Protesters confront each other at UCLA
Protesters confront each other at UCLAREUTERS/David Swanson

There’s a popular apologue known as The Boiling Frog Syndrome. Based on an old urban legend, it features a simple premise: If a frog is suddenly dropped into a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately leap out, trying to avoid a painful death. But if the frog is dropped into a pot filled will cool, pleasant water which is then gradually heated, the frog will endure the rising temperatures until it’s too late and he is boiled alive.

In psychology, this metaphor is used to describe a situation where humans in certain conditions, conditions which grow increasingly more uncomfortable, continue to get used to the growing hardships and remain in the increasingly unhealthy situation until there is no longer any way out.

As the changes in public life have demonstrated since October 7th, Jews all over the world have become the proverbial frogs.

This phenomenon certainly did not begin on October 7th. Any honest sociological assessment of world Jewry will find that conditions for Jews have been steadily and progressively declining for most of recent history. Each generation faces successively more pressing challenges and more difficult circumstances than the one preceding it. Every few years, an updated Pew Research Center survey is published, filled with new dire warnings and heartbreaking statistics.

Before October 7th, a large part of the danger was spiritual in nature. For decades, community leaders railed against rising intermarriage rates, now exceeding 90% in some areas. Community originations warned about a growing apathy towards Judaism in each succeeding generation. Assimilation among Jewish youth became the rule rather than the exception. Even religious communities were not spared the destruction. How many children raised in Torah-observant homes have been seduced by the siren-song of Western civilization?

And while more and more Jews defect to Western values, the very same values continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate. The decline of morality means that what was unthinkable just a few years ago is not only the norm today, but publicly celebrated as the right way to act. Traditional values and standards are publicly attacked and mocked. In such an environment, it’s little wonder that the Western world has degenerated into its current state of decay. While many decry the dangers of environmental pollution, few speak about the spreading spiritual smog that is slowly but surely polluting the world’s soul.

This is the world that for generations, Jews have struggled to be a part of, attempting to reach its highest echelons. Seduced by the potential for material wealth and social success, they justify their actions by insisting that they are part of the great framework of the modern world. This is especially true in America. Those who believe in the dream of the goldene medina stubbornly refuse to wake up.

When October 7th happened, it caused a paradigm shift not only for Israel but for Jews the world over. The threat of annihilation was no longer a theoretical consideration, but a concrete reality. Worse still, the threat transformed from a spiritual one to one that was all too physical.

Witness the violence towards Jews in the half year since the attack. Antisemitic incidents across the US last year broke all previous records, fueled by the Oct. 7th Hamas terror attack on Israel, according to the Anti-Defamation League annual audit.

The total number of antisemitic incidents tallied in 2023 was 8,873, a 140% surge from 2022's record, marking the highest annual total since the ADL began tracking in 1979. Among these, 5,204 occurred post-Oct. 7th. In 2023, the US averaged 24 antisemitic incidents per day, with harassment and vandalism seeing significant spikes. The 2023 incidents also included vandalism of Jewish student centers and synagogues, bomb threats, and chants at demonstrations that called for the death of Jews and the destruction of Israel. New York City was a special hotspot, with over half of the state's incidents occurring there, including 217 cases of vandalism, 499 of harassment, and 51 of assault. The majority of assaults targeted Orthodox Jews.

For Jews outside of Israel, the world changed overnight. College campuses, once the bastions of rational thought and free speech, have become the nexus of levels of Jew-hatred unseen since Nazi Germany. Jewish students are attacked daily while their classmates openly call for their deaths and university leaders willfully ignore their cries. The meticulously planned infiltration of American universities by pro-Palestinian Arab agitators, supported by billions of dollars in Qatar funding for those institutions, while often illegal and unreported, has been an overwhelming success.

Cities once known for multiculturalism and acceptance have been taken over by violent radicals, with Jews witnessing their own neighbors screaming “Death to Jews” and chanting for genocide.

This fire of hatred is fed daily with a steady supply of anti-Jewish libels proudly spread by celebrities, politicians, and at times, even by Jews themselves. These are accepted as reality and repeated to such a degree that for many, it’s the only truth they ever hear. The Palestinian Arab media machine, funded by Muslim foreign powers with unlimited deep pockets has awakened Western latent antisemitism and triumphed beyond belief in its propaganda efforts. Lies are constantly presented as reality while facts are continually made to give way to a compelling narrative. Jews the world over have seen themselves transformed from upright citizens to public enemies overnight.

