Lapid vs. Pew on Aliyah and Jewish Continuity

Well, it looks like Yair Lapid has done it again.  It’s as if he WANTS to anger the Jews who have committed themselves to Zionistic ideals, and were willing to give up plenty of comfort to do so.

The slow death of American Jewry
The slow death of American Jewry

Last Monday, Lapid told CBS’s Charlie Rose that it’s safer to be a Jew in New York than in Israel.  Hey, why encourage aliyah when you can scare the kippot right off the heads of American Jews who just may have been considering uprooting their families and settling in their ancestral homeland?

As far as world Jewry is concerned, “safe” is a debatable term.  One look at the recent Pew poll and it is obvious that on a collective level, the Jewish people are dangling future generations over the bubbling cauldron known as the “Great American melting pot”.  Few would have taken a guess at the damage that would have been done to American Jewry by encouraging assimilation in an era that pressed for functionality as a citizen over retaining the Jewish continuity that had, until the last century, maintained itself through generations of forced conversions, pogroms, and the horrific Final Solution.

Not surprisingly, many friends have given the reason of 9/11 as the final push to make aliyah, amid fears of living unsafely in Israel.  And tragically, while we go on with our daily lives here in Israel, we hear of brutal crimes against Jews all over the world, including bombings and drive-by school shootings, which have murdered numerous people in the blink of an eye. Unlike those of us living under the watchful eye of armed soldiers and guards minding schools, malls, and restaurants, they live under a false sense of security, without a thought that a quick trip to pick up milk, or a normal work day in a Manhattan skyscraper could be a life threatening endeavor.

Watching empirical data prove the sad fact that America has become a burial ground for collective Judaism is an eye opener for many Diaspora Jews, while many still focus on their individual standing.  Naturally it would seem that a world that has spawned a pervasive “me” mentality would witness a declining concern for collective Judaism and, most notably, Jewish continuity.  It is highly questionable that on both a physical and spiritual scale, American Jews have far less to fear than their Israeli counterparts.

The Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents recorded 1,239 anti-Semitic incidents in 2010; not surprisingly 4,000 American Jews had made aliyah the year prior, a record high not seen since the year 1983.  Thankfully, the ADL’s numbers decreased in 2012 to 927, but not enough to suit its national director, Abe Foxman.  In the category of anti-Semitic vandalism, numbers rose from 330 incidents in 2011 to 440 in 2012, with Jewish institutions being targeted in 13% of cases.

Equally disturbing is the overwhelming damage that life in the Diaspora has thrust upon this generation’s American Jews.  The statistics gathered by the recent Pew report have kicked up dust of facts that many would have preferred to remain settled.  Here are some of the hair-raising trends:

The intermarriage rate is up to 58% among American Jews, up from 17% in 1970, and among the intermarrieds, only 45% are raising their children as Jews.  Amongst the non-Orthodox, intermarriage is at a whopping 71%.  32% of Jews born after 1980 identify as having no religion, and less than one third even belong to a synagogue.  My personal favorite:  When asked what it means to be Jewish, only 19% named Jewish law as important, while 42% cited “having a good sense of humor” as the essence of a Jewish soul.  Hmmmm.  Others may debate me on this, but really, I would hardly believe that Borscht Belt entertainment will save our people from the sudden threat of extinction that only emerged during the last century out of thousands of years of Jewish existence.

Being that New York is the largest Jewish metropolitan area, we could hardly deduce from the Pew findings that Jews are living safely there, neither physically, per the ADL report, nor spiritually, given recent poll numbers.

Perhaps, given Lapid’s penchant for opining unfounded claims and presenting them as fact,  American Jews would do best to disregard his unsubstantiated claims that their lives are better spent in the Diaspora, diluting what is left of Judaism there.  Hopefully they will reconsider, returning to the only country in the world where the transmission of Torah values, inarguably the entire basis of our faith, will ensure its continuity in the face of the present day Jewish holocaust of the Diaspora, a tragedy that Lapid takes way too lightly.





About the Author
Miri Gantshar is a mother, psychologist and freelance writer who immigrated to Israel from New York in 2007. She is currently writing a book on her experiences in Israel.