"What will become of the Jewish people?" asked renowned Torah leader and spiritual mentor Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the man the New York Times called a "once- in-a millennium scholar", in an oft-quoted speech. The speech was delivered some twenty years ago in New York.
Rabbi Steinsaltz’s concern was that the very elements of America that endowed Jews with equality, freedom and opportunity were contributing to the growing irrelevance of the vast majority of American Jews to the future of Judaism.
“While Jews are successful as individuals in America,” he continued, “they are failing as a people. And only Orthodox Jews have created a community whose continuity is inherent in its cultural makeup.”
The rest of American Jewry were suffering a loss of an inner sense of Jewish identity.
Rabbi Steinsaltz exhorted the Orthodox to assist in creating a significant Jewish culture that can engage the rest of American Jewry, leading them to want to ensure that future generations continue to be Jews.
While Israel is the main center for developing a sense of identity and pride, American Jewry has to rebuild Jewish consciousness, so that it can meet Israel from the position of a second center, giving a new national, spiritual and intellectual dimension to the connection between the Diaspora and the Jewish State.
These words were spoken two decades ago.
Today, Jewish continuity is still the greatest challenge facing Diaspora Jewry. But the resurgence of anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism, has added another dimension to Rabbi Steinsaltz's existential question, as well as further responsibilities upon the shoulders of Orthodox Jewry.
Twenty years later, we are experiencing newer and greater challenges – a dearth of genuine defenders of the Jewish homeland; the rise of false flag pro-Israel organizations; the growing apathy to the values and ideals of Judaism; questions about how best to approach the dilemmas facing European Jews; how to deal with the challenge of those wanting to divide Jerusalem; and what to do about academia's unashamed demonization and delegitimizing of both Jews and Israel. All of these and more have entered into the 21st century version of "What will become of the Jewish people."
Today more than ever, there is a need to join the conversation and act proactively and help set the focus on where our people’s collective thoughts, activities, and funding should be directed.
And all are discussed in this issue of The Jewish World.
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