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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Diaspora Jews’

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

Malkah on Her Way Back to Israel, Yishai on Driving in the US

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah bring us up to date on what they have learned during their month in the USA. Yishai talks about the large amount of driving he has been doing since beginning his tour in the US and how the music that he played while driving affected his mood and spirit. Malkah talks about the huge differences between shopping in the US and in Israel and how the huge amount of packaging for both products and businesses in the US are really nothing more than a façade for the same products. Yishai ends the segment discussing the importance of family in Israel.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Yishai and Malkah: From Florida to New Jersey

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah kick off this week’s show as they continue their US road trip from Florida to New Jersey. Listen in as they share reflections on Jewish reality from Israeli politics as it looks from America to keeping family connected across the great divide between Israel and the Diaspora communities.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Draft Diaspora Jews into the IDF!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Is a Jewish kid in Brooklyn, or Chicago, or Beverly Hills less Jewish than my kids are? Is the Land of Israel less of a homeland for American Jews than it is for Israelis? Why should we, the Israelis, be the ones to fight the enemies of Israel, and not Diaspora Jews as well?

If you answer, “Because I’m an America citizen,” that doesn’t cut the cake. I’m an America citizen too, but I served in the IDF. The fact that a Jew is a United States citizen, or a German citizen, or a citizen of Zululand, is merely a technicality. So what if you have a U.S. passport? If you move to England, you can become a citizen of England, and from there, you can move to Switzerland and get a Swiss passport too. It’s all just an administrative technicality. A Jew is a Jew. That’s what the Nazis taught us. Whether a Jew was a German, or a Pole, or a Rumanian, or a Hungarian, they were all herded onto trains for the ovens.

Let me try to explain something, please. In this week’s Torah portion, as we receive the Torah at Mount Sinai, we are “like one man with one heart.” At Sinai, we didn’t only receive the Torah, we received a national Israelite soul that made us, and our descendants forever after us, a part of the Israelite Nation. The Jewish People aren’t like other people in the world. Yes, we all have eyes and ears and legs, but whereas other people possess individual souls, we possess the national, collective soul of Clal Yisrael, the Community of Israel, Knesset Yisrael.

Our Sages teach that this national soul is something unique to the Jewish People. Other nations are groupings of individuals who come together for some common interest and purpose, whether it be for self-defense, or economic strength, and the like. They are like individuals who buy stock in a company, in order to benefit from its revenues, but they aren’t the company itself. The Nation of Israel is different. Wherever we may be, we have the unique national soul of the Jewish People who stood at Mount Sinai, which makes a Jew, first and foremost, a Jew wherever he may wander. He may hold an American passport, but his soul is 100% strictly kosher – Hebrew National, to make a pun.

This national soul makes us Israelis wherever we may wander. We are members of the Nation of Israel – the Children of Israel. The word Jew doesn’t exist in the Torah. It’s a deviation of the exile, as in Mordechai the Jew, meaning someone who was exiled from the kingdom of Judah. In our essence, we are the Children of Israel, whether we live in Boston or LA.

True, this national soul doesn’t come to expression when we are alienated from our Land and exiled amongst the nations. Without our own Land, we exist as individuals, operating on a low-level individual soul, while our national soul is in the garage getting fixed. But with our return to our national Land, our giant national soul returns too. In effect, we become giant Jews, part of a powerful Jewish Nation, the reborn Nation of Israel, with a Jewish government, and Jewish economy, and Jewish army. Instead of tiny, lilliputian individual souls, we become national giants – Israelis, Divinely empowered with new found courage and strength.

The Jews of the Diaspora have this giant national soul too, but it’s defused, deactivated, in hibernation, like a vestigial organ, as long as they’re outside of the Land of Israel. But they are the Children of Israel nevertheless. Israel is their one and only true Land, and they have the duty to defend it just like the Israelis who live there.

Jews Who Can’t Speak Hebrew

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Jewish Identity Quiz #2

אמרנו בעבר שכל ילד פורטוריקני בארה”ב יודע לדבר ספרדית בנוסף לאנגלית אף על פי שלא נולד בפורטוריקו. גם כל ילד סיני או קוראני באמריקה יודע לדבר בשפת אבותיו. רק היהודים לא דוברים בשפתם המקורית. אינני יודע למה. כנראה יש סיבה פסיכולוגית עמוקה מאד. אם לאחד ממכם יש את התשובה אשמח לשמוע.

Did you have trouble reading the Hebrew? That’s exactly my point. Some readers say that I’m a crazy fanatic when I say that Diaspora Jews suffer from schizophrenia when it comes to their Jewish identity. For example, even though they are Jewish, many don’t know more than a few simple words in Hebrew. After all, Hebrew is the language of the Jewish People, not English, or German, or Russian, or Yiddish.

