Aliyah Daydream: What If All the Jews Left?

There are little piles of stuff surrounding me. The logistics of packing for someone with even a minor version of obsessive compulsive disorder can be daunting, Moving six thousand miles away is easy compared to packing all this stuff. In reality, if I was moving six miles away, I would have been just as obsessive but without worrying about airline weight and dimension restrictions. And then worrying about carrying one hundred and fifty pounds of luggage from a taxi to an apartment that will be my new home. For which I do not yet have a key. And a landlady who has not yet answered my email about meeting me with the key. Yi’yeh b’seder.

Coffee, lunches, dinners with friends over the last two weeks have been wonderful. My friends in tiny town are generous and kind, and some have been weepy. I have not been. My brother and I spent a weekend together; he is my big brother and we both know that the physical distance between New York City and Jerusalem is great, but that Skype is the great distance equalizer. I hope that he can visit someday. My best friend has visited Israel several times with me and loves returning every time.  She is a non-practicing Catholic who nevertheless loves the history attached to her lapsed faith. She will visit in December and will be the antidote to my abysmal design skills; she will help me make my old style funky apartment become comfortable and homey.

My goodbye to this country, the United States of America, is more complicated than the round of meals and drinks with friends. The United States is certainly not buying me a Ketel One with lime and a lovely dinner, nor is the country of my birth (and my parents’ birth) tearing up with emotion because I am leaving. They are more worried about people trying to come in than those who are leaving. But what if it was different?

In my fantasy world, I think about the state of Jewish life in the United States and what would happen if every Jew just packed up and said, “oh, f*ck it, I’m going to Israel”.  What would happen? Michael Chabon’s fantasy in his incredible book “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” brought the shtetl to Alaska and that kind of worked in the world of fiction. But what if, for real, if every American Jew applied for aliyah? The process was pretty easy for me and there is plenty of guidance although Nefesh b’Nefesh would have to hire a couple more people. A Jew-less United States. Huh.

This melting pot that has not really melted has adopted Jewish culture as a kind of joke….borscht belt silliness of my mother’s generation. Jew jokes that even Jews laugh at along with their gentile co-workers and neighbors. Some are funny and harmless, but why have them at all? What would happen to them? Would that kind of thing die out if there are no Jews to laugh with, or would the absence of the butt of the joke make it funnier? Would the office jokester look around and think, gee, is it anti-Semitic to do a Yiddish accent when there are no more Jews left to laugh along? Don’t get me wrong, I love Jewish humor, but it is ours. Would I ever try to tell the same jokes that Richard Pryor (a bow to genius) told? Not on your life. They are not mine to tell.

Okay, I will admit I am over thinking this by fantasizing about what life would be like in the United States if all 4.2 million (or so) Jews packed up and left for Israel. Screw the diaspora. We’re done here.  And what the effect would be on Israel, if all these Jews, some totally assimilated, were at Ben Gurion, each clutching his or her new shiny Teudet Oleh and asking where the nearest Olive Garden is?

Okay, girl, just shake it off and get back to packing. After all, this is really just about my aliyah, not anyone else’s return from dispersion. And this flight of fancy was a good distraction from packing; I’m leaving in less than forty eight hours for the first leg of the trip so I really have to get back to packing.

In leaving the United States and accepting the gift of aliyah from my true homeland, there will be times that I am sitting quietly in Jerusalem reading and two thoughts might run through my mind. First, why didn’t the United States buy me a Ketel One with lime and a fine dinner before I left? Second, what if, just what if those 4.2 million (give or take a few) Jews stood up and said it is time to go home?






About the Author
Irene Rabinowitz made aliyah in 2014 and lives in Jerusalem. Prior to making aliyah, she lived in a small odd town at the tip of Cape Cod for 28 years. She lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult (or old child), but is a Rhode Islander by birth. Irene has served as a local elected official and retired from a long career in non-profit management at the end of 2013, after serving as the Executive Director of Helping Our Women for 18 years. She has worked at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance and retired in 2020 from her position as the Resource Development Manager at the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center. She recently retired from her position as a Consultant at Landman Strategic Fundraising. Pro cycling fan. T1D.
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