Sunday, January 16th | 14 Shevat 5782

September 23, 2016 6:57 am

Assimilation Is Our Greatest Threat, But We Can Help Stop It

avatar by Martin Polack

Setting up a Shabbat table. Photo: Wikipedia.

Setting up a Shabbat table. Photo: Wikipedia.

Assimilation is the great tragedy destroying the Jewish people — and it gets worse and worse every day. A majority of the world’s Jews outside of Israel have little or no connection to any Jewish organization or anything Jewish.

How is it possible that perhaps only 6% of world Jewry observes the Torah? Never before have Jewish organizations and institutions had so many resources to teach, inspire and reach out to millions. Why aren’t we doing a better job reaching them? Birthright Israel, you say? A weak band-aid costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

But why is assimilation such a serious threat? The famed medieval scholar Rambam answers it very simply: “All the prophets commanded repentance and Israel will only be redeemed through repentance.” As long as the majority of the Jewish people is not religious, we are condemned to suffering. We repeat it over and over in synagogue: If the Jewish people abandon the Torah, we will be exiled and punished forever.

Many people have told me, “But there’s Chabad, Hillel, etc.” Not good enough. Every serious, caring Jew can and must do whatever he can to influence, reach out to and educate our brothers and sisters.

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Here are some examples as to what you can do:

  • Purchase a subscription to a Jewish newspaper for a relative, even if it’s a secular Jewish newspaper. Just having a Jewish paper in the home can help Jews stay connected to the community.
  • Invite a neighbor, relative, or co-worker to a Shabbat dinner, where they can experience the warmth, the beauty and the greatness of Shabbat. Let them see Shabbat candles, a well-set table, a well-dressed family sitting together without weekday distractions, talking to each other, singing Sholom Aleichem, etc. “For the price of a chicken, you can save a Jew,” teaches Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald of NJOP.
  • At an engagement party, give a Mezuzah as a gift, making a comment that the Jewish home is a home of kindness, charity and morality.
  • At a bar or bat mitzvah, besides a monetary gift, give a book written for teens on basic Jewish observance and thought. The monetary gift can even be an Israel Bond — reminding the child to stay connected to Israel.
  • At every large gathering, such as Thanksgiving dinner, a graduation party or other event, stand up and say a few words of spiritual inspiration. Because Judaism has something to say about every and any occasion.
  • Offer charity boxes to friends and relatives, and ask them to teach their children to put a few coins in weekly — because charity and caring about others is a Jewish ethical value. I have obtained hundreds of charity boxes for free from many organizations over the years and given them all out.

If we work together, we can bring the Jewish people back to Judaism.

Martin Polack is a data analyst and involved with adult Jewish education.

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