Open letter to visiting Diaspora leaders

Instead of rebuilding Israel as part of long-awaited Redemption, Diaspora leaders continued building, strengthening galut bastions. Opinion.

Tzvi Fishman,

Touro Synagogue, oldest in US
Touro Synagogue, oldest in US
iStock

The Torah and the Prophets of Israel state with crystal clarity, again and again, that the exile is a curse and a punishment. Exile is equated with a terrible and frightening disease. The language is brutal and horrific, leaving no room for misunderstanding. Exile from Eretz Yisrael is the worst punishment that can befall the Jewish People.

Given this terrible predicament, the task of Diaspora Jewry was to survive the exile and prepare the wandering Jews for the awaited return to the Land of Israel. The goal of returning to Israel is emphasized in the Torah, and in the visions of our Prophets again and again, more than any other theme. For nearly 2,000 years, we prayed and dreamed about returning to Zion. Then something went terribly wrong. When the State of Israel was established, and we finally had the chance to return home to our Land, the vast majority of Jewish communities in the West turned their backs on the opportunity.

In America, for example, instead of wanting to escape the exile, the Jews chose to stay and strengthen their communities. In defiance of the clear promises of the Torah, the Prophets, and 2,000 years of prayers and dreams, in defiance of the clear discernible fact that G-d was gathering His outcasts back to Zion and miraculously rebuilding the State of Israel into one of the superpowers of the world, the Diaspora community in America decided to remain in exile, living amongst the Gentiles in an alien land.

Instead of rushing to rebuild Israel and take a part in the long-awaited Redemption, the Jewish leaders of the Diaspora continued to build and strengthen their bastions in galut. After 2000 years of yearning, when the time came to return, the Jews of America, and their Jewish leaders, invented a Torah of their own, as if America was the Promised Land of our forefathers, exchanging Avraham Avinu with George Washington. Yes, with their money, the Jews of America helped the young Jewish State. Out of love for our Homeland and concern for the Jews who were rebuilding it, they reached deep into their pockets and contributed to the task. They exerted political pressure on Israel’s behalf. But in the matter of coming themselves, by and large, they failed to heed the call and join the hundreds of thousands of secular pioneers, Sefardi Jews, Yemenite Jews, and Holocaust survivors who were returning to Israel, in accord with ancient prophesies, age-long prayers, and the eternal command of the Torah.

In my humble opinion, with all of its institutions, organizations, synagogues, day schools, and Jewish newspapers, in the all-important matter of returning the outcasts to Zion, American Jewry has failed. Yes, for most of the long and dark exile, it waged a mighty and glorious battle, against all odds, to preserve Jewish traditions and keep the light of Judaism burning, but when the gateway was opened to return to our homeland, it balked. Its task was to keep the remnant of our Nation intact until we could return home to Israel, and when the time came, it neglected to get on the boat. Except for a handful of idealists, Jewish leaders failed to lead the way. Instead of sending their children on aliyah to Israel – they sent them to college in America. Instead of coming to live here, they came, and still come, only to visit.

And in obvious punishment for their preferring to remain amongst the non-Jews in a foreign culture, speaking a foreign language, in a foreign land, assimilation is rising and rising at an unstoppable rate, eating away at American Jewry, just like the Prophets of Israel all warned. The Birthright program is noble indeed, but you cheapen the Land of Israel when you bill it as a 10-day tour. The real birthright of these kids is to live in Israel, not merely to visit. Visiting Israel won’t prevent interfaith marriages. Living here will!

In the opinion of this humble writer, all of the presidents of the Jewish organizations and federations and committees and leagues and unions who don't call upon their members to pack up their belongings and escape from the exile as fast as they can, they all should be replaced with braver souls. With the scourge of intermarriage decimating our ranks, all of the Rabbis who don't urge their congregations to flee to Israel should read through the Torah once again. True, for mature people who are long settled in their ways, the challenge of aliyah is not easy, but any Jewish leader who doesn't exhort his community to leave the galut and rebuild his or her future in Israel betrays his duty as a Jewish leader. Every Jewish parent who doesn’t tell his children that their future lies in Israel fails as a Jewish parent. BECAUSE THE WHOLE GOAL OF THE DIASPORA WAS TO SURVIVE THE EXILE AND PREPARE THE JEWS FOR THE DAY WHEN WE COULD RETURN HOME TO ISRAEL – and that became possible on a mass scale 70 years ago with the establishment of Medinat Yisrael.

Living a life of Torah in Israel is the goal of the Torah, of our Prophets, and the goal of our prayers. The Diaspora isn’t meant to last forever. The curse isn’t supposed to be extended and embraced. As long as Jews remain in America, assimilation will continue to increase. Nothing can stop it. We are meant to come home.




top