Paris, Jerusalem, Copenhagen – attacks on Jews seem ubiquitous these days. Shootings, stabbings, beatings, mob attacks. The UN is consistently, flagrantly, and unfairly anti-Israel. The BDS movement promulgates malicious lies about Israel and tries to upend Jewish students and professors on college campuses everywhere. If you wear a yarmulke in certain cities around the world it’s like painting a neon target on your body.
Extreme right-wing anti-Jewish political parties have risen in Hungary, France, Greece, and other countries. Even in America there are deadly attacks on Jewish institutions. Some say anti-Semitism is more robust and virulent today than at any time since the Holocaust.
And yet this is still be one of the best times ever to be Jewish. Here are ten reasons why:
- The Jewish homeland is stronger than ever. Not only is there a Jewish nation that welcomes all Jews, it is a powerhouse on the world scene. Israel has one of the best-trained armed forces, is a technological innovator and leader, and finds itself constantly strengthened and made more vibrant by Jews from all over the world who make aliyah or who take refuge there. And despite threats of attack from its neighbors and nuclear annihilation from Iran, Israel knows how to defend itself.
- There is a universal feeling among Jews that we are one people. Camaraderie may have always existed between Jews, but today, with international travel affordable and Jews traveling all over, being embraced as a landsman by other Jews is as important as ever. If you visit a foreign country and meet a fellow Jew, an immediate bond likely will develop and you may even be invited to a nice Shabbat dinner or holiday meal. Just don’t discuss politics or religious beliefs.
- It’s never been easier to be Jewish. From the array of kosher foods available to synagogues in almost every country (thanks in large part to Chabad), practicing Judaism and living like a Jew can be done virtually anywhere. Of course it may be harder to practice Judaism in Odessa than in Brooklyn, but thanks to technology, the availability of Jewish products, services, and synagogues can (depending on where one lives) be just a click or two away.
- Jewish organizations that provide social services are everywhere. Jewish agencies that offer succor are nothing new – they’ve been around in the U.S. since the 1800s to provide relief for needy Jewish immigrants – but today there are Jewish organizations of all sorts everywhere that serve to help people not just financially but in all manner of ways.
- There is more Jewish information available today than ever before. Would you like to know if a particular food is kosher? What time Shabbos or Yom Tov begins and ends? What restaurants are kosher in a city you are visiting? Do you have a question about Jewish history? Jewish ritual? There are websites that provide answers to any imaginable Jewish question. With the Internet, anyone can have instant access to Jewish information.
- Jewish culture is flourishing. You can find Jewish themes everywhere – in art, theater, movies, television, music, literature, and more. There is a renaissance of Yiddish language and klezmer music. Indeed, Jewish culture is so pervasive that one doesn’t have to play the soundtrack to “Fiddler On the Roof” (even though it’s back on Broadway) yet again.
- Orthodox Judaism is in the ascendance. According to the Pew Research Center, of all Jewish groupings in America, only the Orthodox are growing – quickly and by a lot. And what could be better news than that? Orthodoxy is the historical pillar of Judaism, and more Orthodox Jews will help ensure the spread and strengthening of Torah observance.
- Jews are more accepted today than ever before in the U.S. Sure, there are pockets and incidents of anti-Semitism, but what else is new? Once upon a time many colleges had quotas limiting the enrollment of Jewish students and entire fields of endeavor – banking, law, etc. – were severely restricted to Jews. Today a Jew can sit on the Supreme Court or be a senator or governor or even run for president of the United States.
- Jewish life is being revitalized in a number of countries. Poland, Russia, and Germany are just a few that are witnessing the rebuilding of Jewish communities. In these countries, where Jews were once persecuted or worse, Jewish populations are stabilizing or growing, synagogues and Jewish schools are increasing, and kosher restaurants and supermarkets are opening.
- You can hold your head up high as a Jew. Jews have made spectacular contributions to the world in every endeavor known to man, and well out of proportion to their miniscule numbers. A Jew should always feel proud to be a Jew.
While we need to continue being vigilant and circumspect, we should also look on the bright side and appreciate why these are great times for Jews. Of course, there is much work to be done, and Jews will be right there to do that. Indeed, Jews will always be trying to make the world a better place – for Jews and non-Jews alike.