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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jews are better off in Israel or why the Absorption Ministry should not have pulled those ads

I have to tell you all that when I saw those ads on YouTube, my initial reaction was "this is so true." My next reaction - to the Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) ad, which I saw first, was "only the Israelis are going to get this." Then I saw the kid calling Chanuka "Christmas" (which is the only ad that is not still working on my site - so click the link above and see the other two) and I thought back to this story from six years ago at this time (that link is from 2007).
Just to give you some appreciation for the scope of the problem, consider this story which appeared in the Jerusalem Post (originally) two years ago. Clearly, these people did not belong in State College, Pennsylvania (the wife is American, the husband Israeli, they left Israel for faculty positions at Penn State):

The truth is that after living so many years in Israel, we didn't give much thought to what Jewish life would be like out there in central Pennsylvania. We knew there was a small Jewish community centered around the university, one small synagogue with several hundred members, yet no full-time Jewish schools. But that was fine for us. After living so many years in Israel, we thought it would be a good idea for our children to experience something they could never experience in the Jewish state: feeling what it was like to be part of a minority.

James Carville, the political consultant and former Clinton aide, once said that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in between. This Alabama is precisely where we landed in the summer of 2004 with four Hebrew-speaking children who had never seen snow, sung Jingle Bells or heard Silent Night.

But not for long.

Right after Thanksgiving, when the neighbors began decorating their homes with Christmas lights and trees, we were able to confirm what we had suspected from the start: that we were the only Jewish family on the block. Next to all the brightly lit and ornamented homes, many of them featuring Nativity scenes on their front yards and giant Santas on their roofs, our own unlit undecorated house stuck out like a sore thumb.

Our third child, Iddo, then five years old, pleaded with us to dress up our house like all the others. Those lights are for Christmas, we tried to explain to him, and Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas. "Not even one teeny, tiny light?" he begged.

If that's when we learned we were outsiders in the neighborhood, our children had already discovered that they were not like everyone else in their respective schools. Matan, then in fifth grade, and Tamar, in third, turned out to be the only Jewish children in their public school. Iddo had one other Jewish child in his.

It was at about this time last year, when our children had their first exposure to Christmas, that we received an invitation to an evening event at their school called the "Holiday Sing." All we were told was that the children would be performing songs for their parents that they had learned in their music classes.

How could we have known what we were in for? It all started rather innocently with the children singing what we have since learned are called "secular Christmas songs" - an oxymoron if there ever was one. Granted, the name of Christ was not mentioned in these songs, but watching my little Jewish children up there on the stage with their classmates singing Christmas classics like Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer did make me cringe.

And that wasn't the worst of it.

After the children had finished performing, a group of parents handed out sheets with the lyrics to all the songs that would be sung in the next part of the event, the group sing-along. That's where I was introduced for the first time to the lyrics of Silent Night. To say that I was stunned to find myself in an American public school surrounded by parents and children singing out verses like "Christ, the Savior is born," "Son of God, love's pure light," and "Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth" would be an understatement.

The auditorium was so crowded that Amit and I were forced to sit at opposite ends. Somehow, though, we managed to exchange horrified glances across the room. Silent Night was followed by several other religious Christian songs, and then, as if to add insult to injury, Dreidel, Dreidel, I Made it Out of Clay - a silly Hanukka song popularized in America.

After we came home and put the children to sleep, Amit and I stayed up late talking about what we should do, feeling rather sickened by the entire experience, but thankful, at least, that our children were still not fluent enough in English to understand what had been taking place around them.

Read it all.
At Asia Times, Spengler writes that the vehement reaction to the ads in the United States has one small problem: While they're outrageous and insulting, they're also true (Hat Tip: Sunlight).
The vehemence of the official Jewish response to the Israeli advertisements betrays a guilty conscience: Jewish life in America is dying, as the same Jewish organizations warn in ever-gloomier studies of Jewish demographics. It seems inconsistent of the Jewish organizations to bewail the inexorable decline of American Jewish life on one hand, and condemn the Israelis for pointing to their manifest achievements in sustaining Jewish life.

The tragedy is that Jews have stopped being Jews because America has stopped being America. The Pilgrim Fathers founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in conscious emulation of the people of Israel, undertaking a new Mission in the Wilderness to found a new Chosen People in a New Promised Land. From this emerged what Abraham Lincoln called an "almost-chosen people", a secular and democratic nation defined by the biblical concept of covenant.

Mainstream American culture holds in contempt the idea of a divine grantor of rights who has established individual freedom beyond the prerogative of any government to impinge. For the minority who understand the American founding as a continuation of the covenant of Mount Sinai, the survival of the Jewish people is proof that God's promises never attenuate; for mainstream culture, the Jews are a curious remnant of antique superstition. That is how most American Jews see the matter, and that is why most of them do not much trouble to be Jewish.

