Developing Young Supporters of Israel

Thursday, 19 April, 2018 - 5:48 pm

One of the issues facing the Jewish establishment today is bridging the gap between young Jews and Israel. Young Jews who are socially conscious are becoming increasingly disconnected from, and even hostile toward Israel. We needn’t look further than our own community, where a group of Jews led the effort to hoodwink the city council into passing the “BDS” bill earlier this year. Beyond the open hostility, a significant percentage of young Jews are, at best, ambivalent toward Israel. They no longer see their destiny as socially conscious humans, or even as Jews, as being linked to Israel. On the contrary they (mistakenly IMO) see Israel as an aggressor whose “apartheid” policies are discriminating against the persecuted minority. Pride in Israel’s accomplishments in all areas of human advancement, has been replaced by shame at the supposed colonialist and racist methods of dealing with the issues.

While we can and should argue the issues point and by point, demonstrating how the arguments are often fallacious and misleading, the success of that approach is diminishing from day to day. They are being inundated by other view-points that are more in the vogue in today’s world, and are, by and large, tuning out the mostly impotent attempts at “hasbara.”

So what is the alternative solution? Statistics and recent demographic studies have shown, that the segment of Jewish society that is most unconditionally supportive of the Jewish right to a presence in Israel, are those who are being raised in traditionally observant environments. Why is this so?

Because this child is raised in a home and school where Israel is presented as a place that is a gift from G-d to the Jewish people. They are shown the holiness of Israel, and how it is the very place in which the narratives of the Bible occurred. They are taught the special Mitzvot connected to the land. They are exposed to the closeness to G-d that one can feel there. They are imbued with a love for the Jewish people and are thus intensely concerned with their safety in Israel. In short, they view Israel in the context of the entire Torah, Mitzvot and Jewish religion.

So Israel is not just a beautiful place with advanced technology, gritty determined inhabitants and an underrated military. It is the holy land. Israel is not just a place with great beaches and disco clubs. It is the only place where certain Mitzvot can be performed. Our right to the land is not just because of a nationalist ideal for Jewish self-determination, the holocaust, and a few successful wars. It is ours because Hashem gave it to our ancestors and us as an eternal heritage. Israel is not just a place that has a crazy political system, competitive universities and western looking cities. It is the land where thousands of years of Jewish history as recorded in the Torah took place. One can walk where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked. One can move over the very earth that Kings David and Solomon traversed. One can be on the spot where prophets like Samuel and Isaiah gave over the word of G-d. Once can travel the roads upon which thousands of our ancestors journeyed to make their thrice annual pilgrimage to the Holy Temple.

This doesn’t mean that they will be 100 percent supportive of every policy of the Israeli government and society, nor should they. But it does likely mean that they will be 100 percent supportive of the Jewish connection and right to a safe and protected presence in Israel, as they should.

Here in New Orleans there is a school that is educating and developing children in this manner. I am proud to be a parent of children attending Torah Academy. In my estimation, there are few more worthy areas of investment of Jewish funds than the area of authentic Jewish education. You want to make sure that there are youth supporting Israel? Support Torah Academy! You want to make sure there are young people committed to Jewish continuity? Support Torah Academy.

Torah Academy is going to be having an exciting fundraising campaign next week. There will be a 36 hour push, called #ThinkBigNola, during which every dollar contributed will be tripled by a group of generous matchers. Running next Wednesday and Thursday. Please look out for more information by email and on social media. If you would like to pre-pledge to the campaign or volunteer at the campaign center, please contact Rabbi Chesney at [email protected] or 504-456-6429.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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