Tag Archives: Jewish population

Next Year in Jerusalem. Once we get out of the house

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The piece hanging on my wall and made for me by my late mother

I have a confession to make. In 1985 I left Israel with the intention of spending a few years back the the U.S. before I would return to Israel and settle there for the rest of my life.  35 years later I am still living in America and having either been limited by time or budget have made only one trip back in January of 1994.  And while today I celebrate with love and appreciation the 72nd birthday of the modern State of Israel, I question the authenticity of my affection.

This would mean less if it wasn’t for the fact that I am not alone when it comes to being someone who left Israel “for just a few years”. I would imagine a rather large city, maybe even comparable to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv could be formed in Israel from people such as myself that had every intention of going back soon after they left to make Aliyah.  But the truth is, that with the opportunities to earn, the accessibility of so many products and so much entertainment, and for those it matters to, which is a large percentage of people who love Israel, a large Jewish community, leaving America wasn’t easy.  For many Jews, in the age of COVID-19, and a New York Metro area clobbered by the virus, coupled with a rise in anti-Semitism that has a frightening likelihood of only getting worse, moving to Israel might seem a whole lot easier than it once was.

While there would be nothing pioneering about jumping ship and moving to Israel in light of a changing landscape for the Jewish population outside of Israel, would it be any less acceptable or moral?  To answer that question one need only understand the initial purpose of the modern State of Israel.  It was, and is, first and foremost a safe haven for the Jewish people.  It says the following in Tehillim, Psalms,. Chapter 147, Verse 2:

בֹּנֵ֣ה יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֣ם יְהֹוָ֑ה נִדְחֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל יְכַנֵּֽס, The Lord is the builder of Jerusalem; He will gather the outcasts of Israel.

Israel was formed in the wake of the worst catastrophe the Jewish people ever faced.  In 1948, when the Jewish state was formed, the word was a mere 3 years removed from the end of a war that saw 6 million Jews murdered by Hitler’s Nazi party.  In the coming years Jews would continue to find themselves living in countries in which situations changed either significantly for those countries, for the status of Jews, or both.  Israel continued to be a safe haven then as it was after the Holocaust.  It remains one today.

So as we celebrate Israel’s 72nd birthday, many that once left intending to return, as well as those who never went, may have more to be grateful for than ever before.  Maybe once they get out of the house and reassess our lives as they are today, they may find that L’Shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem, may become more than just a catch phrase, it may actually become a reality.

Happy Birthday Israel!

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“Never Again”: More than a slogan

When I was a 14 year old boy my parents took me and my sister on a vacation to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Part of the trip was a short hovercraft ride over to the small Swedish city of Malmo.  I remembered this trip because of how nice the people were, how good the food was, and how pretty the cities were.  So when I read reports of anti-Semitic attacks on the rise in Malmo, it saddens me, scares me, and angers me.  With an estimated 600 Jews living in Malmo, and a Muslim population of 6,000, the question that needs to be put out there is what is the motivation for the anti-Jewish sentiment?  In France, a nation of over 60 million people, the Muslim population is an estimated 6 million strong, with a Jewish population that has shrunk to under a half a million.  The situation in France has reached a point where Jews are being murdered by terrorists, people randomly attacked, and vandalism of Jewish institutions is on such a rise that the French police are finding it more and more difficult to provide any form of protection, assuming they wish to.  The same question needs to be asked here.  What is the reason for this anti-Jewish sentiment?

It is not fear.  It may be marketed as fear, but the numbers speak for themselves.  Is it political?  Is it a protest against Israeli policy towards the Palestinians?  No more so than the Nazis reason for murdering Jews was based on the so-called Jewish control of the banks.  Sheikh Mohammed Badie, the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood said that the Jews   “spread corruption on earth, spilled the blood of believers and in their actions defile holy places, including their own”.

There may be political motivations in all these instances, but at best these political motivations are the use of hate in order to rally the mob and keep control.  But make no mistake, the hate is very real.  The attacks, the vandalism, and the anti-Jewish statements all have their origin in hatred of the Jewish people.  Sadly, these regimes and communities have such control and influence over their people that the average person who, in their heart does want a peaceful world, has no realistic voice.  As a Jew and a son of Holocaust survivors, I cannot in good conscience say “Never Again” in one breath and be quiet about this growing wave of danger in another. I haven’t even mentioned Iran, a nation that has made it quite clear its willingness to murder Jews in numbers comparable to the actions of Nazi Germany.

Many believe that both FDR and Churchill had enough information about the mechanics of the Nazi killing machine to stop the murder of the Jews long before the war was over.  Nevertheless, these 2 leaders were the most important people in putting an end to the horror, which they did upon the defeat of Germany.  And no one ever accused them of being complicit with the Nazis, rather focused on their strategy and not making Jewish lives a priority.  The point being, they may have not had the level of morality to put a true value on Jewish life, but they were the best we had, and they made the difference in the end.

So it is with this I make this plea to the electorate of nations such as England, Israel, and most immediately, the United States.  Continue to use your democratic rights to fight for your candidate.  Criticize, chastise, dig up dirt if that is your style, I don’t care.  But when then election is over support your democratically elected leader. You can fight to influence your president and hold him accountable, but don’t fight or obstruct him.   We can spend all day discussing and debating how much anyone who is not Jewish genuinely cares about the Jewish people, and we can easily take the discussion back to the days of FDR and Churchill.  But at the end of the day the reason some form of decency and Jewish life survived was because there was true focus on who the true enemy was.  And I have no hesitation when I say that the true enemy today is neither a Democratic or Republican nominee for President.  The true enemies, Muslim extremists, have their sights on democracy everywhere and ultimately will be the enemy of the people whose help we need the most.  At the end of the day, love or hate your leader, they may end up being our best shot at assuring that “Never Again” is not just an empty statement.


In Support of Greek Jewry

As documented in the book Jew Face, the nation of Holland had 75% of its Jewish population murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Another nation with one of the smaller Jewish populations which suffered similar devastation was the country of Greece.  Between 60,000-70,000 Greek Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, most of them in Auschwitz.  At the end of the war an estimated 8-10,000 survived.  Keeping alive the rich history and culture of Greek Judaism with such a small number remaining is a difficult task, one which my friend Richard Solomon has taken upon himself to do.  The following is a link where you can acquire a CD  of a discussion about Greek Jewish history and the Greek Jewish Synagogue and Museum of New York.Go to http://kkjsm.org/ and help keep alive the Greek Jewish history and culture.