Why I Walked Out on the Bonds Speech at My Shul

Every Yom Kippur, shuls across North America hold a bonds drive for the purpose of selling Israel Bonds to help the Jewish state’s economy. And every year, a Bonds chairman or representative is appointed to give an introductory speech that is supposed to serve as the inspiration for opening our hearts and eventually our wallets.

My shul is known as one of North America’s largest Orthodox synagogues. This year’s Bonds speaker walked up to the podium and within thirty seconds, he mentioned by name the poor little boy who washed up on a shore in Turkey, and how, as Jews who know what suffering is, we have a responsibility to help the ‘refugees’ streaming out of Syria. That’s when I walked out. I had heard enough.

I was disturbed that this was the example that this speaker chose as an attempt to awaken our Jewish self-introspection on our holiest day of the year. Do we have no tragedies of our own to speak about? Did nothing occur to Jews in 2015? Are our own problems and dangers so minimal or non-existent, that we now have the luxury of focusing on those whom the world proclaims as most needy? Perhaps this Bonds speaker was on vacation this past November, when five Jews were butchered to death during prayers and seven more injured in the bloody shul massacre of Har Nof? Was he sleeping when four Jews were killed in the terrorist attack in France in the kosher Hyper Cacher market? Did he not hear about the elderly couple beaten so brutally in their home in Amsterdam by anti-Semites just a few short weeks ago that one has been blinded and both are now wheelchair-bound? And where exactly has he been this past month while Israel together with most of the world’s Jewry have been reeling from the new reality of a potentially nuclear Iran due to the US-led Iran deal?

We Jews are living in the most dangerous times since the 1930s. World-wide anti-Semitism has reached a level not seen since the time of the Holocaust. Even within Israel itself, Jews are stabbed, firebombed, injured and murdered on a near daily basis by our cousins, our Arab neighbours, who, one can argue, have as their raison d’etre is to hate and kill Jews. The world is more hostile to Israel as a nation today than it has ever been in Israel’s entire short history. And let’s face it — the world gets most things wrong nowadays. By and large, the world has decided that BDS and Iran are good, that Hamas and terror are not necessarily bad, but that Jews are unwanted, and Israel is a warmongering genocidal occupier. The world has once again decided (at least in Europe thus far) to despise, vilify, and drive out its Jews, and to open the gates wide to ‘refugees’ that will no doubt have terrorists infiltrating along with them.

But according to the Bonds speaker at this Orthodox synagogue, the world knows best. The most jarring event to affect us this year was the Kurdish baby washed up on the shore in Turkey and the most pressing issue at hand, which he says we must help, are the poor Syrian refugees. No one is denying that the image seen around the world wasn’t horrible. But let’s be frank: when the world sees horrific done to Jews, it honestly doesn’t give a damn. When the Fogel family, including a three-month-old baby, was sliced and diced within their own home in Israel — it was not even news. The world is the biggest hypocrite.

I’m tired of Jews who equate every dire situation of other nationalities with what we Jews went through in the Holocaust, their logic being ‘we can’t let those people suffer like we did’. How dare any Jew compare anything that has happened in the past seventy years to what happened to us Jews in the Holocaust and throughout our history? There is no comparison — not ever. There is, absolutely, not a people in the history of the entire world who has been hated more, persecuted more, or killed more than the Jewish people.

I’m tired of those Jews, rabbis included, rushing onto the world’s train to help those whom the ‘world’ decides is worthy; especially when the activists they are joining are precisely those who hate Jews. Many of the same people who advocate for bringing in Syrian refugees are some of the biggest advocates of the despicable BDS – Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against the Jewish state. We should not be aligning ourselves with our haters.

And then there is the issue of who make up the brunt of these refugees. Have we not seen our computer and TV screens filled with footage of angry young males, some of whom have already been exposed to have links to ISIS? And do we even need links to ISIS for us to be wary, when they come from a region where every individual from toddlerhood is fed on a steady diet of hatred and demonization of the Jewish people? Is it really a good idea to join the world and rally for them to be let in? Are we Jews so desperate to show the world how ‘nice’ we are that we are willing to go along at the expense of our own safety? At the detriment of our own security? Are we willing to risk our futures and our very lives to join the bandwagon of the world?

We cannot let the world’s selective reactions be our moral compass nor be a guide for our actions. We need to develop more clarity and use better judgement before taking on causes — not what the world says is good, but what is genuinely good for us as Jews. We do not need to puppet the world’s haphazard outcries, particularly when there are no similar outcries for us.

I’m tired of the excuse ‘but we need to show we’re better than that’. The simple truth is if we want the world to respect us, we first need to have respect for ourselves. Yes, the Torah tells us that we are a light unto the nations, but we can’t be a leader or a light to anyone if we neglect our own people. And the extent to which today’s Jews are embracing the world’s ideas at the sacrifice of themselves and the Jewish state is shocking. Three hundred and forty US Rabbis have endorsed the Iran deal. Apparently they were “deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community (was) united in opposition to the agreement.” These rabbis do not care about Jews surviving as Jews first. These are Jews who are far from being a light. What they have done in fact is connected themselves to the world’s darkness.

Clearly some Jews will do anything to join the chorus of nations. We can only be a light unto others when we are first and foremost proud to stand up for, care about, and safeguard our very own. To paraphrase a famous line from Pirkei Avot — If we are not for ourselves, then who will be for us? History has already shown us….precisely nobody.

And someone ought to tell that to next year’s Bonds speaker.

About the Author
Rachel Lefkowitz is a published author and a former editor at Tazpit News Agency.
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