The effects on Jewish life have been glaringly visible. Jews have been warned against wearing a Star of David or any Jewish symbol. Many Jews have removed their mezuzahs from their doors out of fear of reprisal from the very neighbors they once considered friends. Jewish events require heavy security and the locations of these events are oftentimes not publicized. Armed security at shuls and Jewish centers is now the norm.

Once such precautions might have seemed excessive, but now they’re justified almost daily. Social media platforms are filled with new videos of Jews being harassed, of antisemitic attacks, and of calls for the deaths of Jews from supposedly moderate, mainstream citizens in nations the world over.

While America has been the focal point of much of the violence, post-October 7th Jew hatred is truly a global phenomenon. Across Europe, the streets are filled with protestors calling for the destruction not just of Israel, but of the very Jews they live alongside with. In Paris a Jewish woman was kidnapped and raped, with the attacker justifying his crime by claiming it was to "take revenge for Palestine." South Africa, long unsafe for Jews, has become outwardly aggressive to them. In Australia, rioters fill cities with changes of “Gas the Jews” while the police sit by. The world, it seems, has at last found a common cause in being united against its Jews.

This is the environment in which the majority of Jews willingly chose to exile themselves. A world where they must hide who they are. A world where long-time friends are revealed to have hearts dripping with hatred. Worse still, it’s a world they chose not only to live in but the one in which they have chosen to raise their children.

In staying, Jews face no good options for their children. As is becoming the case far too often, these children will fall under the sway of the influences around them. One has only to look at the brainwashed Jewish youth, standing alongside the very people who want them dead and calling for their own annihilation to see how lost they have become. Jews abandoning their Jewishness is hardly new, but the consequences have never been as dangerous. Staying means risking that today’s children will become tomorrow’s enemies.

Those Jewish youth who do manage to stay true to their Jewishness face their own challenges. They are sent to survive in a world that actively wants them gone. As the recent banning of Jewish professors and the many cases of Jewish students being barred entry show, even if they want to come, they are not wanted.

If anything, the future they have to look forward to is even worse. A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll in December found that 51% of Americans aged 18-25 say Israel should be “ended” and turned into a Palestinian state. A Wall Street Journal survey of 250 American college students revealed that 86% of them support the pro-Palestinian Arab chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine should be free!” As the years progress, these same antisemites will find themselves increasingly in positions of power.

Today, they are useful idiots on campus, tomorrow they will be the leaders of their industries. A recent study found that by 2030, roughly one in three leaders in American life will be anti-Israel and implicitly anti-Jewish. By 2040, it will be closer to six in ten. The damage they have been able to do to Jewish students is terrifying. What will be the case when they have the power of society’s largest institutions behind them?

The future of Jewish youth in the West is bleak. Even if they manage to survive higher education with their minds intact, they will be sent out to find jobs in companies whose managers once shouted “Gas the Jews” and “From the river to the sea.” This, assuming that they even manage to get themselves hired anywhere in the first place.

And so, the question remains, why stay? Even if you’re somehow not worried about yourself, what about the next generation and the future you know is coming? A friend of mine recently remarked that, “I just asked my mother-in-law what it will take to run. A shul being burned down? And I had no idea that had just actually happened”

Hasn’t the water heated enough for the Jews of the world to feel the heat? The menace is perfectly clear now. The perils of staying are undeniable. The Jewish frogs still have time to hop to safety. Yet most still refuse.

Many settled Jews will argue that not only do they have a right to stay, but that they have a duty to, in order to combat the growing antisemitism and fight for the rights of Jews everywhere. Striving for positive change is a lovely idea, but it misses a key point. Why try to force people to like you? The question is not “can you stay” it’s “why do you even want to stay?”

In the olden days, Aliyah meant putting up with certain hardships. Today, more and more, it’s become an option for Jews looking to flee persecution. These are the Jews who recognize the signs of danger and choose to act accordingly. But still, the vast majority feel calm and safe in their surroundings, willfully ignorant of the dangers they are in. Yet all around them, the Western world has almost reached its boiling point. It’s a danger they will soon be forced to acknowledge. Either that, or learn to enjoy the taste of frog’s legs.

Ilan Goodman is a museum collections professional and exhibition curator. He also serves as a rabbi and educator. He made Aliyah to Israel in 2011 and lives with his wife and children in Beit Shemesh.