Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Save the Diaspora" - Why?

The Jerusalem Post, in a recent editorial entitled Save the Diaspora, has found the latest cause for the Jewish State of Israel to champion:

According to data presented this week by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, based on studies by the demographer Sergio DellaPergola, America's 5.28 million-strong Jewish community is but 45,000 people larger than Israel's... Israeli Jewry is growing rapidly while the Diaspora's current population of 7.75 million Jews is already a drastic 2.25 million people smaller than a mere 35 years ago, according to DellaPergola's studies.


It is clear to anyone who is intellectually honest that the Jewish community of the United States is in a rapid decline, that the State of Israel is primed to become the largest Jewish community in the world (the only one with a positive growth rate), and that the future of the Jewish People is going to be taking place in the Land of Israel - which is consistent with the fundamental principles of both Judaism and most streams of Zionism.

As such, the logical conclusion that the State of Israel should be drawing from these statistics would be for her to be doing everything in her power to ensure that the shifting of the center of Jewish life from New York & Washington to Jerusalem & Tel Aviv is done as smoothly as possible, and to begin assisting American Jewry in coming to terms with this new reality and demonstrating to them that the Jewish State of Israel can be considered a viable option for those interested in continuing their Jewish lives.

Makes sense, right?

Wrong. At least if you write Op-Eds for the Jerusalem Post.

This is anything but a welcome trend... The way we see it, the demographic and spiritual survival of the Diaspora is vital for the future of the Jewish nation in general, and the Jewish state in particular... We, as the Jewish state, must get down to the business of nourishing the Diaspora... The next government should formally define the revitalization of the Diaspora as a strategic aim.


I will be the first to admit that I would have liked to see the State of Israel become the largest Jewish community in the world through Aliyah alone, and not through the assistance of assimilation. Yet, what is the basis for the claim that the Jewish People and State can't survive without a strong Jewish presence outside of the State of Israel?

We have witnessed over and over again, throughout the long and tortuous 2,000 year Exile, that the Jewish People can not find any lasting peace and security (whether physical or spiritual), and that sooner or later, they will be asked or forced to leave their countries of residence. This was the reasoning behind the establishment of political Zionism and the quest of the Jewish People to re-establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel; the re-established State of Israel would be a place where the Jewish People could live as masters of their own destiny and not need to rely on the kindness and goodwill of the nations of the world.

That being said, I am in favor of the Jewish State of Israel providing the Jewish communities of the world with assistance for endeavors that are meant to strengthen their Jewish identity, and their connection to the Jewish People, State and the Land of Israel. Yet, by no means should the State of Israel be interested in "revitalizing" the Diaspora, and I say this for three reasons:

1st, it's a bad investment. Despite all the resources (financial and otherwise) that the State of Israel has allocated to trying to "revitalize" the Diaspora, on the whole, there continue to be fewer and fewer Jews to show for it. Programs like birthright and MASA that strengthen Jewish identity while strengthening the connection to the Jewish People and State are worthwhile investments, and should continue to be funded, but they seem to represent the exception rather than the rule.

2nd, the Jewish People belong in Israel - both from a Zionist and Jewish perspective. Why should the State of Israel help the Jewish communities of the world do something that is contrary to their own well-being and that of the State of Israel? Granted, The State of Israel can't force any Jew to come and live in Israel, but that doesn't mean that the State of Israel needs to assist them in their decision to remain in the Exile.

The proper approach that the State of Israel should be taking is the one that was taken a few years ago in response to the economic crisis in Argentina. The State of Israel opened her doors to the Jews of Argentina, offering them a lifeline - a way to get back up on their feet, through their choosing to come home to Israel where the Israeli government was waiting with open arms to do everything possible to assist them - and many took them up on their offer.

