There have been numerous studies and commentaries pertaining to the rising anti-Semitism in much of Europe. There have also been eulogies for the Christian and Catholic Churches in Europe and often mentions of another church or cathedral being put up for sale and often being transformed into Mosques. This transformation mirrors the events in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Spain, Turkey and other locations where Islam spread during their periods of expansion as they conquered these lands and transformed them from Christian nations into Muslim majorities and dwindling Christian presence. Similar such occurrences are currently being witnessed in Egypt with the Coptic Christians, the Christians of Lebanon and the Christians of Bethlehem under Palestinian autonomy. The story is often told about the empty pews of the churches throughout most of Europe and the advance of secular statist humanism where the human is worshiped as the ultimate pinnacle of creation and the State is seen as the end all and arbiter of rights, privileges and petition which is nothing more than another variation of worship. The Christians have yet to face the animus which is being felt by the Jews in Europe.
That is where a recent survey taken of European Jews reveals the extent of the discomfort, one could say persecution, felt by the majority of Jews in Europe. Some of the statistics from the survey found that sixty-six percent of European Jews considered anti-Semitism “a fairly big or very big” problem in their country; seventy-six percent said anti-Semitism had worsened in the past five years, with abuse especially prevalent on the Internet with it particularly present in social media, especially where aliases hide the perpetrator’s real name; France, Belgium and Hungary reported the highest rates of anti-Semitism in the media and political life, as well vandalism and open hostility in public; twenty-one percent of people said they had experienced verbal or physical abuse in the last year for being Jewish; almost half feared experiencing public insults or harassment in the next year, with as close to twenty-three percent saying they purposely avoided Jewish sites or celebrations as they might not be safe; eighty-two percent of people did not report abuse or discrimination they had experienced to the authorities feeling it would be useless as nothing would be fully investigated and it would have no real effect on their situations; large number of European Jews are considering leaving because of the persecution they experience in the countries; the belief was found to be valid that a clear link between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews in Europe exists; sixty-eight percent of the Jews reported they have avoided appearing identifiably Jewish in public for fear of attack or harassment; eighty-two percent of those surveyed say they have heard Israelis being likened with Nazis; many of those respondents who had witnessed anti-Semitism saying that it had come from the Left with fifty-seven percent of those in Britain, sixty-two percent of those in Italy and sixty-seven percent of those in France said they had heard anti-Semitism from someone on the Left; racism against Jews from the Muslim community was reported by fifty-one percent of Jews in Sweden, fifty-six percent of Jews in Britain and seventy-three percent of Jews in France; and thirty-one percent of Jews had either considered or attempted emigration specifically as a result of anti-Semitism, while in France the figure is just below half.
Between these numbers and the known high rate of assimilated Jews who no longer practice their religion and the high rate of intermarriage, it is very likely that the end of a Jewish presence beyond some small communities of Orthodox and Hassidic Jews will remain in Europe by the middle of this century and certainly by its end. The truly frightening revelation is that the Jews in the United States are following this very trend, though with far less prevalence of the anti-Semitism, and outside the very religious communities the numbers of practicing and Shabbat Synagogue attending Jews is rapidly dwindling where these communities may soon also disappear. The one thing that might change these trends and force many Jews back to their faith is the rise of anti-Semitism, oddly enough. Should it become systemic and be enacted into law, something which has already begun in Europe with the bans on Kosher slaughter (Shechita) as well as bans on Circumcision, two basic tenets of the Jewish faith, the Jews might, as has occurred numerous times in their history, return to their religion and reestablish close communities living as separate from the mainstreams of society and eventually relocating most likely to Israel. Some might claim that this is exactly what was predicted would occur once the Jewish State was reestablished and that all of this is simply coming to fruition of the ingathering of the Jews to Eretz Yisroel. They would also point to the return by the Ethiopian Jewish community, the Bnei Menashe Jews from India and the Yemeni Jews to Israel in the recent past and still continuing in the present and many expect that more of the lost tribes from the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Samaria) will be found and brought home as well as the rest of the Jews from the southern kingdom of Judah. That is an area where I must depart as such events are beyond the reach or control of mortal humans and as such must simply be hoped for and attempt to assist where and when able but not to the point of believing that our actions can produce such results, that is decided in another dominion.
