Photo Credit: Flash 90
New immigrants from North America arrive in Israel

{Originally posted to the MIDA website}

Ronald Lauder, the head of an organization called the World Jewish Congress, writes an oped for the New York Times, a virulent anti-Israel newspaper, slamming Israel for laws he doesn’t want, while pretending to be the voice of moral reason for the Jewish people. Israel, this is not who we are, he says.

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I can handle the incessant criticism of Israel by the Arab world who have failed to move on from the 10th century. I can even stomach the arrogance of many European countries who still think they have the right to dictate to Israel about values, when they betrayed their own many years ago.

Nothing though, gets under my skin, really bothers me, makes me twist uncomfortably clenching my teeth together, more than someone sitting in faraway America, telling Israelis what they should or should not be doing.

Now sure, there are some laws in Israel that not everyone agrees with, just as there are laws in every country that people don’t agree with. It’s called democracy – and as we know – no one likes to talk and argue and debate more about things than Jews!

However, while Ronald says some nice platitudes about unity, he then decides to nullify all he has just said by reminding us that the “vast majority of Jews do not identity with Orthodox” and how we “cannot allow the politics of a radical minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.”

So much for unity.

Well, I’m going to remind Ronald of something – when the Reform movement started in Germany, it was they who were the biggest threat to the Jewish world, because the Reform movement of that time tried so hard to be ‘liked’ by the people around them by slamming their own heritage.

They rejected the nation state of Israel.

They rejected circumcision – our oldest Jewish custom.

They replaced Hebrew with German.

They replaced Bar Mitzvah ceremonies with “confirmation” ceremonies.

They considered Kashrut “repugnant” and better not to be observed at all.

They even changed the Shabbat from Saturday to Sunday!

Fortunately, most Jews rejected the Reform movement of that time, because if they hadn’t – there would be no Jews around anymore!

This “radical minority” of Orthodox Jews has actually been the glue that has kept Jews together during our long exile in the diaspora. It was that commitment and devotion to our laws, our customs, our traditions, our religion and our history that has kept us alive as a people.

However, not quite satisfied with slamming the Orthodox movement, Ronald further expressed concern that the nation state law that Israel recently passed will somehow lead to “broken values.” But once again, Ronald has misread the situation, because rather than being the rejection of our Jewish values, it is in fact a reaffirmation of them!

When you strip away the individual bits of criticism, you get to the crux of what Ronald is really saying, which is this: We aren’t like the Israelis… we’re the ‘good’ Jews of the world, not those ‘bad’ ones in Israel. We are moral and progressive and modern and all those other cool and hip social justice buzzwords that the world really likes.

Unfortunately for him though, that strategy is not working out so well. There has been a dramatic increase in worldwide antisemitism to levels rivaling the 1930’s and 1940’s – and it didn’t just start now, but has been brewing for many years.

Once again, Ronald fails to grasp the reality of what Israel actually faces. He previously lamented “the demise of the two-state solution” where he simply ignored the fact that the entity he is so eager to give a state to, is led by an anti-Semitic dictator. One who has publicly stated his intention of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from his future state. Not to mention continuing the financial rewarding of terrorists who kill innocent Jewish men, women and children.

So, he basically believes in giving a state to an entity who celebrate the murder of Jews.

However, Ronald is right to worry about the future of Jewry and the growing disconnect between Israel and diaspora Jewry, because I, as a diaspora Jew, also have fears. But my fears are not for the State of Israel. My fears are for the Jews in the diaspora, who are assimilating out in an alarming and devastating rate.

And that’s certainly not Israel’s fault.

Because it is Israel that is the center of the Jewish World, not the diaspora. It is Israel that allows Jews to live around the world with pride and with honor – not cower in fear.

Rather than focusing on what’s ‘wrong’ with Israel, Ronald Lauder should spend his time focusing on what’s wrong in the diaspora where assimilation rates, especially among progressive Jews, will almost guarantee the demise of the American Jewish community. Instead, his mandate should be on how Jews in the diaspora can strengthen their own Jewish identity, prevent assimilation and learn more about our Jewish homeland, our Jewish heritage and just how important it is.

Pride should be what he instills, not shame, for it is not Israel losing the diaspora – it’s the diaspora losing Israel.

So while there is an iron dome that protects Israel from rockets and missiles, there’s also a spiritual dome that protects all Jews throughout the world, making it the one place on earth that provides physical and spiritual security for all of us. And that’s something we need to cherish – because our very future depends on it.

Ronald Lauder might be losing his pride in Israel, but I’m also a diaspora Jew, and nothing can make me prouder to say that I love and support my Jewish homeland – the State of Israel. But that’s not just me – it’s millions of Jews all around the world who look to Israel with pride and with love and with honor and with respect.

And that, Mr Lauder, is exactly who we are.

(Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues)

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