Let me ask you, how many Puerto Ricans kids in New York don’t know how to speak Spanish? And look at the Koreans and Chinese in America. All of their kids speak Korean and Chinese as if they were still in Korea and China. And what Moslem kid in America, France, or England doesn’t know how to speak Arabic from the crib? But when it comes to Diaspora Jews, most of their kids hardly know any Hebrew at all. I know this, because we host a lot of Birthright youth at our home in Yerushalayim for Shabbat meals, and almost none of them know Hebrew at all! They are bright, university students, but when it comes to a knowledge of Hebrew, Yiddishkeit, Jewish history, or what’s going on in Israel, they are complete ignoramuses. Totally empty! Isn’t this strange? How can you explain this?

Certainly, Jewish kids aren’t less intelligent than Puerto Ricans and Arabs who have no trouble learning their own languages. Could it be that Diaspora Jews feel so compelled to prove that they are just like their gentile neighbors that they don’t learn Hebrew? Could it be that they are so afraid to have dual identities that they don’t want to learn a strange tongue? Or is it because they have been so long in exile that they don’t see any reason to learn the language of their Forefathers and pass it on to their children for the generations to come?

No wonder assimilation is such a great problem! First you give up wearing Israeli sandals, then you give up eating falafel, then you stop teaching your children Hebrew and tell them that they are Americans like everyone else – and then you’re surprised when Johnny comes home with a Protestant girl for Thanksgiving vacation. It’s as simple as one plus one equals two.

If a child speaks in English, he’ll grow up thinking that he’s English. If he speaks in French, he’ll grow up thinking that he’s French. So why not marry a French girl like everyone else? That’s why Rashi writes that a parent who doesn’t speak in the Holy Tongue to his children is considered as if he is burying them, G-d forbid (Devarim, 11:19). He buries them in a foreign culture which waters down, or cuts them off completely from Torah and their true Jewish roots.

In Israel, thank G-d, all of the children speak Hebrew. Even kids of the Olim, who insist on speaking Diaspora languages at home, learn to speak fluent Hebrew at school. And while there are readers who always cry out that Israelis marry Arabs – the truth is that it isn’t even one percent of the population, compared with the 60%+ assimilation in America and most every other place in the world.

You can get angry at me if you like and continue to keep your heads in the sand. But the writing on the wall is clear. The Diaspora is on the way out. The only future for our children is Israel.

Judaism in a Jar

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

If the recent Sukkot overdose of Shabbat, followed by two days of Yom Tov, and another Shabbat followed by two more days of Yom Tov, isn’t enough to get Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, with its force-feeding of gefilta fish day-after-day, until gefilta fish jelly drips out of people’s noses and horseradish pours out of their ears, I don’t know what it’s going to take until Diaspora Jews are fed up with practicing Judaism in a jar.

With an average of two balls of gefilta fish per meal for the 3 Shabbat meals, and two balls at each of the 2 seudot on Yom Tov times 2 – that makes for 28 gefilta fish balls over the holiday for each and every Jew. For New York’s 1 million Jews, that means that 28,000,000 gefilta fish balls were consumed during Sukkot, not counting the 14,000,000 balls eaten during the two days of Rosh HaShanah and the preceding Shabbat.

It’s a big boom for gefilta fish companies, but a big belly ache for Diaspora Jews, many of whom end up rushing at the end of the holiday to hospitals where emergency rooms are crammed with gefilta-fish-overdosed Jews suffering from Diaspora Poisoning.

[Incidentally, the booming gefilta fish market may get an additional boost from a very unexpected source - U.S. President Obama who, in a bid to attract more Jewish voters, is planning to announce that if he is re-elected, the traditional White-House Thanksgiving Dinner will feature gefilta fish instead of turkey.]

As we’ve written on many occasions, the Torah isn’t meant to be observed in the Diaspora. Judaism isn’t meant to be kept in a jar, but on the mountains and Biblical valleys of Israel. The Torah was given to be performed in Eretz Yisrael. We described how the holiday of Sukkot is natural to the Land of Israel, with sukkah booths all over the country, on terraces, rooftops, street corners, shopping centers, and army bases – not only in back yards in isolated Jewish ghettos. And here in Israel, Sukkot is an official national holiday, with a long 10-day vacation from school, so kids here grow up being proud Jews, and not some minority with a chip on their shoulder for being different than Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Another example is the prayer for rain which we began saying yesterday in the Amidah prayer. As we said it, rain started to fall outside the synagogue window, marking the start of the rainy season in Israel, and a ushering in a united feeling of joy. In America, where it rains all the time, the prayer is meaningless. The same things happens come Hanukah time, when in Israel we say, “A great miracle happened here,” while Diaspora Jews say, “A great miracle happened THERE.” Judaism is happening in Israel.

As long as the curse of the exile was upon us, we had no choice and had to observe whatever individual  commandments we could in the Diaspora, but now that everyone can come home to a national Jewish life in Israel, where Jerusalem is once again the center of world Jewry, the practice of Judaism-in-a-bottle, in the ghettos of foreign, gentile lands is no longer necessary.