Beyond the Cusp
There is a pressing need in many governments around the world and, oddly enough in the industrialized and technologically advanced Western World the need has become dire, to find some manner of caring for the most needy among the societies. Granted that being needy in places like the United States and much of the European Union is a far cry than it is in lands where thousands every year, mostly children and elderly, die from starvation or simply malnutrition. This is also true in Israel where, like many advanced nations responding to deficits resulting from the economic downturns recently, the government in order to cut deficits and balance budgets made cuts in the stipends to the poor and for children and other similar programs along with their cuts to other areas in their budgets. The only viable answer is to relieve governments of their need, their requirement to care for the needy and to assuring that every child gets enough food and a balanced diet with sufficient nutrients. That begs the question, if not the government, then who should these people turn to? That is the question we will discuss here.
The most simple answer is claimed to often be the best answer. The simple answer here is for the responsibility for feeding, clothing and caring for the poorest among us to be returned to where historically it has always rested, with our religious institutions. Another place that can be established would be charities which depend on the contributions from those who have sufficient and are living fairly to extravagantly comfortable lives. Churches, Synagogues, Temples, Mosques and other established places for religious worship, study and other activities could use their food preparation areas to make meals and open their doors and feed those who have need. These same places could hold clothing drives, bring a can or fruits to services and countless other means for collecting items and food and other items for distribution to those in their community who are left wanting due to the cutbacks by government. Congregants and members of these institutions could also donate their time if they too were only making do in order to assist with these efforts. The most wealthy among us could return to taking responsibility for helping the needy by adopting a needy family and assisting them with the necessities in life, or adopt a neighborhood if they are able. Such means to address the needs of those among us who are in need would do more than just address a problem and return a true and solid sense of neighborhood and rebuild much of what society was like before the age of large, or even the megalopolises that are forming in this modern age.
When we read some old literature and histories of the early beginnings of the rise of cities due to the industrial revolution we also read of private networks run by a combination of the religious institutions and of charities which often had one or a group of benefactors who were wealthy and who could be known or remain anonymous at their choice that worked as the safety net of the city making sure that those who fell on hard times or simply were unable to make ends meet had a place to turn. The governments as part of their drive to become the sole place that people could turn replaced these support systems over the years as they sought to be all things for all people and supplant G0d and a sense of responsibility for our fellow people in their rush to create the perfect society. Now the governments are finding out that they cannot be all things for all people and their shortfall is causing some to have nowhere to turn and there is once again the need for the old manner of caring for those the most unfortunate among us. This is another case where the old way is very much the best way as it builds up relations and connects people with each other and makes our society more integrated and codependent. By bringing all together to care for those in need and allowing people to be the answer instead of government there will be benefits unseen up front and even some unexpected as we have forgotten how society used to work such that everybody had their place and the wealthiest and the poorest know each other and cared about each other each helping in whatever way they were able. Perhaps it is time to take a step backwards through time and readopt the tried and true way of community and a sense of everybody belonging and working together to make the world a better and more caring place. That is something which government is not suited to do but people excel at doing, so perhaps it is time to give it one more try and see what comes of it. I have a feeling where such attitudes succeed the people’s lives will be the richer and more blessed for it.
Beyond the Cusp
The ideas that people have about the Jewish faith and Israel have as much disinformation as any of the wildest conspiracy theories. The most erroneous myth about the Jews and Israel is that the two entities can be separate. How anybody can reasonably and logically believe that the Jewish people will ever give up on building their homes in Eretz Yisroel and erecting the Third Temple in their capital city of Jerusalem have obviously missed the lesson that came to a fruition on May 15, 1948 with the reestablishment of the Jewish State of Israel after almost two millennium. The theory that is spread through many of the communities who have chosen to have a confrontational relationship with Israel and the Jews is that if they can remove the Jewish presence in Israel they will have eradicated the Jewish people. This is far from an original idea as it has been tried previously by an empire that was probably the most efficient at crushing any adversary and erasing their memory from all of history. In the first centuries of the Julian calendar the Empire of Rome decided that the tribes that made up Judea (the remaining home of the Jews after the dispersion and loss of the ten tribes from the northern Kingdom of Israel who were conquered by Assyria around 722 BCE after which it is believed they assimilated so completely as to have lost all ties with Judaism) has caused Rome measures of difficulty beyond tolerance and dispersed the population to such an extent that Rome believed that they would cease to exist as a peoples. It took nearly two-thousand years but those dispersed tribes are now leaving the Diaspora and returning to their home of