And He will raise a sign for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. [Isaiah 11:12]
Ever since the first Jew, Joachim Gans, set foot on American soil in 1584, America has been the unrivaled pinnacle of diaspora homes for the Jewish people in our long 2,000 year exile from the Land of Israel. In America, the Jews grew and prospered along with the freedom and opportunity of this great land. Growing to about 6.5 million Jews in America, we have achieved greatness in the arts and sciences, industry and technology, media and entertainment, politics and philanthropy. To even attempt a list of the prominent achievements of the Jews in America would be a dissertation in and of itself. America with the incredibly humanistic and democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution became not just a place of religious freedom, but also one where after all the pogroms and persecutions of the diaspora, we could finally feel safe and thrive as Jews and as human beings to pursue our dreams. In America’s acceptance of the Jews, the Jews have fully embraced America. Further, since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, America has become the greatest of allies and friends to Israel. We Jews have so much to be grateful for to America as it has given to us, and all immigrants, unparalleled opportunity, and we, in turn, have been undyingly loyal and labored for its becoming a true superpower and success in all the world.
Some would argue though that some American Jews may have gone too far and endangered their very survival as Jews through assimilation and intermarriage, and have at times even broken with Israel. Already, immediately after the founding of the State of Israel, Jacob Blaustein, the President of American Jewish Committee, told Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that the Jews of America do not want to go to Israel, and that their fate is irrevocably bound up in America. And truly, while aliyah has brought Jews to Israel “on the wings of eagles” from all around the globe, the same cannot be said about aliyah from America’s Jews, which has been mostly negligible. We Jews love America and it is our home!
However, regardless of how we feel, G-d declared in the Torah (Deuteronomy 30:4):
Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world, from there the L-rd your G-d will gather you, and from there He will bring you back.
For 2,000 years our parents, grandparents and great grandparents never forgot Jerusalem, where we prayed at the holy Temple, and the land of Israel where G-d brought the Israelites when He redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. From the promise to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give us the land of Israel, to Moses who shepherded us for forty years in the desert to get to Israel, and to Joshua, King David, the Maccabees, Bar Kochba, and of course, the modern-day IDF, who fought valiantly for it, the life of the Jew is destined to the Holy Land. In other words, it’s not really our choice to uproot and start again in Israel, but rather, it’s G-d’s plan for us. My father used to say:
We can go nicely, or we can go not so nicely.
As we’ve seen around the world, the Jews have returned to Israel after being persecuted and expelled, fleeing from the clutches of the enemy seeking to kill them and take everything from them, or having to break out of the Iron Curtain imprisoning them. In America, we are the exception: we can go without all that and instead choose to go to Israel, because we firmly believe in G-d’s promise to redeem us and in the visions of his prophets who foretold of the ingathering. America is the last country in the world with a major Jewish population that nearly rivals Israels. In fact, no other country has even half a million Jews left, but America has close to 6 million. Is it a coincidence that this number resembles the number of Jews exterminated in the Holocaust in Europe just over 70 years ago?
Israel established the Law of Return in 1950 for every Jew around the world to come to Israel and become a citizen immediately. Through miracle after miracle, Israel arose from the Ashes of the Holocaust. Again, is it a coincidence that the Holocaust reparations from Germany helped Israel to receive the much needed money to build the critical infrastructure it desperately needed and to absorb the waves of immigrants that came immediately after it’s founding. Israel won every war against it by established armies and when it was deeply outnumbered and outgunned, even when the CIA warned President Truman that the Jews in Israel wouldn’t survive two years! Since then, Israel has survived not only wars every decade, but the endless blood-letting of brutal terrorism including two Intifadas, and despite all the challenges has made the deserts bloom and become a world leader in everything from infotech to biotech. The largest nations of the world have marveled at how Israel does it, but the truth of matter is that there is no earthly answer, only a Divine one that can only explain the miraculous.
What are American Jews to do–love your friends, colleagues, homes, jobs, communities, and your country! But at the same time, prepare for G-d’s miraculous ingathering. If you just open your eyes and have faith, you will know that you will be going to Israel–the question isn’t if, but when! What G-d has decreed, no man can annul. There are three types of ways things will unfold for American Jews: Some will go to Israel on their own,”nicely.” Others will be going only when they absolutely have to–“not so nicely.” The third group will not be going–unfortunately, as difficult as it is to say, they won’t make it. While this is all about the fulfillment of messianic times, and we don’t know when precisely it will all transpire, I pray that people (including myself) will choose to plan intelligently for the future to make aliyah in good times, and that their shouldn’t be pain and suffering for the Jewish people in getting there, but rather that it is an amazing experience filled with endless blessings. May G-d bring us in peace, prosperity, and health to fulfill His promise of the ingathering and to rebuild the Temple and bring Mashiach to the world. To Israel, I end with one thing: it’s time to solve the housing crisis, because your brothers and sisters are coming home sooner than you might think.