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?
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?
About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is the Contributing Editor and PR manager at the JewishPress.com, and Israel's only English language broadcast radio show host (Galey Yisrael 106.5FM). Yishai is 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, they have two children, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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