I just returned from a visit to the US, a place I once called home. It is always an experience of mixed emotions and observations.
My first observation upon landing at JFK was that I was one of the few white faces in the arrivals terminal. It seemed like the “Non Aligned Nations” had all their delegates out to greet me.
When I left for Israel and Aliyah from that same airport in 1977 it was a different world.
I was happy to find that the best deli in the world is still alive and well in Brooklyn. Same is true for smoked and pickled fish. The shopping is great and where I stayed in Brooklyn, there was a minyan or a Torah class on demand. The Orthodox community that I stay with is doing very well.
I spent one weekend in the lovely and upscale “Hamptons,” and another where my favorite boy hood memories lie – the “Catskills”. Truly beautiful places. I appreciate those never-ending mountains and lakes even more than Brooklyn corned beef – I think.
This trip, I did not experience or observe any anti-Semitism. (During my previous visit, I was shocked when someone on a super market line began ranting about “you people” who think you control the city.. I felt certain then, that if one person yells it there are others in hearing range who agree. My hosts thought I was paranoid
I did not experience anything like that this time. On the contrary, people were rather nice. Orthodox and other Jews are doing well financially. They (the Orthodox) live in robust and supportive communities and they(Orthodox) increasingly are united politically (conservative, firmly pro Israel..)
Is my conclusion then that things have never been better for American Jewry in 2015?
As one who chose Israel over the US many years ago, I know that my conclusions may be some what prejudiced but I try to be a a student of history and seek the bigger picture. How can I ignore the very surprising twists and turns and final chapters of the main Diaspora communities in history?
I remember telling myself and others that one main reason for my making Aliyah was to be certain that my grand children would marry Jewish. The trend was clear back in the seventies and the curve on the graph has kept rising. How much more can it rise before it shoots off the page? It would seem that the question is not how much more, but when…
Most studies tell us that here are between five and six million Jews in the US today, less than 2% of the population.. When I was a lad, we were told we were six million strong, a very influential 3% of the population. Then, we were the powerful big brother to little Israel of only about two million embattled refugees. (Today Israel has over six million Jews and is a high tech power).
Since then, the general US population has grown with the Jews having (non Orthodox ) the lowest birth rates in the country. Assimilation(among all Jews) has reached over 60%. If these trends do not take an unexpected turn there will be a time when the Jewish population will be down to one million – just about all of them Orthodox. At that point, there will be perhaps thirty million Muslim Americans.
AIPAC,the ADL etc.. if they are still supported by the tiny Jewish community, shall be poor competitors to its large Muslim counter parts. US politicians will know to which dinner invitations they must reply and which ones are politically inadvisable.
The current university students exposed to the relentless anti Israel / anti Semitic campaign on campuses will be the ones running the country in twenty years.
There will be a point when the remaining Jews who have not yet totally assimilated will begin to feel very alone. It is then that they will consider the idea of making Aliyah as more than just a yearly Passover promise/ritual.
Our sages tell us that 80% per cent of the Jews chose to remain in the “flesh pots” of Egypt.
Hopefully the remaining 20% in the US will not be rushed out before their bread has a chance to rise…
And please don’t forget the corned beef. Please!