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The Tragic Vacuum

Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.

 

The Tragic Vacuum

Several years ago I shared a letter from a woman who expressed fear and trepidation at the escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world and the possibility of yet another Holocaust, G-d forbid. Her letter evoked much comment. I was deluged with e-mails, several of which I published. 

Among those letters was one, written by a Jewish student at UCLA, that left many readers appalled. Among other things, he condemned the older Jewish generation, which, he wrote, is obsessed with the Holocaust.

While he conceded it was a horrific moment in history, he also believed the experience stamped many Jews with paranoia regarding anti-Semitism. He posited that such barbarism was a relic of the 20th century, and for Jews to live in the shadow of that savage past constitutes a failure to recognize the new age ushered in with the 21st century.

Our society, he wrote, “is not tolerant of racism or anti-Semitism. What we are witness to today is not bias against Jews but an objection to the policies of Israel and the Zionism it represents.”

This was written by one of our own – a Jewish student. 

I wish I could consider it an isolated case, but to my sorrow I have found there is a great divide between secular Jewish youth and the older generation of our people. These students have no familiarity with our glorious history, with the sanctity and majesty of Sinai – the moment when G-d imparted our Divine legacy to us – and with our eternal heritage spanning the centuries. 

Nor do they have any familiarity with Israel, the Holy Land given to us by G-d as an integral part of our Covenant. To them, a visit to Israel means having a good time, not much different from touring other countries. Their knowledge of Israel is based on anti-Israel propaganda fed to them by the media and leftist professors. 

To be sure, the student is correct in stating that Jew-baiting anti-Semitism is no longer acceptable in our egalitarian, liberal, open-minded world, but what he does not know is that anti-Semitism and anti Israelism are one and the same. In one form or another, anti-Semitism has pursued us from the genesis of our history. 

Tragically, the average secular Jew has minimal or no knowledge of his faith. To appreciate the depth of the ignorance, I often illustrate with the following example: Ask a secular Jew if he knows the name of the mother of Moses, and he will stare at you with a blank expression. Ask him who the mother of Jesus was and he will immediately respond. 

So it is easy to sell him a bill of goods when it come to Judaism, for he has no way of discerning the truth and the vacuum in his mind is quickly filled with anti-Israel propaganda. 

To be sure, today’s young, uncommitted Jews have expertise in so many fields – the sciences, finance, the arts – but they are incapable of identifying the holy books of our people, never mind understanding their content. So it is no wonder they become easy prey to hate-mongers.

I recently was invited to address a group of students on a campus that has always been renowned for a large traditional Jewish student population committed to Israel. To my shock, prior to the program I received an e-mail from the organizer of the event telling me that on the very day I was scheduled to speak, Muslim student groups would be marking “Israel Apartheid Week” by demonstrating against Israel.  

Though I knew this is common fare on many campuses, I never would have believed that on this particular campus there would be an “Apartheid” demonstration against Israel. 

Israel bashing has become a widespread phenomenon. And many of our Jewish people delude themselves by thinking this bias has nothing to do with anti-Semitism but is just a protest against Israeli policies. They refuse to believe it is directed not only against Israel but against every Jew. 

If you don’t know who you are as a Jew, your Jewishness becomes a burden you are only too happy to cast off. Alas, this is the tragic condition of the assimilated Jew in our world today.