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Friday, April 19, 2013

Fellow Jews, How About Relocating to Israel?

The OU is promoting relocating to various Jewish communities in the United States.  Apparently, these fairs they've been running are so successful that the number of communities asking to be promoted is growing.  And some of those communities are in the Greater New York area, which has me very surprised.  I never would have guess that those communities need the extra support from such an event.

Now surprise, I'm sure, but I don't understand how Israel is not considered an option.  Granted the OU is an American Jewish organization that wants to perpetuate itself, but still there are Jewish principles, such as the mitzvah of ישוב הארץ yishuv ha'Aretz, settling the Land of Israel.

My husband and I made aliyah just two months after our wedding in the summer of 1970.  That was decades before the establishment of Nefesh B'Nefesh.  Today's olim have a much easier time than we did, and we consider our aliyah to best decision we ever made, tying with our move to Shiloh.

In 1970, not only weren't there cell phones, or internet, but not every Israeli family had a phone.  Many had to wait a minimum of a year or even seven to get a phone line.  We communicated with family and friends by sending letters, paper letters in envelopes with stamps.  Letters written between countries were frequently on aerogrammes, a one page, very thin and light paper, which we'd fold and seal.  It cost less than an airmail stamp. I have a number of friends whose very first trip to Israel was their aliyah.  Most people could not afford a "pilot trip" and the concept didn't exist then.

We weren't among the very first families in Shiloh.  We moved to Shiloh in time for the school year, the summer of 1981, when the population doubled from thirty plus families to sixty plus families.  Shiloh was the first Jewish community in our area, and we enthusiastically welcomed Eli and Ma'ale Levona.  Davka, last night a picture of the founding ceremony of Ma'ale Levona was posted on our email list as a quiz/challenge asking the veterans here who is in the picture.  I'm the young mother holding that adorable baby.

The establishment ceremony of Ma'ale Levona, spring, 1984, which we from Shiloh attended.

a more up to date picture of Ma'ale Levona

Today there are so many different sorts of places for people to live in Israel, from small communities to large cities.  Israel is now a modern high tech country.  If you're in the market to move, so move here and do yourselves a big favor!


Hadassa said...

The OU has an Israel Center in Jerusalem which serves almost entirely English speaking olim and recently instated new guidelines for their hechsher on products produced in Israel. They wouldn't be compromising their principles at all by encouraging mass aliya. Whatever the OU is doing in America they can do here, especially if they bring lots of English speaking olim who need help navigating Israel, and get more mitzvot for doing it.

Batya said...

Hadassa, you're 100% right!

goyisherebbe said...

As a Life Member of the Israel Center and hence of the OU, I receive their publication Jewish Action regularly. You can also read it on the OU website. The fairs that they have for relocation to "out-of-town" communities state specifically that they are NOT offering relocation within the US as an alternative to aliya, but only for those who are not able or ready for it yet. The increasing volume of English-speaking religious activity in Israel, much of it connected to the OU, is encouraging aliya. Many modern, centrist and moderate hareidi Orthodox rabbis are promoting or at least speaking positively about aliya in their communities. Since Nefesh B'Nefesh has been entrusted with handling of all the American aliya the whole process has gotten easier and more friendly. I don't think we can just jump up and down here and have a tantrum that all those Jews have to get on a plane right this minute. It takes time or more anti-semitism and terror there to get them to make up their mind. Two generations of kids have already come to learn here after high school and a few of them stayed. Some came later and some retired here. Orthodox Jews feel at home here and they will be coming soon. It's the other, clueless ones that I'm really worried about. If heavy duty Jew-hatred happens in America, they will not know what hit them, somewhat like the Jews in Germany. Let's hope it doesn't happen that way.

Janet Kasten Friedman said...

In the winter of 1970, my parents visited Israeli cousins, who, in their post-Six Day War euphoria told them that all the Jews should make aliya, now! My Dad answered: "If all 6 million US Jews make aliya, we would all starve together!" I'm not sure that was true even then; but it is certainly not true now.
Israel has improved materially,as my husband pointed out in his comment. Spiritually, Israel is dynamic. There are many Torah scholars and holy "ordinary" citizens who do mitzvot, as well as lots of people who call themselves "non-religious" who are making enourmous spiritual progress. "Religious" people constituted 10-15% of Israel's population in 1970; today it is more like 25-30%.
The United States has the opposite situation. Unemployment is high and the standard of living has gone down, from what I read in the media. (I admit I don't trust the media too much, and it's hard to measure standard of living...) The gap between what the average US Orthodox Jew can have and what the average Israeli Orthodox Jew can have has narrowed quite a bit since 1970. Spiritually, even though there are now more yeshivas and other Jewish schools in the US than there used to be, the available selection in any given place in America remains narrow, at a very high financial cost. Even with all their efforts to educate their kids Jewishly, Torah education remains an "add-on option" to the general, Western culture. Assimilation is rampant and intermarriage strikes even Orthodox families. American Jews have the lowest birthrate of any ethnic group in the US; so the 6 million Jews in 1970 have become 5 million Jews in 2013. The Reform and Conservative Jewish movements each claimed to be the only hope for American Jewish Life; instead they have become its pallbearers.
What was obvious to me in 1971 has become obvious to many other Jews: that Israel is the future of the Jewish People.
The OU is, by definition, an American Jewish organization. Their mandate includes strengthening Judaism in America. They can't be blamed for doing their best to do just that! But they learn the same Torah that we (in Israel) learn; they also know that Israel, not America, is the Land that G-d promised the Jewish people. They also know that it's a mitzva to live in Israel. They also know that the future of the Jewish people is in Israel. They are a very positive force in helping Jews transition from the US to Israel. I don't think you ought to blame them for holding up the Redemption.

Batya said...

nice to hear from both of you
goyish, if someone is going to relocate, so Israel should be an option at the fair.
Janet, I mentioned that I know the OU is out to grow not shrink, so they are ambivalent about the "Israel option."
We made the right decision to move here.