Community: Can Religious Americans Make it in Israel?
I am Still Confused
All communities have been manufactured. Always have been. Torah is the only aspect of Judaism that is not manufactured. The religious Jew is endlessly trying to figure out the best way to practice the commandments, sometimes more than once a week. Figuring out the correct way of religious practice has a lot to do with the makeup of the individual and the society they are in. I understand that this is a very scholarly piece, and educated essay with no sources. I cannot speak for the European Jew. As for the American Jew, they do not do well in all situations. American Jews do not enjoy mikvehs, as purity baths do not clean as well as showers and they stopped the group showers at the Jewish Community Centers. There are circumstances too scary to even consider, once you have experienced it. The ‘religious’ American Jew of New Jersey cannot make it in Israel. They have already reached the Promised Land of Teaneck, where kosher food is abundant. There are accessible Batei Midrash, Houses of Torah study, every few feet. They have created the correct Jewish life for them, given the Rambam views the life of a Jew outside of Israel as a graveyard. That is not the point. Torah is not the point. The Jewish nation is not the point. Being a vital part of the future of the Jewish people and your children not intermarrying is not the point. They manufactured the best Jewish life, so that they could practice the commandments correctly, up in the mountains, in a bungalow for the summer. There is not enough mascara in the Middle East to support one family, and they are doing great with all the commandments not dealing with the Jewish people living in their Homeland. When you do not have to worry about Israel, Jewish life is very pleasant.
The Diaspora is beautiful. As we got kicked out of the First Temple and were thrown into Babylonia, thanks to the Jews staying there, we have the Babylonian Talmud. Without the Diaspora, Torah would all be written in Hebrew, and that is almost as hard to understand as Aramaic.
If you do not understand anything I have written, reference Wikipedia.
The question that arises in Israel: If it is not necessary to create the kind of wonderful Jewish community where people care about how they dress, then why do it? That is the question that I ponder all the time. Yes, I have my way that was so beautiful back in America, and it still is. But how do I connect that to the next generation of Jews, finally returning from exile, so that they can intermarry in Israel.
There are great Jews in New Jersey. Notice how I did not mention Long Island. Important members in their community, can they make it in this new way of Jewish life? Can they understand it? The healthiest way for an American Jew to live in Israel is to avoid Israelis. That is why the Jewish Agency along with Nefesh BNefesh and the Israeli Government, manufactured places like Modiin-Buchman, Efrat, Bet Shemesh, Chashmonaim, Yad Binyamin, and many other places where you can live in Israel and never have to see an Israeli. In order to best deal with the growing problem of Israelis living in Israel, they are finding ways to build more towns and communities in new areas. To deal with the new issues that have again arisen with the children of the Olim who have turned into Israelis, they are creating more dormitories on campuses and recreating the Israeli Dream of owning a home in Israel with English speakers. You can find these new communities in Northern and Southern Israel, which allow people to live in a beautiful Israel without Israelis.
I am sorry for bringing up Torah. I know that bothers many Jews. I understand that many Jews feel that tradition is hindering their connection with the past. But you cannot talk about Israel and not talk about the Torah, Halacha/Law, Tradition, Nation and Ancestry. I know that doesn’t fit into the framework of modern man who wants to love everybody and connect with nobody. I’ll see you at the next simcha, happy Jewish milestone event, in your jeans. It is about having a reason for living and connecting to a divine tradition in a suit. To connect with the past, you need a double-breasted suit with a tie. Show some respect for your ancestry and at least try to understand why we are not living in Uganda. Even if that means you disagree with our good friends in the German government who think we should move down there, because they fear that Germany’s reputation for anti-Semitism has been tainted.
Israel is a nation, which is why I am confused as a person who grew up as a one-dimensional Jew. And the Jews being a nation is Torah, because I read it somewhere and what I read is true. It is hard to think outside of the religious box, and maybe it is better I don’t. Seeing Israel as a nation baffles my mind, even if that is what I learned every day of my childhood, from the Torah. But moving to Israel, I feel like I am not part of a congregation. It is too complicated to figure out a way to talk Lashon HaRa and gossip about such a vast number of people I never met. I have to find a cluster of people I can put down. Yes, meetings do take place in Israel, but on a country level. The Knesset members are the ones who have meetings to spit on each other, so they can go back home to their spouse and spit on them, or relax.
