Monday, October 25, 2010

It’s Israel’s Fault!

Historically anti-Semites have blamed the Jews for everything from deicide to the bubonic plague; from failed battles and lost wars to economic calamities. Over the past few decades we have experienced the morphing of classical anti-Semitism into anti Zionism, where Israel is blamed for the unrest in hot spots around the world. And as if this wasn’t enough, we now have a new phenomenon where Jews are now blaming Israel for the Diaspora’s exploding rate of intermarriage and assimilation. JJ Goldberg penned an opinion piece in the Forward (October 22, 2010) “Being Jewish Is Falling Out of Fashion”. The article was so incredulous that I had to read it a second time and then ask another person for their take on the article, just to confirm what I suspected.

He crafted the article in such a way that his main thesis was buried towards the end of the 13-paragraph essay. His zinger was located in the tenth laconic paragraph making it seem benign, but was actually a poison arrow aimed at the heart of the Jewish people, in the best tradition of our anti Semites; contending that the up and coming generations of Jews are being turned off by Judaism because of the aggressive nature of Israel:

“Kids in high school and college today don’t inhabit a world where being Jewish is high fashion. In their world, Jewish brings to mind Israeli helicopter gunships….The Jewish state has simply lost the argument among the trendsetters: Boycotts or not, one state or two, Israel plays the heavy in the drama”.

As a consequence, students prefer to shy away from any issues regarding Israel, because anyone who is a vocal supporter of Israel tends to be extremist. Being Jewish, according to JJ Goldberg’s take on the up and coming generation of Jews, requires them to navigate the “moral maze to stay sane”, is difficult and intimidating. He suggests that in twenty to thirty years their children may be spawning a whole new crop of Christopher Hitchenses.

What I find appalling in his specious argument is that Israel is the one point of light that has s parked the imagination of generations of Jews who grew up in America during the past fifty years. I would hazard to speculate that had there not been an Israel there wouldn’t have been much of a Jewish community. Let me qualify that. There would have been perhaps the regeneration of the haredi / hassidic communities; but they aren’t the future of the Jewish people, merely an extension of what was before the war – the past.

It is Israel that has given dignity and identity to millions of Jews living in the Diaspora. It is Israel that provided the historic framework by which post holocaust Jews were able to make sense out of history. While the American synagogue was reduced to spiritual sterility due to their bankrupt theology it was Israel gap year programs on kibbutzim, universities and yeshivot that provided what our Jewish and rabbinic leadership failed to provide. It was the shlichim from Israel who became the teachers of Hebrew language and counselors for our summer camp programs that provided content to an otherwise vapid Judaism.

Only a corrupted mind can assign blame to Israel for the high rate of intermarriage and assimilation in America. If there is blame to assign it ought to be hung where it belongs: on the lackluster, spiritually bereft Jewish leadership in our local communities and synagogues. Israel doesn’t have to taper its domestic or foreign policies around the sensitivities of Americans. Israel has to do what they believe is in their best interests. If the Forward editorial board has an issue with Israel’s foreign policy than they ought to change their address from the comforts of New York to the hot seat of Jerusalem. Living in Israel might give them some credibility.

This may sound trite, but I do believe that those who live in the Diaspora haven’t the legitimate justification of criticizing Israel’s policies when it comes to their future and security. Certainly Americans, with a very poor track record of 50% intermarriage, and that, after pouring in hundreds of millions over the past several decades to stem the hemorrhaging, have no right to proffer advice or criticism. We’re going down the tubes here, and Goldberg is placing the blame on Israel! Ingenious!

I always loved that line in “The Godfather” where the godfather declares that he likes keeping his friends close but his enemies closer. In that spirit I shall continue reading the reading the Forward as I continue culling Yated Neeman for news, because I need to know what my enemies are thinking.