November 28, 2004
The 15th of Kislev
I just “bumped” another “musing in the making” to the “to be continued when there’s nothing cooking” file. I had titled it “Roots,” which in a sense can be used for this one, since the OU, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, is the parent body of NCSY, National Conference Of Synagogue Youth. And NCSY is the organization that connected me with my Jewish roots.
The “emergency” is the pathetic justification the new OU president voiced in an interview in The Jerusalem Post. The OU is having its annual national convention here in Israel. They’re very proud of themselves. OK, I have no problem with that; we need the tourists. In addition the OU has officially come out in favor of aliya. All right, I wouldn’t say that it’s commendable, since, like I told my parents over thirty-five years ago: “Aliyah’s a mitzvah, like Shabbat and kashrut.” And they don’t expect a standing ovation for keeping Shabbat. But anyway, it was nice to read the press release.
All this pro-aliyah business began looking like a Purim joke when my husband read to me on Shabbat, from The Jerusalem Post interview with Steve Savitsky, the new OU President:
"People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago aliya was for people who were running away from something. They weren't successful. They didn't have a successful marriage. They were coming because there was a reason. They weren't role models." (29-11-04)
Really? (Read it again, take a deep breath and count to ten)
I figured I’d leave the previous paragraph rather empty to digest the quotation. Look, I don’t know him. I already heard from a friend of his, who can’t believe the words were said. I’m sure that he didn’t mean to insult the thousands of us American immigrants, but I have no doubt that these are his true feelings. He was probably jet-lagged and “over-stimulated” by all the excitement. While getting my teaching license, I researched and presented a paper that proved that insufficient sleep causes the same sort of symptoms as ADHD, including impulsivity, a lack of restraints and inhibitions.
Mr. Savitsky said a lot in his honest statement. And yes, I consider it a very honest and revealing statement. I’m sure that he had absolutely no intention of telling us so much about himself. Honestly, I feel sorry for him. Apparently aliyah is something Steve Savitsky knows that he should do, and it has been eating away at some part of him. His “sour grapes” method of putting down all of us Americans here is unforgivable. Sorry, excuse me, there is always a chance for tshuva, repentence.
There are many halachik difficulties, complexities, involved in “taking back” what he said. A simple verbal apology is insufficient. It’s “just words” and would probably be composed by or with a committee of advisors. That does not show true tshuva.
Tshuva is a process. It is a long complex one, especially when the sin affects other people. Mr. Savitsky is in a position of power and influence. What he said about aliyah could have a negative effect on people planning aliyah.
But I’ll tell you the truth. Those of us here weren’t personally insulted. We’ve been having a good laugh over his “foot in mouth,” or “he really put his foot in it.” We’re far from being insecure enough to take anything he says about aliyah as authoritative.
We’re here. We’re glad we’re here, and we’re willing to help more Americans make aliyah. And we don’t need the OU’s approval or encouragement. Actually, a “department” of the OU made aliyah years ago, when it opened the Israel Center, which now has activities for all ages and backgrounds, all over Israel.
And I, personally, will always be grateful for what I got forty years ago from NCSY.
Batya (Beth Spiegelman) Medad