Does Israel need the Diaspora form of community? That is the big fight in the Rabbanut. Do we care about the people? Can’t they just practice religion because they have to pay us? Why do we have to know the name of the person we are burying if the family has already written the check? If religion is all around, do we need to have the congregational clusters where a rabbi cares? For me, yes. For the way the Jews have been practicing their religion for the past few millennia, yes. For the nation, I feel like I have to look beyond my community and interact with all Jews, in a non-selfish way. And that goes against the grain of most communities. It can be that if we do not look down on all other communities that we could interact with the greater nation through our small congregations, you anti-Semitic hierarchical egotistical Jewish Supremacist.
We need our little congregations of sandal makers. That is a profession which has been around for a very long time and was the number one profession back in the days of the Talmud. It is the warmth in that tiny cluster of sandal makers, which allows me the ability to be strong in my interaction with the whole Jewish people. Not to be selfish and snobby in their sandal making. I am a simple sandal maker at heart. It is when my shoes are comfortable that I feel comfortable around others. I cannot make sandals, but I do empathize.
Communities have developed outside of Jerusalem. Tel Aviv has some newly formed communities, as the other Jews there are not good enough. It is important to not be influenced by the heathens. Yet, they are still not the warm American community I grew up with. They do not speak English. I also don’t like being part of a community which is based on having to pick up a chick at Shabbat dinner because I cannot go out to the clubs.
In Jerusalem, it is hard to find the community because there are soooo many of the ‘religious’ Jews. Too many choices and not enough abhorrence. I could find a Chiloni/secular community to join, and not pray with together.
Maybe I need to be living on a Yishuv, in a settlement. But then they are all the same. Again, there is no reason for me to be religious, if everybody I am living with is already going to shule. Where are the people that are wrong? Where are the people I am better than? Yishuvim have Israelis and Americans living together and going to shule together. They are too perfect. They are too good. I do not want that. I want the warmth of a messed up community.
Shir Chadash could be my community in Jerusalem. It is a beautiful congregation, but it is a 10 minute walk from my house. That is too far. Again, there are shules that are close to me with people that do not care if they see me. Why would I walk further to enjoy my Shabbat? Even worse, if I join a community, I have to pay for a Kiddush (post service refreshments) every once in a while. I cannot afford that on my Israeli salary. Even worse, they might expect me to show up. The redeeming aspect of Shir Chadash is that the rabbi talks in English, and that makes me feel like I am not in Israel for a few moments. For those few moments I feel like I am living up North. It is comforting, until I notice the Jerusalem stone and that the shule has no carpet. Think about that for a second. Why do I have to explain every subtle joke to you people? Oy!
I went to the gay pride parade. There I saw the foundation of a community, as there are people who are against them. They even had rabbis holding up signs, bringing people closer to the Torah, kiruv, as in every good Jewish community. Some signs even read, ‘A man shall not lay naked with another man;’ Using Torah to bring people closer to it. You have to reach out to people from where they are at. As a straight man, I found that there were many available women at the gay pride parade. I was let down as all of the ladies rejected me.
It was suggested that if I do the army, then I might feel community. That is a little too much of a commitment. I did not move to Israel to help. I am over 35. People have to stop suggesting stuff and just let me complain. I am sick of trying other forms of community. I just want it the way I grew up.
There are shules in Israel and I love Israel. It is thru these shules that we have the strength to practice the Torah among the nation and the world. So, if I may reiterate: Any of you who are saying ‘Get out if you blah blah wah wah blah,‘ learn how to read between the lines and be a person. I may not know how to write or even read very well, but I do know that it is important to figure out the right way to live, and I read very well between the lines. My reading comprehension for what is not written is in the genius category of IQ. It is our duty as Jews to philosophize and make this world the best we can. Without complaining, there is no identifying character of the Jewish people.
As we are now in the Three weeks of Mourning, may we merit to see the Rebuilding of The Temple so that Jews from all over can go up with their communities, to the Temple Mount, and complain as one. That is how a rabbi ends a good sermon. Yeah. Awesome. I know you feel it. I wrote this right after the 17th Day of Tammuz- A fast day, which I am still hungry from, with all the heat and lack of….