I live on the American frontier in the makeshift camp of the resurgent legions of Judah. It is almost midnight. Joyous songs of heavenly praise are filtering their way into my consciousness through a little too much Slivovitz, and I am wondering how much sleep I really need before I have to get up for morning prayers.
Across from me, tapping his fingers, sits a nineteen-year-old fair-haired Danish boy. His name is Adam. He is the one who mentioned that his father designed System 7, IBM’s first stand-alone computer system to store information in silicon memory chips. I told him that it was one of the computers I used as a doctoral student at Princeton University, half a lifetime ago, to investigate the neurobiology of learning.
Acknowledged as a genius during his brief stay at Sweden’s University of Lund, Adam is multitasking before my eyes, one hemisphere of his brain contemplating the private words that our rosh yeshiva shared with him earlier in the evening, the other struggling to keep up with the tongue-twisting Hebrew of our roof-lifting niggun.
Scanning the array of newly-minted Orthodox Jews around me, I note that Adam is in good company. The grandfather of the 20-year-old Texan to my left designed the USS Nautilus – the first nuclear submarine; the father of the Texan’s roommate is a mathematics professor at the University of California; and the father of the Berkeley grad and virtuoso clarinetist who just sat down to my right helped put the first man on the moon and engineered the missile defense shield that will soon be deployed to deter the North Koreans.
There is an irony in this concentration of mathematical and engineering yichus at our Shabbos table. For it appears that the children of the generation of Jewish-Americans (and Jewish-Danes) that helped create today’s technology economy have abandoned the quest for the new new thing, together with their scholarships at Brown, Oxford, MIT, et al., and are preparing themselves instead to fill the ranks of the decimated leadership of Judea.
A century and a half after the mass assimilation of European Jewry – at a time when one out of every two married, non-Orthodox Jewish-Americans is married to a non-Jew and demographers are heralding this community’s similar demise; when it is common wisdom among Western academics to relegate Jewish civilization to second-class status (see Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations) and disparage the alliance between the United States and Israel (see John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby,” in the London Review of Books); when Europeans are financing what promises to be their final genocide against Judea, and the uneducated offspring of Israel’s secular elite have been shamed into abandoning Zion for politically correct, “high-culture” careers in New York and Los Angeles – these gifted children of America’s best and brightest are immersing themselves in the mikvah of mussar and Gemara and preparing themselves to return to war.
An hour or so up the New York Thruway, where exurbia gives way to the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains, one can detect a change in the atmosphere. The air has started to recover its sweetness and the land its natural contours. The manicured lawns of Pearl River have given way to simpler, woodland yards and the average number of children per family has swelled well beyond the Blue State norm. The harried gait commonplace in Manhattan has been supplanted by a stately and dignified purposefulness, and the cotton-based, tediously revealing casual wear of the American uniform has surrendered to woolen suits, silk bekishes, and large black hats.
Welcome to Monsey, New York, or as many here wryly refer to the temporary home that remains “in the uttermost West” Ir HaKodesh – the Holy City.