in Israel. I know it in the deepest part of me. There is no longer a war going on within me.

When I get to Israel, I want to be able to use my skills to strengthen an aspect of Jewish life that calls to me. I want to contribute to the imperfect place that Israel is, understanding all the while that, imperfect though it may be, it's ours.

I am ready to go now. Truly ready. Sometimes, I grow impatient. But I know I have family issues that require that I spend more time in America.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple nearly two thousand years ago, Jews have yearned to return Home. In the last 60 years, many have been able to do so. It is not my time just yet. But my time is coming.

It surely is.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hillel opens up to non-Jews

Without a doubt, the opening of Hillel to non-Jews is one of the saddest commentaries on Jewish life in America. Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life is responding to a social reality. Jewish college students are not sufficiently interested in "doing Jewish with other Jews" - a previous mission of Hillel under the leadership of Richard Joel.

According to Ben Harris' JTA article, "But Hillel leaders say increasingly that to reach the majority who might view the organization with anything from disdain to indifference, it must actively counter the perception that its chapters are "Jews-only" venues.

As it attempts to do so, Hillel finds itself negotiating a tricky line between Jewish particularism and universality, between the twin imperatives of creating uniquely Jewish programming and protecting the fluidity of personal identities that today's college students see as their birthright."

What does all this mean? In a nutshell, it means that there are fewer young North American Jews who are comfortable to define themselves as Jews. They don't understand the power of Am Yisrael, of belonging to the most unique people in history. The trend is micro-reflected in the words of a young college student, a very close relative of mine. When asked to describe his religious views on his Faceboook profile, he posted, "I do not participate". Not surprisingly, despite growing up with two Jewish parents and a liberal Jewish education at least through Bar Mitzvah, he has a non-Jewish girlfriend and no feeling for being part of the Jewish people.

The ability to understand the relevance of Judaism is dying among college students. I don't blame Hillel. They are reflecting a trend rather than creating one. Reactive, not proactive. They are trying to stay alive in the face of diminishing influence on campus.

But oh! How it breaks my heart that so many Jews view not only Hillel, but their very Jewish identities, "with anything from disdain to indifference."

Just one more sign of the waning of Jewish life in America.