Latest update: December 18th, 2013
On the list of really difficult dilemmas, this has to be in the top 10. Should the State of Israel, fast becoming the biggest—and certainly the most Jewish identified—Jewish center in the world, make an effort to save the second largest Jewish center from disappearing?
According to an AP report Monday, headlined “Israel reaches out to save US Jewish community,” more than 100 Israeli leaders gathered with Jewish-American counterparts in Jerusalem last month to discuss the “daunting mission” of saving Jewish life in North America.
In my opinion, Israel must invest only in one, narrow, even narrow minded effort: bringing Jews from the West to Israel, before it’s too late. Be the immigration country you’re supposed to be. Instead of spending money on strengthening Jewish identity in countries where such an identity is borderline meaningless—create better incentives for Jews to make Aliyah.
The economic crash is not going away any time soon in the U.S. and Western Europe, even as things look less terrible than they did 5 years ago. Israel should make it its business to entice a million Western Jews to make the move, by offering them a better life in the Jewish State.
Having made the move myself, with my family, only two years ago, I can tell you that besides the great weather and spiritual advantages, Israel also has a robust economy, where an educated Jew can make a future for himself or herself, and a fantastic healthcare system, where no one, but no one is left behind. But Israel should invest in making its system easier for newcomers to navigate, and, most crucially, create attractive housing opportunities across the country.
According to AP, Israel has invested more than $125 million trying to bring young Jews to visit, as a way of strengthening their ties with the Jewish homeland. More than 300,000 young Jews from around the world have been brought over by Birthright, with funding from Israel and Jewish philanthropists.
But studies show that the effect of the trips is usually short termed.
It’s no secret that assimilation and intermarriage are shrinking Jewish American communities at an ever faster pace, the notorious Pew study has found that young American Jews are growing increasingly estranged from Judaism.
Moreover, many American Jews, especially the younger ones, who are mostly socially liberal, have serious doubts about Israel’s security policies. Would they accept help from Israel, which they’re often more likely to boycott?
American Jews who are anti-Israel have reached that position over two or three key issues, all of them born by media distortion and outrageous political hypocrisy: the right of Jews to live in the disputed territories; the right of women to pray at the Kotel wearing talit and tefillin; and, maybe, Israel’s African illegal migrants problems.
“An Israel which doesn’t address these issues is an Israel which in the long run endangers the relationship with world Jewry,” Donniel Hartman told AP. He said Jews who don’t believe Israel shares their liberal values may disconnect from it.
It used to be that U.S. Jews saw themselves as Israel’s lifeline, raising millions of dollars and lobbying government on its behalf. At least that was the common perception. But today Israel is an affluent country, with a thriving economy, a stunningly innovative high tech industry, and the strongest army in the Middle East.
It is also the superior intellectual and religious center of the Jewish world, far exceeding the accomplishment of the U.S. Jewish community. And so, despite the fact that many American Jews aren’t happy with it, Israel is the natural choice when it comes to saving their communities from oblivion.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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