The astronomically high rate of assimilation and intermarriage in America is a given. And dealing with it has ranged from accepting the inevitable to massive efforts in kiruv which, Baruch Hashem, have yielded results – but not enough to stem the tide. I’d like to suggest an alternative solution – mass aliyah of non-religious Jews to Israel.
I was speaking with a co-worker before Pesach who told me she had been up till midnight the previous night helping her daughter with a presentation on Makkat Barad for school. This Israeli woman’s ex-husband is not Jewish. Her daughter goes to a completely secular school and the family is also completely secular. And yet, the little girl had to do a presentation on Makkat Barad – the plague of hail.
It’s impossible to live in Israel without keeping a wealth of mitzvot. Whether you mean to or not; it’s just par for the course. Walking four cubits in the Land of Israel is a mitzvah. Learning Torah (which all children do in school though, admittedly, at different levels) is a mitzvah. Saying Shabbat Shalom or a holiday greeting, likewise. But there are more basic ones.
Every Jew in Israel (and Christian and Muslim) knows when the holidays are. Businesses and banks are closed. All major supermarkets (and most groceries) as well as all the hotels are kosher. Non-kosher food is available but the default is eating kosher. The most stalwart atheists say Baruch Hashem, B’ezrat Hashem and other phrases that often belie or contradict their mindset. And kiruv happens naturally in Israel as everyone has a religious neighbor or friend or co-worker who resonate with kedusha.
At my above-mentioned work, I entered the cafeteria and heard one (non-religious) worker telling another about someone who had been unable to get pregnant and only did when she made aliyah, segueing into how Israel is the land of miracles. This kind of conversation can be overheard everywhere – on the bus or in the street – when it comes to recognizing miracles there is no religious discrimination; when it comes to G-d, He is acknowledged every day by the people of the Holy Land, no matter what they claim their beliefs to be. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that you don’t overhear these kind of conversations at the bus stops of secular communities in America.
There is a reciprocal dynamic in Israel; the people infuse the Land with holiness and the Land infuses the people with holiness. Spirituality is literally part of the oxygen we breathe.
But your average American (unaffiliated or secular) Jew doesn’t have even a percentage of the knowledge about religion that is just part of the culture in Israel. And so, they will much more quickly become disenfranchised from Judaism than their Israeli counterparts.
So instead of trying to get them to be religious in America, try and get them to make aliyah. Of course this will create a problematic demographic that will shift the percentage of religious Jews. So the solution is obvious: all religious Jews must make aliyah as well. And they can then continue their kiruv efforts in Israel.
The Torah was given to be kept in Israel. G-d took the Jews out of Egypt and gave them the Torah on their way to keeping it in Israel. There is no future for the Jewish people anywhere else. Certainly not for those who know next to nothing about Judaism.
So please bring them home. And come home too.