Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher
Why wasn't Israel included in the Jewish Communities Fair?

And that would be fine if the name of this Jewish real estate agency that is promoting moving to anywhere but Israel, wasn’t the Orthodox Union. Orthodox in this case does not mean Greek Orthodox Christians, but rather Orthodox Jews, those who see themselves as following the Torah, an internationally and historically renowned religious document which enthusiastically promotes the spiritual superiority of the land of Israel. So why doesn’t the OU, an organization which prolifically teaches and publishes Torah, at least put a few emerging Israeli communities at the fair? Why not give Jews a chance to plug into God’s dream and not just the American dream?

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The OU went all out for the Communities Fair, renting a beautiful space, printing t-shirts, booklets, creating webpages, and even a series of videos to promote the event. One of the videos humorously derides the spiritual quality of Shabbat in New York City. But the fair which the video seeks to advance, does not offer the holistic experience of Shabbat in Israel as an alternative. Attendees seeking a more serene Jewish Day of Rest are directed toward Scranton, Manalapan, and Southeast Michigan.

The OU’s under-marketing of the Israel option is sad on two levels: it is sad for American Modern Orthodox Jews, whose leadership is not encouraging them to learn about the possibility of life in Israel. Judging by the fair, Modern Orthos have a greater chance of raising their children in Bethlehem, PA than in the original Bethlehem region, Beit Lechem – Gush Etzion. As those children grow up, they will not experience the weekly majesty of Shabbat in Israel, they will not learn to speak Hebrew fluently, and most will not have the privilege of being soldiers in the IDF. Instead, they will attend Liberal Arts colleges just as their Israeli peers enter the army and they will only connect to Israel on sporadic and expensive trips, and hopefully a gap-year study program. They will be taught to love Israel, but most will end up being detached from the real life of a six-million strong Jewish State. Sad for those kids.

And it’s also sad for Israel. Our sweet homeland is yearning to become a first-rate country and it needs precisely those Jews who are being routed to Richmond, VA by the OU. American Jews who choose Israel bring with them a culture of democracy, customer service, transparency, environmentalism, big thinking and much more. American Jews are good for the development of the young Jewish State!

Indeed, Israel is the most exciting project of the Jewish people in two-thousand years, and we need all hands on deck to nurture and direct its way forward. The idea of taking part in the building of our country is exciting and attractive, and more people would embrace that attitude if leading organizations like the OU would publicly preach and teach those values.

I sincerely hope that at next year’s OU Community Fair, Neve Daniel and Ramat Beit Shemesh will be given a chance to compete on a level playing with Southfield and Milwaukee. If Orthodox Jews are already moving out of New York, shouldn’t Eretz Yisrael, which has waited for us for so long, have a chance to win their affection?

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Yishai Fleisher is a Contributing Editor at JewishPress.com, Chief Editor at JNi.media, talk-show host, and International Spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with their children.

53 COMMENTS

  1. So whiny; clearly these are for people who for whatever reason don't want to make aliyah-if they did, we can be absolutely sure they're familiar with Nefesh b'Nefesh and Israel in general.

  2. I don't think that's the point. I think Yishai is saying that the OU is promoting Jewish communities and isn't even offering Israel as an option. Not one Israeli community is represented. So this isn't about aliyah as much as it's about Jewish life. The OU is promoting Jewish life in the US, not Jewish life in Israel.

  3. I don't think that's the point either. This venue is specifically targeted to strengthen smaller communities in the US. The OU continues to promote Aliyah — but NOT in this venue. Again, this is a directed project with a specific target. — Why not chastise the OU for not including Boro Park. In my many years of travel it was always a pleasure to come upon a community such as Harrisburg, PA that opened its arms to a visitor, providing home hospitality, Shabbos accommodations, etc. You know there are Orthodox Jews who live west of the Hudson.

  4. Jacob you don't believe in cross marketing? Israel is only for NBN?

    The goal of the event is to propose affordable housing and affordable schooling for orthodox Jews. Israel has a wonderful quality of life for Orthodox families and Jews in general.

    There should have been communities represented that are in Israel. Let all the options be presented and leave it up to the patrons attending the event to make the decision themselves. They may find something out about Modiin, Maaleh Adumim, Efrat etc that they didn't realize.

    Listen, the rest of the world ate Quinoa on Pesach with every hechsher except the OU, because the OU unilaterally decided it's kitniyot. Here the OU decided that people shouldn't move to Israel and Israel isn't an option. That's the point.

  5. Yishai, you nailed it! I would also point out that Zionist and Torah arguments aside, at $25,000+ per child for an Orthodox Jewish education in America – an alternative like Ramat Beit Shemesh where the schooling is paid for by the government would fully fit in the supposed goal of OU helping people move to more affordable areas.

    However as other posters said until these large Jewish organizations whether it be OU or YU or anyone else, until they themselves make Aliyah, they simple won't be able to promote Aliyah since their lifeblood is American Jewish life. The idea of "Aliyah" itself is a big problem for American Orthodox organizations trying to hide their true colors of being more loyal to their existence than to the Torah…
    -P.

