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July 14, 2020 3:35 am

Jews Need Diaspora Communities

avatar by Jason Shvili

Opinion

A police officer is seen in the center of the Belgian capital of Brussels, June 27, 2020. Photo: Belga Photo / Hatim Kaghat.

Many, if not most Zionists, would agree that making aliyah to Israel is the most Zionist thing you can do.

I am a Zionist, so it would be wrong for me to discourage Jews from moving there. But I am concerned about the continued maintenance of Jewish Diaspora communities. In the last century, many Jewish communities outside of Israel have been destroyed, and some are barely hanging on.

I recently took on the task of writing an article about Jewish communities in Europe for another publication. While I was writing it, I almost cried, because it reminded me that so many once thriving Jewish communities have been lost. I thought, for example, of the Jewish community in Poland, which numbered more than three million before the Holocaust. Poland now hosts just 4,500 Jews, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

I also thought of other once-large Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, such as Romania, which once hosted nearly a million Jews, and the former Soviet Union, which once boasted more than 2.5 million Jews. Now, by some reports, Romania has just 9,000 Jews, and the countries of the former Soviet Union less than 240,000.

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We must also not forget the large communities Jews once had in North Africa and the Middle East. According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 850,000 Jews once lived in the Arab states across the Middle East and North Africa. Now, however, there are only thousands. In fact, some Arab states now have no Jews at all. The Jewish communities in the Arab states were all but wiped out when the Arabs took out their anger at the creation of the State of Israel on their Jewish neighbors. Many Jews were murdered, and many more were expelled or had no choice but to leave to save their lives. In fact, the Jewish refugees who fled the Arab states outnumber the Palestinians who left what became Israel. This is a fact that the international community likes to ignore.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a Jewish state if Jews from around the world hadn’t returned to their ancestral homeland. Indeed, if you ask some Zionists, they would like to see every Jew in the world living in Israel. But inasmuch as Jewish immigration to Israel should be encouraged, so should maintaining the remaining Diaspora communities, because there are negative consequences if these communities do not survive.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that every Jew in the world did make aliyah to Israel. If this happened, the Jewish people could no longer contribute to the growth and development of many countries, as they have done over the centuries. We should also consider how much history and culture would be lost in many of the countries that still boast large communities of Jews. In addition, without the Jewish Diaspora, who would advocate for the State of Israel in the international community? Throughout its history, the Jewish State has relied on both financial and moral support from Jews living abroad. But, of course, Israel can’t count on support from the Jewish Diaspora if that Diaspora no longer exists.

Jewry’s remaining Diaspora communities must be maintained. The Jewish people didn’t build our communities just to have them destroyed. It’s time we stood our ground and fought the antisemitism that is growing around us before it approaches a level in which we have no choice but to leave our communities and seek safety in Israel.

Jason Shvili is a freelance writer in Toronto, Canada.

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