3rd, imagine what an impact the Aliyah of 1-2 million American Jews would have on the State of Israel! Imagine the impact on the economy, on the way people do business and treat each other. Imagine the impact that 2 million Jews from AMERICA would do to the morale of this country. Imagine an Israel that can tap into the American know-how, drive, passion and creativity. Imagine the impact that 2 million Americans would have on the way Israel's electoral and judicial systems, as well as the media operated. The Jewish State would no longer need to consider retreating from parts of her Homeland due to demographic considerations. There would be enough Jews to settle the Negev, the Galil, the Golan, Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

Would Israel miss the millions of dollars donated annually by American Jews? Sure, but right now, Israel misses actual Jews more. Also, imagine an Israel where all of these wealthy Jews brought their capital, as well as their businesses over to Israel and invested them into the economy - that would be doing more for Israel than any check from America ever could. Additionally, with the American Jewish community in decline, and with the younger generation of American Jews showing a disconnect with the Jewish State, it can be expected that in the not-to-distant future, the stream of American $$$ is going to dry up.

For all those reasons and so many more, it is in the absolute best interests of the Jewish State of Israel to do everything it can to allow Jerusalem to become the center of the Jewish world, in mind, spirit and body. The American Jewish community is in decline, following the natural course of all Jewish communities in Exile throughout the last two thousand years.

The United States of America has been good to the Jewish People and State, and the American Jewish community has, by and large, been a tremendous asset and faithful ally, and for all of this the State of Israel should be appreciative. However, the State of Israel can't afford to let nostalgia stand in the way of Jewish destiny - and that Jewish destiny is playing itself out in the Land of Israel.

To my Jewish brothers and sisters in the Diaspora (AKA: Exile): Come home now, while good seats are still available... (Or, act now and avoid the Mashiach rush).



3 Comments:

Well, I kind of wrote something similar to this today (actually mine was a very brief piece about Jews pursuing the love of the goyim) but the idea of the "disappearing Jew" was the same.

The diaspora Jew is a dying breed because of assimilation... the "New" Jew is intoxicated with the idea of being a goyish-Jew.

In the end, aliyah is the only way to save your descendants and guarantee that they remain Jewish.

By Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report, at Wed Jan 25, 02:35:00 AM GMT+2  

Excellent commentary on a difficult issue. Before reading my list, I’d like to state for the record that I am Zionist and do intend to make aliya some day. In the meantime, here are my top 6 arguments of why Diaspora Jewry is necessary and needs to be supported by Israel for as long as possible.

1. The Diaspora’s intellectual contribution to marinating a plurality of Jewish belief and practice. Although some believe Judaism would be richer if all Jews were orthodox, I don’t. The many innovations in Jewish practice that have come from the Diaspora experience, from chassidut to recontsructionism are valued cultural assets. To do away with the Diaspora would be to do away with Jewish pluralism.

2. Just as Diasporaniks need Israel as a place of refuge, so to do Israelis need the Diaspora for some time out of Israel where they can still feel part of a Jewish community. There are many hundreds of thousands of Israelis travelling and living outside of Israel for various reasons. Where would they be without the welcome mat of Diaspora Jewry.

3. For the bulk of our 4000 year history, Jews have not been independent and lived under the governance of others. In this time we have developed many rituals that have enabled us to survive much better than have the ancient Egyptians or philistines. Why does Judaism survive and throve so well in galut? As more Israelis become secular and show a complete ignorance of Jewish tradition, where will they turn to when they want to experience traditional Judaism?

By Blogger Ittay, at Wed Jan 25, 03:33:00 AM GMT+2  

Ittay:

But remember, if it weren't for your own frum ancestors, you probablly wouldn't be Jewish today. Even the leftists who despise the observant would not be able to call themselves Jewish if it weren't for their own orthodox ancestory.

As for needing the diaspora Jewry, no way. Israel needs all Jews to be in the Jewish nation. All we need is Hashem, and by making aliyah, we show Hashem that we still believe in our eternal covenant.. and then we won't need to rely on the goyim for anything.

By Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report, at Wed Jan 25, 04:57:00 AM GMT+2  

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