Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Safer for Jews in America




Life is inherently risky. And I'm often asked by American Jews how I can feel safer in Israel than in the US. After all, in America, no one is openly and actively trying to annihilate Jews for the crime of being Jews. In fact, Jews are being murdered much more frequently in Israel than in the US. So it's looking much safer for a Jew to be in America.

I totally understand why it looks that way.

But there are two crucial factors for which I believe those who think we're in more danger here in Israel have not accounted.

First, in Israel, we understand who our enemies are and we have the means to defend ourselves. This is not true of most American Jews who argue that they are perfectly safe there. 
The majority of American Jews either don't see and/or don't acknowledge the many forces (e.g., economic stress that often turns antisemitic, the rapid spreading of Muslim fundamentalism in the US, a president who represents the two historic enemies of the Jewish people and the loss of the protection of the Shechina) that are already in motion. Further, if, Gd-forbid, things turn bad for the Jews in the US, they will have no way to defend themselves. Ironically, when they begin to think of escape, they will naturally think of escaping to Israel where they know they will be welcomed and protected.

Second, HaShem protects Israel from our enemies, as evidenced by the continuing growth of this tiny country in the midst of 22 enemy nations. Jews in America have no such Divine protection. I worry about individual Jews here being harmed by our enemies. Of course I do! But I have zero worries about the Jewish people being annihilated here. I acknowledge that, during the Crusades, for example, it was safer for Jews to live outside of Israel. But now, so close to the geula? Impossible.

As Rabbi Pinchas Winston writes in his book Survival Guide for the End of Days:
"Think about it. If you were God, and the goal was to validate the reality of God in the eyes of the world, and the Divinity of Torah to all those who question it, would you protect the Jews of Eretz Yisroel from their enemies, or allow them to be devoured by them? Would you abandon your children who have made sacrifices to live on your land, and spare the ones who have distanced themselves from it?"
In the end, I'm not so worried for the Jews of Israel. It's the future of my loved ones and the rest of the Jews in the US that I really fear.


Monday, October 07, 2013

Do You See It Coming?


Who is wise? One who sees that which is being born. (HaRoeh Et HaNolad)
        -  Pirke Avot 2:9


Scenario - The First

It's 1930 and you're a German Jew. You've been blessed with a sixth sense about what Hitler and the Nazi party's rise to power will mean for the Jewish community in Germany. You emigrate to America. You try to convince the rest of your loved ones to leave as well, before things get worse. They think you're overreacting. Anyway, they won't leave because:

A) They have businesses or good jobs in Germany. How will they make a living in America?
B) They have beautiful homes, substantial investments, affluence and prestige in Germany. How will they be able to duplicate that in the US?
C) How could they ever learn English?
D) This Hitler is a nuisance but he'll never amount to anything. The German people won't tolerate it.

Now it's 1933 and Hitler is the new Chancellor of Germany. Now it's 1935 and the Nuremberg laws, stripping Jewish citizens of Germany of their civil rights, have been instituted. Now it's 1938 and 1000 synagogues are set on fire during Kristallnacht.

You've been urging, pleading, begging your loved ones to leave, but now the gates are closing. You watch with horror as the noose tightens on your family members and dear friends who would not listen, who would not see.

How do you feel? What do you say?

Scenario - The Second

It's 2001 and you're an American Jew. You see the tragedy of September 11th as a foreshadowing of what's coming for the Jewish community in America. You make aliyah. You try to convince the rest of your loved ones to consider, to think about, to make plans to make aliyah as well, before things get worse. They think you're overreacting. Anyway, they won't leave because:

A) They have businesses or good jobs in the US. How will they make a living in Israel?
B) They have beautiful homes, substantial investments, affluence and prestige in Baltimore, Monsey, Boro Park, LA, Chicago. How will they be able to duplicate that in Israel?
C) How could they ever learn Hebrew?
D) This US President is a nuisance but his policies won't ever amount to anything. The American people won't tolerate it.

Now it's 2013 and the Pew Research Center announces that 58% of American Jews have a non-Jewish spouse. Twenty-seven percent of American Jews (more than one in four) don't actually consider themselves Jewish. The economy is under tremendous strain. The government is on yet another furlough.

Like the first peck of the first bird in Hitchcock's The Birds foreshadowed imminent disaster, is this the beginning of the end of the North American Jewish community? It's impossible to know. Who can say for sure?

You know that the mishna in Pirke Avot teaches that the wise one sees what's coming before it's here. Your understanding of the Torah's teachings about this stage of Jewish history, your rabbis in Israel and your sixth sense tell you that there is no future for the North American Jewish community.

You've been urging, pleading, begging your loved ones to consider a future for themselves in Israel. You sense that the gates are closing. You watch with horror as the tide seems to be turning against your family members and dear friends who will not listen, who will not see.

How do you feel? What do you say?