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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Better Israeli chutzpa than no Jewish identity

I received this op-ed from Richard L with a request to publish it.
I have 2 great passions in life and hope to one day develop a career in both fields.

The first is advertising, the second, Jewish identity. So when I came across the latest campaigns targeted towards Israelis in the U.S. telling them to come home, I could not ignore it, and I definitely could not ignore it after the uproar which it created amongst American Jewry. There is an on going argument amongst advertisers- is all publicity good? Some believe that even bad publicity is good, since it gets the company's name out in the public. I am glad this campaign is creating such an uproar. This gives us a chance to finally discuss this important topic that has been relevant for the past 2,000 years.

One cannot find on YouTube the ad with the child saying it's Christmas, when he actually should be saying it's Channuka. It seems that the ad had hit an exposed nerve in the body of American Jewry.

Jeffrey Goldberg at his blog writes: "The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik ".

I would like to tell Mr. Goldberg, “That's right. America IS no place for a proper Jew. And any Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should not be living abroad. And, by the way, chutzpah in Israel is not a negative term. It’s having the nerve to say what needs to be said, no matter how unpleasant, in this case to tell Israelis who have gone to American for the “good life,” that they may have sold their birthright for a mess of lentil soup.”

Other bloggers have written about the scare tactic in this campaign. The question arises: “why hasn't the campaign gone down a calmer road, convincing these Israelis to come back home for reasons like, sunshine, a low unemployment rate, real felafels? Using fear in a campaign is a very strong tactic, but most- sometimes it's all that works. Sunshine, good food and a steady economy, may not be cards strong enough to play.

I was talking to a relative who moved to Israel a few years ago. We spoke after she had some trouble in a few stores that day and of course she began the classic "Oh, in the states that would never had happened". But then she paused and said "it’s moments like this that remind you that you move to Israel for spiritual reasons, not materialistic reasons." Anyone who’s been following the Israeli news over the last 6 months knows that financially life in Israel is not simple for many of us. During college I've heard my friends saying that in a few years they hoped to live somewhere outside the land of Israel. Some of my friends found out that I'm an American citizen and I can get up and leave anytime I wish to do so. They've told me I'm crazy for staying here when I have an opportunity to just get on a plane and not live here anymore. But those are just some of my friends.

On the other hand, I have a fair number of friends who've made aliya. These friends have chosen to voluntarily join the army and start a life here without their family. I greatly admire these friends. Truth be told, if you look at their actions through materialistic eyes – then yes, they are crazy. But when you know that moving to Israel is not immigrating to another country, but something much deeper than that, the Jews who live out of this great country, may be the crazy ones.

One does not immigrate to Israel, one makes aliya, and one is not an immigrant in Israel, one is an Oleh. Aliya, and Oleh come from a root that means "going up". Moving to Israel is a difficult but an uplifting experience for your soul, from what I've heard. I myself cannot share my experience of making aliya, I was lucky enough to be born here. But my parents have made aliya 30 years ago and everyday I thank God for that.

Not too long ago, a friend who made aliya asked what my favorite thing about Israel is. I had no answer. Later that night I went to bed asking myself that question over and over again. I realized I don’t have a favorite thing about life in Israel. Life in Israel is my favorite thing. Knowing that I am lucky enough to be living in the land that has been promised to my forefathers thousands of years ago is an astonishing thought to me. But living here is not amazing just because of historical reasons. A Jew's spirituality is not whole while living out of the Land of Israel. Although G-d dwells everywhere, his presence is strongest in the land of Israel. A Jew is closest to G-d while being in the Land of Israel. Making aliya is not just for religious people. Aliya is for anyone who understands the importance of Jews living in their home land.

Julie Wiener suggests that a parody campaign should be done, presenting the "dangers" of aliya Americans making aliya and producing "bizarre" offspring who will call their mother "Ima". Wiener is afraid that God forbid, these offspring will cut in line in the super market. In life one should keep a sense of proportion. On the micro level, cutting in line is disturbing to me; on the macro level – Jews living outside of Israel is much more disturbing to me. I feel sorry for Jews whose ancestors prayed for two thousand years to be able to return to the Land, and now that we can, they don’t. I try to imagine to what these people's ancestors would say if 200 years ago they'd been told their grandchildren would have the possibility to live in Israel, yet chose to ignore it.

It seems that those frightened by this campaign are threatened by the thought that someone actually is telling them that living out of Israel undermines Jewish and Israeli identity. You do not have to be a professor of sociology to know that immigration creates a new identity for immigrants and if not for them, then for their off spring. The percent of Jewish assimilation is incredibly high. The number of Jews in the world today is the same as it's been in 1980, which means, we're still having children, but were disappearing too. One can say they will make the effort in order to keep his/ hers Jewish identity, but our forefathers said the same thing when they moved out of the shtetel. We all know that did not last for long.

Every day I pray for all Jews to realize the importance of life in Israel. How can we claim this land is ours while we're still living all over the world? Why should the common Joe Smith believe in the Jew's right to the land of Israel, while half of his colleagues are Jews, not living in the Promised Land?

Living in this great country may be a crazy thing to do, but still, I know this is where I'm suppose to be, and that's what keeps here.

Chana Rivka Poupko is a 24 year old Jerusalemite; she is a PR intern and hopes to see the day when all Jews move to Israel. Besides that she has lots of love of world Jewry and cares about their future. She'd love it if her kids will have Israeli chutzpa instead of having no Jewish identity.
I have a relative in the US who told me that when they put their (electric) Menorah in the window of their home, one of their neighbors came over and said "I'm so glad you did that. I thought I was the only Jew here." Well, yeah, but how are your kids going to grow up there?

Maybe it's better that there aren't too many people in Boston who both know me personally and connect me to this blog.... And that ad about the kid calling Chanuka "Christmas" really did touch a raw nerve.

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At 8:07 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not insulted Carl, but you must also remember not to play into the stereotype that all Jews are rich. I am not rich! My family is not wealthy and I can not afford to move to Israel unless Israel wants to guarantee me a job. Stop insulting me and do something about it. I went to college. I have the degree and the experience and yet no calls from Israel. Nothing would make me happier then to move to Israel, but Israel had better put up or shut up. If Israel doesn't put up, then you can't expect me to swim there. I have a son and the economy is bad. When I make money I'd like to go, but it won't help us get there if you insult me and the rest of us Jews who are stuck in America at a very bad time. I am not a left winger, but I understand the anger the OWS kids are going through because they are in the same boat as me. It is real Carl. There are no jobs. I might have other ideas then the OWS people as to how to create jobs, but I don't pick on people that are unemployed. People have not had jobs since 2006... and you are asking us to get a plane ticket to Israel where there is no guaranteed job and no guaranteed home... and from what it sounds like... things aren't easy in Israel either. It disgusts me to be shamed into doing something that I incapable of doing myself. I am too old for military service... and I don't have the right skills to work on a farm at a Kibbutz. I would do no one any favors by showing up in Israel and ending up homeless. At least in America I have family that allows me to stay in the attic while I figure out how to survive. I'm not a bum. I'm college educated... and by the way... I didn't want to be college educated. I was shamed into going... and I should of listened to my own advice. I'm not going to be shamed into showing up in a land that has not offered me a job. Not again. This time... NO TICKY NO WASHY CARL


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