Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Israel is witnessing a political tsunami. While is seems as if it began three weeks ago when Amir Peretz trounced Shimon Peres to become the head the Labor party, the seeds of the storm were actually sown decades ago, in the early days of the state.

Following Israel’s war of liberation, Sefardic Jews by the tens of thousands left the Arab lands in which they had lived for centuries and laboriously trekked to the Promised Land. The Sefardim who made aliyah were faithful to the religion of their fathers. The secular Ashkenazi elites who ruled the country then sent these immigrants to forced re-education camps where religion was ripped away from them.

Young boys had their peyos cut off and tzitzis removed upon entry. Children were indoctrinated against Torah Judaism while the parents were intimidated into abandoning their traditions for fear of being blacklisted by the Histadrut and not being able to find employment.

They remained in their primitive desert tent cities until the leftist Mapainiks were satisfied that the Sefardic Olim had integrated sufficiently into the non-religious mainstream of the “new” Israel.

Amir Peretz was one of those boys. At age four, he was robbed of his traditions and of his religion; a sacred legacy passed down over centuries from father to son ended with Amir. As a child, little Amir grew up orphaned of all the glory that was contained in Yehudei Sefarad, transmitted down the generations ever since the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh.

Amir rose up the political ladder and eventually became head of the Histadrut labor union. Then three weeks ago, he accomplished the impossible and toppled Shimon Peres from his perch at the helm of the Labor party.

Peres, protégé of Ben Gurion, who embodies all the ideals of the Mapai party, at the age of 82 boasts a lifetime record of accomplishment and basks in the limelight as a statesman with an international reputation.

Amir Peretz, that little Sefardi boy who the Mapainiks mugged 53 years ago, has now returned the favor. Shimon Peres, the elitist leftist who took a leading role in the secularization of Amir and so many others, was finally unseated. He left the Labor party and place his luck with Sharon’s new Kadima party.

“The only thing before my eyes is the country’s interest, and chances to bring about peace” Peres told Israel Radio, trying to shore up what little is left of his credibility. “There are no personal considerations in my decision.”

People can’t help but smirk. Everyone knows Peres is incensed that he lost to Amir Peretz and that he is fuming at Peretz for refusing to reserve the second slot on the Labor list for him. (Peretz said the only slot he could give Peres was the 120th, way at the end of the ticket.)

Had Peres and his fellow Mapainiks not stooped so low as to rob the Sefardim of their heritage, how much better off the man would be today. Menachem Begin would not have been able to fashion a victory out of disenfranchised Sefradim and Labor may never have lost to Begin and his Likud.

Needless to say, had Peretz been permitted to grow up in the ways of his forefathers he never would have had any ties to Labor and thus could not have toppled Peres.

This is an extreme example of the rule that actions carry consequences. This ironic sequence of events shows the stark difference between what might have been and the unfortunate reality we are dealing with instead. It also shows that if you hang around long enough and have an overview of history you can see Divine reward and punishment.

It may take decades, it may not always be plainly evident but for those who are attuned, it is often possible to discern the cause and effect.
Sometimes we do not have to wait long to see the pattern.

Reform Judaism’s most recent attack on authentic Jewish identity is a case in point. At a recent convention of Reform congregations, a new platform was adopted that puts on vivid display the utter bankruptcy of the movement as it hastens to write itself out of mainstream Judaism.

Faced with a membership in drastic decline — the movement’s leadership has sunk to a new low urging the active recruitment of converts.

“The movement that was the first to welcome intermarried families into its synagogues nearly three decades ago now will focus on actively inviting non-Jews to convert to Judaism,” JTA reported.

In other words, the movement that was the first to welcome non-Jewish spouses into their congregations, trampling one of the fundamental safeguards protecting the Jewish people, is now preparing to hammer in one of the final nails in the coffin.

By urging non-Jewish spouses to “convert” –in Reform’s twisted belief system, a non-Jew can become Jewish by simply regarding himself as a Jew—Reform leaders are hastening the destruction of authentic Jewish identity in their ranks.

The danger to the Jewish people of huge sections of Jewry whose Jewish lineage is suspect can not be underestimated.

We live in our own little cocoons and towns and fail to notice that the vast majority of American Jewry is being lost. If we don’t wake up soon and address the problem in a more serious way, these people may be lost forever to Am Yisroel. Rampant assimilation is ripping away Jews by the thousands every year.

We have a responsibility towards these people; they are our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, who need us to reach out a hand of friendship and rescue to return them to the fold. It is not easy, it is not always doable, but we have to try. They are being swept away by tidal waves of ignorance and leaders who lie to them and lead them astray. We have to extend an olive branch and a helping hand for them to grab onto.

People see what is happening and wonder what they can do. How can I, sitting in my home, help stop intermarriage? What can I do to help Amir Pertz’s children and cousins get back to the roots they were torn from? What can I do to make the world a better place?

