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Jewish Survival in the Diaspora – Chapters 2 & 3

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Jewish Survival in the Diaspora – Chapters 2 & 3

By: Clifford Rieders
David Ben Hooren covered Chapter 1 very well, the lack of coordination on behalf of the Jewish community in the Diaspora emanating from the State of Israel. Read more about it on the Jewish Voice website: https://tjvnews.com/2024/05/israel-is-losing-the-battle-for-public-opinion/
The national experiment of the Jewish people in the Middle East arguably could do more to add the Diaspora community and its desperate fight for survival. On the other hand, there are those who argue that Israel has enough on its plate, and it should do little or nothing to meddle in the affairs of Jews throughout the world who are more assimilated and less connected to Israel than might be imagined by even the most optimistic soothsayers.
That brings us to Chapter 2, Lack of Coordination and Cooperation in the United States in Connection with the Jewish Community and Chapter 3, Why do We Even Bother to Support Israel from the Jewish Community Overseas?
The lack of coordination and cooperation of the United States among Jewish groups is stunning. While we have the Conference of Presidents, a worthy organization, its absence in the foxhole is more evident than its involvement.
A few stories will suffice, as exemplars. In dealing with legal issues, groups that represent Jewish interests rarely, if ever, work together. They almost never share funds and helping one another in connection with the necessary legal work to bring cases on behalf of the Jewish community is almost non-existent.
The question is why do these groups work so badly together, when they share many of the same goals, and the individual lawyers (and their supporters) have much in common?
One reason is fundraising. I have been told directly that, “It is all about donors.” The fight for donors, particularly in the United States, has reached extreme proportions. There are less people in the Jewish community willing to support the future of Diaspora Jews, and it seems as though there is less money to go around.
One of the reasons why Jewish groups do not cooperate with one another is the fear that someone else will get the credit. Those who get the credit will ultimately get the money.
In writing this story, there are many specifics that can be told, but it would involve disclosing names, organizations, and events, the disclosure of which might cause more harm than good. In attempting to electrically jolt the American Jewish Diaspora community, it may be a good thing to be specific, but it may also cause further rifts, anger, and distress.
Suffice it to say that in raising money for important legal battles, there is almost never money sharing and there is little sharing of human resources. It is almost as though the American Jewish community is made up of a bunch of small law firms and businesses, each one competing against the other for credit, money, power, and success. That will guarantee the failure of all.
 Many hemolytic expressions would suffice: “We either stand together or hang together.” That butchery of the American Revolutionary quote, is just one way to look at Jewish American failure to cooperate. We also are a “house divided.” Thank you Mr. Lincoln.
The reality is that everyone in the Jewish community world knows precisely what we are talking about, this is not only true from the perspective of those pursuing legal channels. In organizational efforts, there is no shortage of badmouthing. Just as Israel politicians commit the sin of destroying one another, and therefore the nation, we in the American Jewish likewise hurt ourselves by not helping ourselves.
It is no secret that some of the most dramatic funding for anti-Semitic college behaviors are funded by Jews and Jewish groups, such as the well-known evil George Soros. There are others whose names have also come to attention that for some reason have conflated their leftwing liberal philosophy with an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish perspective. It is beyond understanding as to why or how someone who generally supports Judaism, can spend so much time, money, and effort trashing Israel and Zionism. Yet, it is the reality of today.
Being self-destructive is not unique to Jews alone. The Muslims have broken into factions, blow up one another at every opportunity. Witness Iraq, as a case in point. Protestants and Catholics did a good job murdering each other for centuries. There still is a fair amount of negative feeling between and among churchgoers, to the extent that adherents have not left Christianity altogether.
Jews, who are among the least religious, in the United States at any rate, have a long history of eating one another alive while walking away from their religious tradition and embracing the hostile views of the petrie dish in which they live and exist.
No one in particular has an answer to all of this, since we do not in Diaspora have a charismatic leader around to which many people can comfortably flock. Perhaps one example of success is the man that I knew as Menachem Mendal Schneerson, “The Rebbe.” He built an empire from one or two Chabad houses into well over 4,000. Chabad is all over the world, in places that I never heard of. Sometimes it is a headscratcher as to why there will be a Chabad in some Asian or African town with no Jews, while a place like Williamsport, Pennsylvania cannot qualify for a much needed Chabad house. That is a personal gripe of mine, since this article is about gripers.
The Rebbe movement is not merely religious. It brings people together in a non- political environment where they can mingle, schmooze, and just talk with other Jews. The Chabad movement has been successful because it does not seek to undermine other Jewish interests. Not all agree. There are some towns and cities where Chabad has moved in and the preexisting Jewish culture has been extremely resentful of the competition. In other places, the Chabad houses have been welcome additions to the Jewish community and have helped the preexisting Jews in a particular location to thrive.
So long as the American Jewish Diaspora fights among itself over politics, religion, money, and leadership, we will have no success and our enemies will prevail at every turn of events. College campuses will become more hostile for Jews, unless they are
willing to depart from the religion and any connection with Israel, and in a most aggressive way. Even that form of relinquishment did not help the German Jews when the ovens were built in Germany and Poland.
Chapter 3, Jewish Observance
At the bottom line, there will be no Judaism, study of Jewish history, or accomplishment of shared goals without the religion. At some very fundamental level, Judaism has to be more than bagels, lox and cream cheese or an occasional Torah study, maybe once or twice a year.
Judaism has to be about the religion of the Jews. We are the survivors of only two of the ancient Hebrew tribes. Yet, we have been willing to throw away the spiritual life that we gave to the world as a special gift.
The two great religions that dominate the west, Christianity and Islam, would not exist in anything like their present form, and certainly would not be monotheistic, were it not for Judaism. Our gift, however, has become an anathema to those who received it.
The roots of anti-Semitism are well beyond the purview of this article. The fundamental disposition as to how to save Jews and Judaism in Israel and abroad is to rekindle the passion, the flame that made Judaism a worldwide religion and a spiritual philosophy worth preserving.
We need a new generation of leaders, thinkers, and organizers who will be unafraid to promote Jewish practice as worthwhile.
Frequently, I find myself as the only Jew in a group or crowd asking for kosher food or unwilling to work on the holidays and Shabbat. That used to bother me, I was uncomfortable with it. A new dawn has occurred for me and many other Jews. I have come to realize that not just preservation but also practicing of our spiritual path is a sure way to inner peace and survival as a people.
As noted earlier, Chabad has done a great job of helping to kindle the flame and keep it burning. However, Chabad should not be asked to do the job alone.
Every Jewish organization needs to link its efforts with what it means to be a Jew and practice the religion. Getting along with each other and tolerating divergent Jewish points of view should be a fundamental tenant of how we practice our religion. In Perkey Avot, we read that it is inappropriate to have contempt for anyone or any idea. That is hard to swallow, and I spend much time meditating on what it means. I have read dozens of commentaries on that simple phrase, and still do not have an understandable conclusion. The point is that being a Jew means understanding our history, precepts, and observances, even if we continue to do it differently. Jews are people not a religion alone.
 The salvation for the Jew will not come from Israel alone, the Diaspora, or even the practice of our religion, but all three together are unbeatable in the cauldron of fire that defines Jewish existence.

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