Today is the 16th of Tammuz 5783, and July 5, 2023
Reflections of the Fourth
Independence Day, known colloquially as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence, ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, establishing the United States of America.
As the day began yesterday, I knew it was July 4.
Its most practical manifestation was my “freedom” to park my car on my block without worrying about alternate side parking regulations as street cleaning was suspended for the holiday.
Since I did not have to worry about moving my vehicle by 10:30 AM, I decided to utilize the newly found time to ponder the existential reality of my life in the United States of America.
Overall, the overwhelming and dominant emotion which I feel is certainly Hokoras HaTov.
Indeed, gratitude is, I would argue, the most compelling emotion of a Jew in America.
Where else in our long diasporic history have we found safety, equal protection, and, most importantly, freedom to practice our religion unrestricted and openly than in the United States of America?
Where else have the Jewish people been privileged to live as anyone else, anywhere we chose?
With Hashem’s help and the freedom accorded us as equal citizens of our host country, we have achieved success beyond anyone’s most hopeful dreams.
Many of us are familiar with the following story, which illustrates the dismal future most predicated awaited American Jewry:
Shortly after the wartime arrival of Rav Elya Meir Bloch of the Telz Yeshivah in Cleveland, he visited a seforim store on New York’s Lower East Side in search of the sefer Ketzos Hachoshen.
The store owner reached up to a dusty shelf and pulled down the single copy in stock.
Handing it to his illustrious customer, the proprietor declared, “Rabbi, this is likely the last Ketzos that will ever be sold in America!”
(“The Clout of Ketzos”- by Dovi Safier and Yehuda Geberer- Mishpacha Magazine, February 8, 2022)
Despite the proprietor’s discouraging assessment of the vitality of the Torah in America, Torah learning has, with the help of Hashem, taken root and continues to grow and flourish on American soil.
Yet, simultaneously, these freedoms have come with strings attached.
For the overwhelming majority of Jews who have made their home on these shores, our host country’s inviting and enticing culture has proven to be a fertile ground for unprecedented acculturation and assimilation.
Intermarriage is rampant, as is a general demise of affiliation by most Jews with Judaism or Israel.
We live in a cultural “Tale of Two Cities.”
Lakewood, New Jersey versus Lakewood, California.
Lakewood, NJ, hosts the largest yeshiva in the world outside of Eretz Yisroel.
It is home to more Yeshivas, Kollelim, and Torah learning than any city outside the Land of Israel in Jewish history.
There is another Lakewood.
There is Lakewood, California.
A quick list of the Jewish synagogues in Lakewood, California, informs of the condition of Judaism there.
On the “Best Synagogues” list are two “synagogues” called Shomrey Tzedek Messianic Synagogue and Beit Lechem Messianic Congregation.
The names of the places mentioned above, unfortunately, are indicative of the sad state of most of our Jewish brethren in America.
Probably, most Jews in Lakewood, California, are apathetic at best, and at worst, some (hopefully, few) have even embraced the dominant religion of our host country.
The two Lakewoods represent both the benefits and dangers of living in the land of the free.
I am filled with gratitude, yet, simultaneously remain on guard.
Freedom is a wonderful gift.
Until it’s not.