Monday, December 07, 2009

No Need To Make Aliyah


Last week, someone stopped to speak to my husband and me as we were unloading our Shabbat groceries onto the belt at the local kosher supermarket.  He called my husband, "The much maligned rabbi," and told us that a close rabbinic colleague had quoted him, quite unfavorably, in a recent Thanksgiving sermon.  I knew, without reading the sermon and without question, that it was my words that had been quoted and commented upon unfavorably.

This rabbinic colleague often posts his sermons on the Internet, so it was not difficult for me to locate the full text.  Here's what he said about my comments:

Recently our own Jewish Times quoted someone from our community who is going on Aliyah to Israel, explaining the decision in these words: “Our current President embodies the lineage of Esau and Ishmael. I’m not saying he’s an evil person … but that is symbolic.” There are certainly a lot of good reasons for going on Aliyah, but to say one of the reasons is because our President is a descendant of Esau and Ishmael is absolutely, positively, a disgraceful statement about the President and of our country. You all know I’m not crazy about President Obama’s approach to the Arab/Israeli conflict but that does not blind me to the fact that his government – our government – gives $3 billion a year to aid to Israel. That’s more money than Israel  Bonds and United Jewish Appeal combined send to Israel! Is there no room for gratitude and appreciation?

Before I continue, I would like to publicly express my appreciation for the fact that he was kind enough not to mention my name while accusing my words of being, "absolutely, positively, a disgraceful statement" and before he accused me (geez, this is starting to sound familiar) of ingratitude.

Were you to read the entire sermon, you would see that there is no need to make aliyah because, as this rabbi quotes Dennis Prager, "Nowhere in Jewish history have we had it as good for so long as we have had it in America."

He goes on to ask:

The person going on Aliyah [ahem... that would be me] said, “I’ve been feeling an increasing level of discomfort about the future of American Jewry.” Have you been feeling uncomfortable? Does Ivanka [Trump, who recently married a Jew] understand what she's gotten herself into? In France, a Jewish student cannot cover his head in a public school. In England a court just ruled that it is illegal for a Jewish school to define a Jew as being “one who has a Jewish mother.” Can you imagine anything like that ever happening in our country?


He goes on to reassure all American Jews that:


...we all should understand: we live in a great country … a country where the acceptance of Jews are unparalleled in history … How sweet it is!


So there you have it.  No need to make aliyah from America because American Jews have never had it so good and, implied in the good rabbi's words, there is no reason to assume that anything will change. 

With all due respect, he's living in past.  Despite the anecdotal evidence with which he peppered his sermon, things are in flux in America.  I've already written about it here and here and here.  The Torah teaches that everything has its ketz - its end point.  And the most cursory review of Jewish history teaches the same thing about life in the Diaspora.  What he asserts, that America is a great place to be a Jew, was true in the relatively recent past. No question about it.

But how can we, living among the last survivors of the Holocaust, forget our recent history?  By 1871, most German Jews were middle-class.  Jews had been accepted in Germany as full citizens for six decades before the Nazi Party came to power.  There was a high degree of assimilation and intermarriage among German Jews at that time. Even prominent non-Jewish men had Jewish wives. It's not at all difficult to imagine how smugly German and absolutely secure German Jews must have been feeling back then.

By 1938, that had all changed. By 1945, six million Jews were dead.

I am endlessly fascinated with the question of how and when it dawned on Germany's Jews that something had shifted, because that exact same thing is playing out in my daily life.  I suspect I have just as many colleagues and friends who sense something here is shifting as who don't.  And, predictably enough, most of the people who sense the change live in the Land of Israel, where the air makes one wise. (Baba Metzia 158b)

Who is a wise man?  One who sees what will be born. (Tamid 32a)

I am no prophet.  I am a simple Jew who senses, deep in my kishkes, that the haven that America has been for the Jewish people is ending.  The doors are closing and our time here is finite. And yes, Barak Hussein Obama's unnatural ascendancy to the Presidency absolutely plays a partial (though far from exclusive) role in the conclusions I have drawn.  

I don't know if we have 10 days, 10 months or 10 comfortable years left in America.  I don't have access to any secret government plots.  I don't know anything that the average Jew can't easily find out.  I don't have supernatural powers.  But I can connect the dots.  I can think.

And I think that anyone claiming that Jewish life in America has never been better and that there is nothing to be concerned about...

...is just plain wrong.