Many are familiar with the work of Lev L’achim in Eretz Yisroel which has brought tens of thousands of young Sefardim tachas kanfei haShechina. In fact, there are a plethora of organizations and people who do effective kiruv work in Eretz Yisroel and it is only due to space constraints that we do not list all of them.

If Only We Cared Enough

In America there are far fewer organizations doing work on the scope of the Israelis, but if we would roll up our sleeves and open our pocketbooks to help them, their success rate would undoubtedly be a great deal higher.

Torah Umesorah and its branches, including SEED and Partners In Torah, that seek to spread Yiddishkeit through teaching Torah, cry out for assistance. Oorah and Nechomas Yisroel place Jewish children in yeshivos. Every town and city has people and organizations who endeavor to reach out to the unaffiliated and are starving for your support.

We could stem the tide if we only cared enough.

And then there are our Mosdos HaTorah. Torah is what identifies us as a people. Torah is what makes us who we are and defines what we do. Our Torah institutions should be our priority; they should claim our deepest support and respect. Instead, we see them going begging for the financial assistance they need to survive and flourish.

Last week, when I was putting together this newspaper and saw the ad for the annual dinner of Beis Medrash Govoah, I was taken aback. It announced “a major change in the format of the Annual Dinner and Journal Campaign,” for the Lakewood Dinner.

The ad goes on to state that “For as long as we can remember… [the Lakewood] dinner featured a reception, a formal sit-down dinner and a long program.” This year the format has totally changed because now there will be only “an informal buffet-style event and a short program.”

The reason for this sweeping change? The ad answers that question, explaining that “We heard you – our friends, alumni and supporters – who told us time and again of the tircha in traveling an hour or more for the dinner. We heard all those whose calendars are brimming… and don’t want to sit through another lengthy program.”

In deference to the people who grumbled and complained that they don’t have time for the yeshiva, the yeshiva is switching gears. Instead of an elaborate dinner and a full program, they will now have a buffet, a shortened program and zemiros.

Isn’t something very wrong if the Lakewood yeshiva, the very embodiment of Torah in America, can’t turn out a crowd for its main fundraiser of the year? When it comes to finding honorees for the dinner, everyone discovers humility and pleads anivus. Suddenly people who think they are G-d’s gift to the Jewish people see the light. They tell the roshei yeshiva how this year is the wrong year, they have no friends, business isn’t going well, and no one would make an appearance in their honor to join in paying tribute to the great bastion of Torah.

If we care about Torah; if the future of Am Yisroel is important to us, then we have to be prepared to sacrifice a bit for it. We have to be ready to attend dinners honoring marbitzei Torah and the people who support them. We have to be willing to accept honor if that is the best way we can contribute to the cause of Torah. For things that are important to us we make time, even when uncomfortable, Torah has to be our thing.

As far as the Lakewood Dinner is concerned, at least, the excuses no longer apply. This year you won’t have to listen to speeches extolling the virtues of Torah and those who support it. You won’t have to watch a video of thousands of yungaleit and bochurim engaged in Torah study. You won’t even have to eat dinner. To show that Torah is choshuv to you, all you have to do is show up and pledge your support.

Should all dinners go this way? Should we force every yeshiva to ignore its own needs? Will people now start clamoring for speech-less dinners? Will everyone vote to do away with the proven method of raising enough money to meet payrolls? Let’s hope not.

We all live harried lives, barely able to keep up with all the demands and obligations pressuring us. Despite that, we have to realize that we live not only for ourselves. We must make time for others. We are members of a larger community which means we have responsibilities to each other.

After we cut down on the dinners, the next casualty of a self-centered mentality might very well be the speeches by simchos. “Bar mitzvahs take too long,” people will grumble. “Weddings should be cut down to an hour, no more. I am too busy with my own selfish needs, I am too busy making myself happy, I have no time to join in making other people happy.”

If we want to be able to reach out to Jews who have fallen in with Reform, if we want to prevent the secularization of more people like Amir Peretz, we have to show more commitment and resolve. It is not enough to sit back and offer solutions, it is not sufficient to give eitzos, and taking pot shots at misguided people will solve nothing.

In this battle for the soul of the Jewish people, we have to turn inward and strengthen ourselves in our dedication to Torah, and dip deep into our pockets and our neshomos to safeguard what is most holy and precious to us.

There is so much good in our community, there are so many people who dedicate themselves to enhancing the tzibur in a myriad of ways; they need our help if they are to succeed.

Next time someone asks you to help them get a kid in yeshiva; next time someone asks you to help raise money for a communal project, think of Amir Peretz and of the difference your donation of time, effort and money can make in the life of one person and in the future of Am Yisroel.


Post a Comment

<< Home