In principle, Jewish life should flourish in the United States. As Eric Nelson of Harvard demonstrated in his 2010 book The Hebrew Republic, the political theory by which America was founded drew on post-biblical rabbinic sources. Nowhere (except in the State of Israel) should Jews feel more at home than in America, whose founding drew on their classical sources.

Sadly, American Jews stand out as a horrible example of demographic failure. In the United States, secular and loosely affiliated American Jews, that is, the vast majority, have the lowest fertility rate of any identifiable segment of the American population.


In Israel, by contrast, the Jewish fertility rate stands at around 3 children per female, by far the highest in the industrial world. Aside from the ultra-Orthodox minority, which has seven or eight children, the non-Orthodox Jewish fertility rate is around 2.6 children per female.


On reflection, American Jews should reconsider their umbrage at Israel's Immigration Ministry. Their own organizations are painfully aware that loosely affiliated Jews of all shadings are falling away from the Jewish community, failing to bring enough children in the world to replace their existing numbers, and failing to raise them as Jews.

The controversial videos, in short, did nothing to insult American Jews. But the fact is that the Israelis run circles around their American co-religionists.


Israelis grow up with sense of urgency for excellence; in their neighborhood, First Prize is the chance to compete for First Prize once again, and Second Prize is, you're dead. American Jews live under no threat whatever; having made good in America, they have all the room in the world for indolence and self-deception.

Whatever the Jews are, they are not stupid, and American Jews knew perfectly well in 2008 that the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, was a more reliable supporter of Israel's security than Barack Obama. Yet 78% of American Jews voted for Obama, in part because the liberal social agenda mattered more to them, and in part because they continued to believe in the Rabin-Arafat handshake long after the Israelis had written it off. (Audience: If you believe in the Peace Process, clap your hands!)

Liberalism is a self-liquidating proposition, and there are no liberals like Jewish liberals, who are a soon-to-be-endangered species. The sad thing is not that the liberal leadership of American Jewish organizations is complaining about Israel, but that they won't be around much longer to complain about anything.
Read the whole thing. Only civil comments will be allowed.

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At 6:33 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

I always tell my kids that a complete country running on a Jewish schedule is available in Israel. We talk about this when something at their school, or sports, or whatever, doesn't fit right with the Jewish calendar. On the other hand, if we could focus on friendliness rather than bickering, I would say that some number of American Jews could impart (maybe mostly to parents?) a way of staying committedly Jewish, at varying levels of observance, even while surrounded by other religions and (even harder) secular hedonism. And then Israel could have an "associates" program, stripped of your domestic politics and stripped of the big communal organizational politics (which have a slew of people stuck as pawns), for us out here that could lead to appropriate statuses (as you do with immigrants, although I've heard slowly), possibly new views of increased observance. This bickering and prickliness is counter productive. We need to be friends.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Shy Guy and I would say American Jews are stupid!

For all their shortcomings, Israeli Jews are smart: both for preserving their Jewish identity and transmitting it to their children.

American Jews, especially liberal American Jews have done a poor job at both so they resent Israel for pointing out the obvious.

The real problem with the Absorption Ministry's commercials is they are politically incorrect. They should not have been pulled off the air in the US.

Maybe someday, if American Jews are still around the few left will finally get it.

What could go wrong indeed

At 7:53 AM, Blogger jlevyellow said...

So the lines have been blurred by the Liberal Jews to the point that Jews are not permitted to be different from non-Jews. This ploy serves the purpose of preventing or minimizing overt aggression against Jews. There is nothing left to the imagination as to what the outcome will be - total assimilation.

Counterpoint: It is this identical attitude that now pervades the European and to a lesser degree the American approach to Islam and goes by the name of multiculturalism. However, the Jews remain different from the multiculturalists, since the Jews engaged this belief to preserve their individual selves, while the multiculturalists come to this belief through Marxism. Marxists believed in the destruction of all cultures. There is no room for differences. Differences need to be wiped out even at the point of a rifle bayonet. Thus, the Jews have jumped from the firing pan into the fire. In an attempt to save themselves they have made common cause with those who would wipe them out. The Liberal Jews have become the aggressors against themselves. It was so amongst the Communist Jews of Russia following the Revolution and it is so again today in Europe and America. In our attempt to save our children, we make them our destroyers. So sad!

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Leah Goodman said...

I keep telling my friends to come home. They all have reasons why they can't.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Leah, not to dispair. We know several Israeli families who had to choose and went back to Israel. They love it and didn't want their kids to miss out on being raised there (other than the years they spent here!). Those families who come here to work and make long lasting friends, along with the shlihim, are Israel's best ambassadors.


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