Warning ahead: Take note!
The annual Limmud Conference in Toronto will take place on March 19. As it did last year, GAJE plans to participate in the conference this year as well.
An interesting – if provocative though not necessarily shocking – news item emerged from the recent Limmud Former Soviet Union (FSU) Conference held last month in Eilat, Israel. It is important that GAJE members be aware of it for it touches upon the reasons we are so committed to the cause of making Jewish educational more affordable.
The story appeared toward the end of December in The Times of Israel.
Returning to a subject he repeatedly addressed when he was Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, now Israel’s Minister of Defence, warned the assembly that “Whoever saw the last surveys by the Pew Center, the rates of assimilation, the connection between the new generation in the United States to Judaism — not just Israel –” ought to be concerned. The picture [that emerges from the survey] is very grave. If we don’t pull ourselves together, in a generation and a half, there will be nearly no Jewish people in the Diaspora, apart from Orthodox communities. We are fighting for the future and the survival of the Jewish people in the entire world — outside of Israel, outside of Orthodoxy,” Liberman proclaimed.
Jewish Agency chairman, Natan Sharansky, reinforced Liberman’s warning about the future of the Diaspora. But Sharansky spoke in even starker terms.
Sharansky believes that American Jewry is the most endangered Diaspora community.
“Pointing to intermarriage and assimilation rates, Sharansky maintained that if current trends persist, regardless of which definition of Jewishness one uses – whether a Jewish mother, or eligibility for the Jewish Law of Return, or any other definition of Jewishness – we will be “losing” Jews at rates of “hundreds per day,” he estimated.
“It starts on campus, he continued, when Jews are confronted with anti-Israel hostility and are taken to task over the policies of the Jewish state. Understandably, many students choose to keep their opinions — or their Jewishness — to themselves and bury themselves in their studies, he said.”
The irony of the observations should be lost on no one. Jews from the FSU, whose Jewish identities were forcibly suppressed for generations by their government are now expressing fear for the future Jewish identities of their co-religionists, especially in the U.S., who have always grown up in free societies, unrestrained in their right to choose to be Jews.
GAJE believes, of course, that more widely accessible Jewish education, i.e., more widely affordable Jewish education, for as many Diaspora Jews as possible, will help arrest the disheartening figures pointed to at the Limmud Conference by both Liberman and Sharansky.
Sharansky was not simply being cavalier or provocative when he described American Jewry as the “most endangered” community in the Diaspora. He spoke from sad, worrisome, first-hand, personal experience traveling throughout the campuses of the America last year.