It is an intrinsic element of Judaism to approach the beginning of a New Year with introspection. During the Days of Awe, we look at ourselves and ponder what we did over the past year. It is just as necessary to perform the same act of self-examination as a community.
In conducting our communal cheshbon nefesh — or spiritual accounting of our lives — we must continue to embrace the Jewish future. How do we do that?
One of the key ways is to continue to fight for the State of Israel as it struggles to maintain itself in a sea of Arab hate and world indifference. Hostility to Israel in the form of a growing anti-Zionist movement, both abroad and even right here in the United States, has shocked many Jews, as Israel-bashing seems to go hand in hand with anti-Semitism.
Just as troubling is the fact that more American Jews are stating their indifference to Israel's plight, especially as younger Jews seem to be increasingly alienated from the country's cause. As a survey in this week's Jewish Exponent reports, only 48 percent of non-Orthodox respondents agreed with the idea that "Israel's destruction would be a personal tragedy." Barely more than half — 54 percent — are "comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state."
We are accustomed to dealing with hostility to Israel in the context of media bias or political attacks, and understand that anti-Zionism walks hand in hand with the growth of anti-Semitism. We are prepared, albeit not always with the zeal that we should, to counter the volume of hate against Israel and Jews coming out of the Islamic world, as well as from growing hostile ranks in Europe, with truthful advocacy.
But what we also need to understand is that the reaction of many American Jews to these threats is as much a result of a process of assimilation that has eroded Jewish identification as it is of bias. If a significant portion of young Jews no longer identify with Israel, then it is, in part, a sign that we have failed in our responsibility to educate them about what it means to be a Jew.
Our inability to fund the sort of Jewish education that will enable young people to understand their personal connection to the rest of the Jewish world has consequences that go deeper than the total of funds raised in philanthropic campaigns. If our children are not sufficiently exposed to Israel, Hebrew and the vast treasures of their heritage and the values of our faith, then it will be little surprise to learn that a majority of them no longer think of themselves as part of a living Jewish people.
This should motivate us to dedicate the coming year to the vital task of promoting Jewish education at all levels. It means that as a community, we must continue to work to improve access to day schools, which remain not only the most comprehensive option for Jewish education but the best investment for our future. At the same time, we must continue to increase our support for youth trips to Israel, Jewish camps and synagogue Hebrew schools, which remain the choice of most Jewish families when it comes to educational concerns.
May we all be inscribed for good in this coming year, and may we all find within ourselves the commitment to ensure that the sparks of Jewish life continue to burn brightly. Each of us has the power to shape and change the course of Jewish history for the better. Let's not waste another moment before committing ourselves to doing so.
From the publishers and staff of the Jewish Exponent to all of our readers and their families, may 5768 be a year of peace, health and happiness. L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!