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.

9 comments:

Yocheved said...

Despite earning smicha, the guy betrays the spirit of Torah law. HaShem never commands Jews to celebrate chagim outside Israel. We do not face DC, LA, NY or any American plot of land when we pray. We face the Bait HaMikdash land, the one bequeathed to Avraham's descendants at Elon Moreh.

Some rabbis deserve to have smicha revoked. They do not convey the values of normative Judaism. The average TOSHBA student can destroy the guy's arguments as well as a Karaite's or Zeduki's.

As for his colleagues, Shomrei Emunah's rabbi is my neighbor. Kaganoff left Bal'mur years ago.

Hisotry teaches what happened to Jews too cozy in chutz: pogroms, auto da fe's, stolen babies, kidnapping into the czar's armies, Spanish expulsion, Shoah, you name it. Your critic is begging to be flogged by HaShem for misleading himself and others. And he has no idea how convoluted his thoughts have become.


Yocheved Golani http://www.linkedin.com/in/yochevedgolaniink
http://twitter.com/yochevedgolani
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Barbara R. said...

I don't agree with your assessment of the president of the United States, but your statements do not scare me down to my toes!! The rabbi's statement though -- whew!! That does scare me. It scares me because more and more American Jews seem to be blinded by the same complacency that he voiced. At least I am here in Israel, you and those you love the most will be here, too. That is as much as anyone can do! Thanks for posting this information.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. But cognative dissonance is a very POWERFUL force in people's minds. To look the truth in the face is much too frightening for some people. For others, there is simple inertia and business with the day-to-day challenges.

Part of your awareness of what is real stems from your work on your emuna. I am NOT saying this rav does not have emuna. I *am* saying that you are on different levels and when you start getting up into the rarified air that you are breathing, things become clearer. Truth becomes clearer.

Counting the days, dear friend.

Tehillah said...

Excellent post Rivkah!

Last week The Muqata posted another thought-provoking (despite the fact that it was satire) article that I think you might enjoy:
http://muqata.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-israel-to-freeze-jewish.html

I am very glad that you are coming home (and wish I still lived in MA to greet you - we're in Ra'anana now).

Keep up the great writing and don't let the blind (i.e., those in denial) discourage you in any way - the truth is often difficult to swallow but maybe someday they'll "get it".

Kol Tuv,
Tehillah

Goel Jasper said...

I don't think people understand that it is already happening. The Shoah conditioned us to think that the things to look out for are gas chambers and ovens. Don't people see that America's equivalent of the gas chambers and ovens is intermarriage and assimilation!? It is already happening. It is too late to change it. In essence, the fact that America has been so good to the Jews is the catalyst for the current spiritual holocaust that is taking place there. There are no tell-tale sings to look for. It's already in process.

Akiva said...

Felt exactly the same thing, came to exactly the same conclusion, and arrived in Israel 2 years ago.

Safe journey, looking to seeing you soon.

Yet, 80% were lost in the plague of darkness, and perhaps more in Europe.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I understand where you are coming from. And yes, ultimately exile must end in some way. There's no promise it will be nice. And yes, the nature of all exiles is they must end or be ended.

But I think your emphasis is misplaced, even if not completely wrong.

When Rav Meir Kahane hy'd, for instance, originally pushed Aliya, he did so concentrating on the mitzvah and the incomparable value of the Land of Israel. When he switched to focussing on the possible, threatening negative aspects and dangers, I suggest he was mistaken. NOT because those issues don't exist; but rather because Jews should be going home (one of his books was Time To Go Home) because of all the positive reasons we have.

Yes, ultimately the American exile has all the potential to turn very bad. All the previous golden exiles did. But at this moment, Jewish life in American really is all too good; read - comfortable. Rashi points out in the g'mara in Kiddushin that even when the Beit Mikdash as being rebuilt (!), Jews stayed in Bavel because they were comfortable. And Jews in the American Bavel cannot see anything but the comfort they have now. And actually, we should be grateful for the overall good that America has provided (Father Coughlin and Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright aside).

Jews should go home. But they should go home because it is what Hashem requires. They should go home because the God of History is knocking, and we must answer the call.

Vox Populi said...

>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.

Really, the exact same thing? Has the American Nazi Party really become a viable political entity here already? Whew, that was fast.

The situation in America is not anything like the situation in Germany in the 1930s. There, you had an entire political party - one that became the governing dictatorial party, mind you, that preached official anti-semitism. You had a leader of the country making public pronouncements advocating anti-Semitic policies, and you had an anti-Semitic legislature writing explicitly anti-Semitic laws. Under such circumstances, I could definitely see why a German Jew would be justified in thinking that it's time to pick up stakes, and everyone else has their heads in the sand.

I'm not sure exactly what equivalent events you claim to be witnessing. Barack Obama? Barack Obama and what, exactly? What is it about his meteoric rise that gives you the willies and leads you to believe he can be linked to our archenemy's archetype? Did George Bush's meteoric rise scare you? What about Michael Ignatieff? Should Canadian Jews pack up now too?

Are you witnessing increasing acts of antisemitism? Is America a more antisemitic country than it was 50 years ago? 25 years ago? 10 years ago? What is it, exactly?

Are you worried that the 2.5 - 7 million Muslims in this country are about to take over the government? Are you afraid that the America currently at war with radical Islam in two countries will suddenly, under the orders of Barack Hussein Obama, decide that bin Laden was right, and, you know, it was the Jews' fault all along? What are you seeing that all of us are missing?

In the meantime, here's my unsolicited advice. Until we see the equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws pass both houses of Congress, how about you stop pretending that the America of 2009 is exactly the same as the Germany of the 1930s.

AZ said...

Oy, Rivkah!

As Rabbi MW often says, "fugeddabboudit!" Last time I was in Charm City, he was driving around in a $70k Lexus 2-seater. He knows where his bread is buttered. His sermons are not meant to enlighten or challenge, but to make his fatcat balei batim feel good that they drove that Shabbos (right up to the door, no less!) to shul to hear him.

He has often promoted visiting Israel. Has he ever promoted Aliyah? Not that I know of.

Anyway, at least you were not quoted as saying that you were fulfilling HKBH's commandments that Jews actually live in His Holy Land. Now that would really tick them off!

Don't look back, dear lady. We're waiting for you!

AZ
Jerusalem