  6. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff · When the time comes, and it will, as it has in the past wherever Jews felt comfortable and cozy in diaspora — when the day come, I'll be happy and honored to welcome you and your lovely wife (in the picture) and you whole family in our guest room. I'm in the phone book.

  7. General attitudes define people’s behavior.
    Is US another galut? Is Ingathering of Exiles happening right now?
    If the answer to both questions is YES, then it would be honest and logical to offer and even promote “Israel option”.
    If the answer in NO, then, of course, send young couples west of Hudson!
    Multi-levels problem (which is a very old Jewish problem) manifests itself when the community prays in the direction of Jerusalem and sends its youth in the opposite direction.

  8. …but Malkah, Its a fair point but let me ask on the other side:

    Why did no communities in Israel present at the fair? What is going on behind the scenes?

  9. Good article Yishai. I must say that Rav Kahane wrote literally hundreds of brilliant and biting articles (and a number of books) on the same exact topic between 1970 and 1990. It is embarrassing how little has changed.

  10. BS'D

    Kol Hakavod, Yishai.

    Tragically, American Jewish 'leaders' are once again ignoring.

    the dangerous warning signs of accelerating anti-Semitism in.

    America and inanely promote relocating to other parts of.

    the United States, instead of the Jewish homeland, Israel.

    *(See http://www.shuva.net)

    With love of G-D and ERETZ YISRAELl.

    Shifra Hoffman.

    JERUSALEM.

  11. I totally agree with Gavriel Yarmish 's comments. Yishai and Malkah are asserting that the OU did not allow Israeli communities to be showcased at the fair. Is there any evidence to back up that assertion?

    I noticed that Teaneck, NJ was not there either. I assumed that was not because the OU didn't let them in but because they didn't need to be there.

    Why wasn't Modiin there? Does anyone have any facts beyond idle speculation and accusations?

  12. Yishai, you don't need to justify your Aliyah by trying to denegrate the efforts of worldwide Jewish communities. The OU is an American Jewish organization that is there to help and support the growth of Jewish communities in the US. The OU, unlike most other Jewish American organizations supports Aliyah through various programs. But at the end of the day it is there to foster community and kashrut i the US.

  13. Yishai, you don't need to justify your Aliyah by trying to denegrate the efforts of worldwide Jewish communities. The OU is an American Jewish organization that is there to help and support the growth of Jewish communities in the US. The OU, unlike most other Jewish American organizations supports Aliyah through various programs. But at the end of the day it is there to foster community and kashrut i the US.

  14. Yishai, you don't need to justify your Aliyah by trying to denegrate the efforts of worldwide Jewish communities. The OU is an American Jewish organization that is there to help and support the growth of Jewish communities in the US. The OU, unlike most other Jewish American organizations supports Aliyah through various programs. But at the end of the day it is there to foster community and kashrut i the US.

  15. Joseph Peled Hadad · I went to the OU website and I saw that they have a center in Israel, which is great, but not so much in the form of "various programs" as you put it, to support religious Jews wishing to examine the Aliyah option.

    The resources of the OU could be lent to an aliyah effort–alongside the encouragement of U.S. Jews to resettle elsewhere in America. An Orthodox organization that abandons the notion of "im eshkachech Yerushalim" (so close to Jerusalem liberation day, too) will, eventually experience the tongue sticking to the pallet consequence.

    How can a religious Jewish organization NOT present aliyah as the primary option? It's obviously a case of Yeshurun obesity.

  16. So you are saying that everyone that the Orhtodox Union services simply doesn't want to make Aliyah? Besides that this isn't true, it certainly isn't fair to lump all of their audience into that reality. I think Yishai made some extremely good points that should be answered.

  17. Joseph that is the whole point. The OU is too concerned with growing the American Jewish community. The same can be said for every other Jewish Institution in the US.

    The OU (and the rest) have their priorities backwards. If the OU actually believe in the Torah that they claim to abide by, then they would know that the only place for a Jew to live is Israel.

  18. If the OU, and other Jewish organizations would encourage Aliyah, over time there would be many more American Olim.

    What a shame that America's Rabbinic leadership have forgotten Eretz Yisrael.

  19. Yishai – OU represents the so called "Modern" Orthodox. I'm curious – Is this the sector from which most US Aliya originates? Or does most Aliya come from the Orthodox (ie not Modernish)? If most of the aliya is from the Modernish group, then perhaps the OU feels that Aliya opportunities are already well represented and are having an impact. If most Aliya is from the non-Modernish Orthodox, then I would agree with you that perhaps the OU should highlight Israel a bit more.

  20. JD You are missing the point. If this fair is about relocating to new Jewish communities, what better a Jewish community to relocate to than that of Israel?

    By forgetting Israel, the OU is saying that it is more important to strengthen the Jewish communities of the Mid-west, than it is to strengthen Israel!