Yisroel. Conquer Israel today and all that will accomplish is to cause a reverent return to the commandments and covenant by the remaining Jews who will once again claim with all their hearts and end prayer in their homes on the nights of the Passover Seder including the prayer hoping for their next Seder will be held, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The Jewish people have historically tended to slip from their religious observance and assimilate into their host societies as long as they are accepted and comfortable. Should their brethren become threatened they have historically come together and reestablished their roots and common heritage. Part of the reason behind this reaction has a historic root that often, whether they lived in Christian Europe or the Muslim lands of Northern Africa and the Middle East, when one area begins to persecute the Jews in their particular region the Jews begin to emigrate and as their number increase in the bordering area the new concentration of Jews makes this new location fearful of their increased numbers and react often by laying restrictions on the Jews to restrain their ability to flourish and gain too much influence and when this does not produce sufficient results, they too begin to persecute their Jews thus causing a wave of anti-Semitism which ripples across the landscape over time. This has been Jewish history through much of our many thousand year history replete with a fair number of exiles from which the Jews, or Hebrews or Israelites as they were also known for much of their early history, always returned to the same Promised Lands after each and every exile whenever it seemed auspicious. The main impediment until the modern age has been the logistics and cost of often traveling great distances across borders which were not always guaranteed safe passage and often lands whose transversal would be required forbid such transit by Jews. Even now there are communities of Jews who are unable to afford to return to Israel such as the Jews in Ethiopia who when they became threatened in their homeland petitioned Israel who has taken to ingathering these threatened Children of Israel regardless of the expense. Similar efforts have been extended for the Bnei Menashe Tribe of India, the Jews of the Soviet Union, as well as taking the influx that accompanied the nearly million Jews expelled from the Arab and Muslim world in the first decade after the founding of the modern state of Israel as well as the initial influx of the remnants of European Jews many of whom managed to survive the Holocaust only to find themselves penniless and dispossessed and turned away by the former communities who had taken whatever they had left behind when rounded up and transported to either ghettos, work camps, or death camps. Israel never placed their brethren into camps for extended times and did whatever it took to absorb and accept these Jewish refugees.
The Jewish desire and drive to inhabit the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is a part of their heritage and a tenet of Judaism. Abraham was directed to these lands when his name was Avram before the L0rd instructed him to adopt his new name of Avraham. This was the land the generation that followed their exodus from Egypt and bondage that they conquered and settled. This is the one small sliver of land in which Jews desire to reside and practice their religion and commit to performing those responsibilities and requirements of their covenant with the Almighty. The Jews of Israel have no desire to spread out into neighboring lands or to convert any non-Jewish person to Judaism unless they initiate the request, and even then we ask why they would choose to convert and have them discuss the why before allowing such conversions. The Jews do not proselytize as we are instructed to simply live as an example of a proper and good life obedient to G0d and be a light unto the nations. I would not claim that my brethren or I have necessarily been anywhere near as exemplary in practice as either we would desire or that is required of us by Torah. The only reason I might offer is we have only returned home for a little over sixty years and have not exactly been allowed to live without immediate threats and we have made some gains towards this idyllic code for righteous lives. But should the most unthinkable possible future include the loss once again of our home Israel it will not be the end of the story of the Jews who will return to longing for our homes to be in Israel. As a Jew one is not truly living a complete and blessed life as they are potentially capable of living unless they live in the Promised Land. As has been the contention of many of our revered Rabbis, a mitzvah which is committed in Israel counts as ten mitzvahs committed outside of Israel and merely living within Israel is a mitzvah all on its own. With this much importance placed on building a Jewish homeland in Israel over any other location in the world no matter how idyllic, how can anyone contend that the Jews can be removed from Israel and that the love and desire for Israel can be removed from the Jews. Neither is possible. So, instead of condemning Israel could the world just once give allowing the Jews their little sliver of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea? Then as long as we live within the borders as described in Torah and act in a manner that not only does no harm to others but is an example of how to live harmoniously with the universe, everybody simply leave us be. Furthermore, we promise to share all the medical, scientific, agricultural, manufacturing and other nonreligious discoveries we make with the rest of the world to their benefit. We have no desire to conquer the world or even establish an empire or impose our faith on anybody else. We simply want to live in peace, obey and observe Torah, give praise to the L0rd our G0d, and build a nation which exemplifies living honorably and in harmony so as to be exemplary in our dealings and be as a light unto the nations of the world such that they desire to live in peace and harmony as a result. We do not desire to expect, let alone demand, anything from those who live beyond our borders and wish to treat with kindness those who wish to live within our borders as long as they act without violence or disruptiveness thus disturbing the functioning of our society.
Beyond the Cusp