There Is a Solution
Last week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published a report about the grave and growing antisemitism on New York college campuses, along with the despairing conclusion that there is nothing to do to stop it. Prompted by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the City University of New York (CUNY) system hired investigators to conduct the independent study. The report cites numerous antisemitic incidents, revealing that these experiences have caused Jewish students to feel harassed, threatened and unsafe, and have made them fearful of openly identifying themselves as Jewish on campus.
Nevertheless, the investigators said that the aggressors cannot be punished by CUNY for exercising their “protected free speech.” Whether Jews are blamed for murdering and suppressing Palestinians, for perpetrating international terrorism or for causing the financial crises that NYC colleges face — no matter how ugly and threatening the harassment — the report concludes that there is nothing that can be done to stem the ever-increasing attacks.
Currently, the Torah portions of the week come from the Book of Deuteronomy. In several places, the Torah tells us that exile from the Land of Israel is the worst punishment that can befall the Jewish People. Given this terrible predicament of being hated strangers in gentile lands, the task of Diaspora Jewry was to survive the Exile and prepare the Jewish community for its awaited return to the Land of Israel. The goal of returning to Israel is emphasized again and again in the Torah, and in the visions of our Prophets, 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 own Jewish Land, the vast majority of Jewish communities in the West turned their backs on the opportunity. Instead of hurrying to escape the Exile, they chose to stay. 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 God was gathering His outcasts back to Zion and miraculously rebuilding the new State of Israel into one of the superpowers of the world, the Diaspora communities in the West decided to remain where they were, living amongst the gentiles in foreign lands. Instead of rushing to rebuild Israel, and take part in the long-awaited Redemption that was unfolding for everyone to see, they continued to build and strengthen their bastions in foreign countries. After 2,000 years of yearning, when the time came to return, they got cold feet.
Yes, with their generous donations to Israel, they helped a great deal. Out of love for our Homeland and concern for the Jews who were rebuilding it, they reached deep into their pockets and gave. 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 this important matter, Diaspora 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 burning, but when the gateway was opened to return to our Homeland, Diaspora Jewry balked. Its task was to keep the remnant of our nation intact until we could return home to Zion and when the time came it neglected to get on the boat. Instead of sending their children on aliyah to Israel, Jews in America sent checks. Instead of coming to live here, they came for a ten day visit. Well, at least 20% of them – the others haven’t bothered to come at all.
And lo and behold, no matter how good life may seem to be in the Diaspora, antisemitism is on the rise, and assimilation is increasing at an unstoppable rate, a hundred thousand Jews per year! Programs like Birthright are 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.
The solution to assimilation and antisemitism on college campuses in New York and throughout America is for Jewish college students to pack up their bags and finish their college studies in Israel. And then to stay and live here.
The simple truth is that there is no future for Jews in the Diaspora. The curse of exile was not made to last forever. Antisemitism and intermarriage will only increase if Jews don’t come home.
All of the directors and presidents of Jewish organizations and Jewish Federations who don’t call upon their members to pack up and make aliyah 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 live in 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 parent who doesn’t exhort his children to abandon the promise of a golden future in America, and to build his or her future in Israel, betrays his duty as a Jewish parent. Every Jewish leader in the Diaspora who doesn’t pour all of his energies into rallying his constituents to make aliyah fails as a Jewish leader.
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 dream became possible on a mass scale 68 years ago with the establishment of the state of Israel.
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. We are meant to come home.
More than anything else – this is the message the Jew-haters on college campuses in America are telling young Jews – it’s time to go home. This is the only solution.