  21. I don’t really understand the issue here – it was obvious to me from the "get go", that OU's Jewish Communities Fair was simply repackaging and reselling the American dream to America Jews. We don't need the words 'Jewish community' when we talk about living in Israel. There is nothing "to get" or "understand", OU says it out loud: want a better life move to Louisville (for example). They are not saying "want to live as a Jew amongst Jews?", "want to fulfill your obligation as a religious Jew and ensure your family's legacy?" then move to Israel. OU is galus.
    And as to OU's "celebration of Israel's 65th birthday" it's what I call the "Eretz Yisrioel" –" Eretz Yisrael" dichotomy. For some American Jews, Israel is "Eretz Yisrioel" – it's a state of mind – you can spend a Yontif here every year, visit army bases and heck maybe even buy a house that the "kids" will use when they visit for a year and then will remain empty for the rest of the time. But home, a real place to live, is the golden medina. Eretz Yisrael – is real, it's tough, it's not neat, it's full of us Israelis yelling, pushing and running around; oh yes and building a country. It's not buying jewelry once a year in Mamilla; it's buying challah every Friday in Machne Yehuda.
    Don't fool yourself OU knows exactly what they are doing, as did the "modern orthodox masses" that thronged to the event.

  22. I'm under the impression that OU America funds OU Israel, which is incredibly pro-Aliya. Torah Tidbits, very pro-Aliyah, is provided in many communities in 'America'. I don't think Yishai is being whiny, and think that asking a rhetorical question like why no Israeli communities were represented is valid. Perhaps the organizers could respond if they invited someone from the aliyah centre, or NBN, Tehila, or other, or not. If they said, that this wasn't the point of the ceonvention, I would say that is legitimate as well. But bloggers/writers are still allowed to ask questions!!

  23. The writer makes a good point about missing out on the benefits of living in Israel. But, the reason Israel was not at the fair is simple. Israel's real estate and evrything else is quite expensive. If your looking for a bargain place to live that offers a high standard of living, chances are you won't find it in Israel.

  24. Yishai. You cannot shove Aliyah down people's throats. If they don't want to be there or are not ready to live in the holy country- it will not work out. The ou clearly marketed this event to people who want to live in America. Nefesh b'nefesh does a wonderful job I helping people who want to make Aliyah do so!

  25. I will be happy and honored as well. But Yori, please cut back on the condescending tone. I've been in Israel nearly 15 years and prefer to stay, but not everyone is in a position to start over in – yes, a strange, distant place where the living is harder than it is in the US. And many of these people in Buffalo, Scranton, Springfield, and Richmond are making huge differences in their communities, and bringing more people to observance and ultimately connection to Israel. While I'll agree that people contemplating leaving New York for Milwaukee instead of Modiin are missing everything that you described, and the abysmal lack of Hebrew proficiency and knowledge of Israel prevalent in much of the US Orthodox world bother me more with each passing year, sometimes it is simply plain necessity – not comfort or coziness – that dictates decisions to look at “out-of-town” communities at this time. The OU is simply recognizing this fact and trying to help – while still emphasizing that these community alternatives are for those for whom aliyah is not currently an option.

  26. Sigh. As someone who made aliyah after seeing the bigger picture of where Jewish history is going, it makes me sad that so many American Jewish families are still building their futures on the quicksand that is today's America. This event makes me queasy every year.

  27. Yori Yanover That could happen (G-d forbid) but Israel could also get nuked (G-d forbid) [America could get nuked too but it would take a lot more nukes to take out all the Jews of the US than those of Israel]; until Moshiach comes better not to have all of our eggs in one basket.

  28. I just want to mention, that when I saw adds for this fair I emailed Rabbi Fass from Nefesh Bnefesh to see if they were invited. He replied no. I then emailed the heads of the OU.

    Shalom,

    Why isn't Israel one of the Options for Jewish Relocation?
    Why wasn't Nefesh Bnefesh invited to this event?
    Wouldn't it make sense for the OU to promote relocation to Israel as ONE of the options for American Jews who pray to return to their homeland every day?

    http://nbn.org.il/aliyahpedia/community-a-housing/community-guide-beta-listings.html

    The 2 replies I got were.

    [Weinreb, Tzvi H.

    You are absolutely correct. However, none of the three individuals to whom you addressed your e-mail are responsible for this program. I will forward your e-mail to those who are. THW]

    and

    [Genack, Menachem

    You are right.
    I sent your note to Steve Savitsky who heads that program and is the chairman of the board of the OU].

    There you go.

  29. I just want to mention, that when I saw adds for this fair I emailed Rabbi Fass from Nefesh Bnefesh to see if they were invited. He replied no. I then emailed the heads of the OU.

    Shalom,

    Why isn't Israel one of the Options for Jewish Relocation?
    Why wasn't Nefesh Bnefesh invited to this event?
    Wouldn't it make sense for the OU to promote relocation to Israel as ONE of the options for American Jews who pray to return to their homeland every day?

    http://nbn.org.il/aliyahpedia/community-a-housing/community-guide-beta-listings.html

    The 2 replies I got were.

    [Weinreb, Tzvi H.

    You are absolutely correct. However, none of the three individuals to whom you addressed your e-mail are responsible for this program. I will forward your e-mail to those who are. THW]

    and

    [Genack, Menachem

    You are right.
    I sent your note to Steve Savitsky who heads that program and is the chairman of the board of the OU].

    There you go.

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