So, as we all proclaimed at the conclusion of our Yom Kippur prayers: “Next Year in Jerusalem!” See you here soon!

Microscope Jews

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Usually, I don’t have time during the week to travel around the net and see what other bloggers are writing. But during Sukkot, I found a few spare moments, and to my great chagrin, I found some essays penned by Diaspora Jews who succumbed to the Sin of the Spies in their negative reports of the Holy Land.

These writers come to Israel with their high-powered microscopes and seek out everything bad they can find – apparently to justify their love affair with the gentile lands they adore, instead of fulfilling the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.

One blogger visited the new neighborhood of Migron and concluded, “Who wants to live in a country that kicks Jews out of their homes?” Another found things in Meah Shearim too fanatic to his liking and asked, “Why would anyone want to live in a country like this?” Another found the government too secular for his tastes and wrote, “This isn’t the Holy Land we dreamed of,” as he headed back to the idyllic Promised Land of Brooklyn.

All in all, by focusing their microscopes on things which need correction, these writers turn people off from the mitzvah of living in Israel. The Spies in the wilderness did exactly the same thing in their negative report of the Land. To these microscopic Jews, the giants were too big, there were funerals wherever they looked, the cities were too mighty – therefore, they concluded, the Jews were better off staying in the wilderness – in clear rebellion against G-d’s commandment to dwell in the Land.

Thank G-d that Avraham wasn’t a microscope Jew. Even though the Land of Israel was rampant with idol worship, he gladly packed up his suitcases to dwell in the Holy Land.

What the lovers of the exile don’t realize is that the Holy land is holy, in and of itself, whether the Jews there are too religious, or not religious enough. If some Ultra Orthodox Jews are crazy, or some seculars Jews are traitors to Jewish tradition and values, is this a reason to reject the Holy Land and discourage Jews from living there?

Today is the yahrtzeit of the Gaon of Vilna. He taught that the Sin of the Spies appears in every generation, and that people don’t realize that they are caught in the kelipah of the very same terrible transgression of speaking evil about the Land (“Kol HaTor,” Ch.6).

The Gaon also taught that there are only two mitzvot that we do with all of our bodies: dwelling in the sukkah, and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. Just as sukkah must be built, “v’lo min ha’asuee,” meaning it can’t be ready-made, so too must we take an active part in the building and settlement of the Holy Land, and not wait in Brooklyn or Beverly Hills for the Israelis, or Mashiach, to do all the work before we come.

Criticizing things which need correction certainly has a place, but discouraging people from living in the Holy Land because of faults here and there, is certainly the wrong conclusion – no matter how much a Diaspora writer wants to justify his love of gentile lands, and his failure to take an active role in making Israel the place of his dreams.

Hag Samaoch from the wonderful and eternally holy Land of Israel!

Survey: Israelis Split over U.S. Role in Reaching Peace

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

According to the 2012 B’nai B’rith World Center Survey on Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward Diaspora Jewry, 34 percent of respondents said the U.S. has impeded the peace process over the past few years, 33 percent said it has promoted progress, and 33 percent said they did not know whether the U.S. had impeded or promoted progress.

In addition to questions about the U.S. role in the peace process, the respondents — 507 Israeli Jews aged 18 or older — were asked about other issues, including relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, global anti-Semitism, and recent calls American Jews should support a boycott of Israeli settlements.

An overwhelming 80 percent of respondents support using taxes to fund Diaspora Jewish youth visiting Israel, with fifteen percent opposing.

Some 56 percent support creating a “Jewish Parliament” that would represent Diaspora Jews. 40 percent favor the body having only voluntary consultative status. 25 percent would give it mandatory consultative status, while eighteen percent would give the body the right to propose legislation to the Knesset.

But Israelis are guarded about granting direct political access to those living beyond its borders: 51 percent strongly oppose allowing citizens residing outside of Israel to elect Knesset member, while 29 percent support it. An even greater number (63 percent) oppose allowing Diaspora Jews to elect “a few” Knesset members to represent their interests, although 21 percent support the idea.

Turning to global anti-Semitism, 51 percent of respondents said that “Encouraging Aliya” is the best government response to anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of Israelis (76 percent), disagree with calls on American Jews to “boycott the settlements,” while thirteen percent supported such a boycott.

B’nai B’rith World Center director Alan Schneider emphasized that the survey showed a connection between Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

“This survey has demonstrated the enduring connection between Israelis and Diaspora Jews,” Schneider said in a statement. “Clearly, Israelis are committed to finding a vehicle for including and expanding the opinions and participation of Diaspora Jews in Israel.”

The survey was conducted by KEEVOON Research on June 20; it has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

JTA Contributed to this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/survey-israelis-split-over-u-s-role-in-reaching-peace/2012/06/28/

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