2-8 Nissan, 5781 March 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.
A MESSAGE FROM THE DESK OF RABBI STEVEN BERG
By RABBI STEVEN BERG
Dear Aish Family,
One of the advantages of working for an international organization like Aish is how often I get to meet the same friends in both Israel and the United States. It was an honor to spend time with long-time friend of Aish, Ambassador Gilad Erdan.
Ambassador Erdan was appointed to two positions at once; he is both Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States. Amazingly, he travels back and forth from his home in New York to Washington every week.
We spoke about the overall political situation in America as well as the challenges to diplomacy posed by Covid-19. Iran is still a major concern for Israel as well as for most other Middle Eastern countries. Ambassador Erdan also shared with me some insights into his outreach to the African American community, including his recent trip to Alabama. He mentioned how impressed he was with Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed’s support of Israel. I told him that Aish Executive Board Member and Montgomery resident, Jake Aronov, first introduced me to Mayor Reed and played a role in his support of Israel.
The conversation then shifted to Aish and our 10-year vision. We discussed the importance of learning Torah wisdom and how Aish would be reaching out to 3 million Jews over the next ten years. He was very impressed with our plans to utilize digital media in achieving our goal.
What amazed me was how open Ambassador Erdan was about his own personal need to study more Torah. I promised to send him some good classes that he could listen to during his travels. We also brainstormed about joint programs with Aish and we are already in touch with his staff at the UN to make this happen.
I left with many feelings in my heart. I was very proud to have a representative of Israel in the UN and Washington who is so capable and passionate about his mission. I was even more touched by the Ambassador’s openness to studying Torah. It never ceases to amaze me how every Jew has an inherent desire to connect to the Almighty. And therefore, how pressing the Aish mission is today.
AISHVision 2030 will only be successful if we share our love of Jewish wisdom with each other. We must not be embarrassed. Always carry a thought with you to share. A flame never diminishes no matter how many candles are lit from it. Let us light each other’s hearts with the flame of Torah.
Rabbi Steven Burg
CEO, Aish Global
FROM 5 MILLION MORE TO 1 MILLION LESS
By SHMUEL SACKETT
In 1948 the numbers were 5.6 million compared to 600,000. By 2021 – just 73 years later - the numbers changed dramatically and are now 5.2 million compared to 6.2 million. No, I am not referring to a real-estate investment nor am I comparing stock prices. These numbers – all checked and accurate – reflect the number of Jews in the USA vs Israel. In 1948 there were 5 million more Jews living in America than Israel but right now – in 2021 – there are 1 million less Jews living in America than in Israel. You read that correctly; from 5 million more… to 1 million less. Stop for a minute and think about that and then I’ll tell you what’s going on.
Let me first ask some tough questions. With all the babies born post WWII, how is it possible that the Jews in America are shrinking? As written above, the number of Jews in America declined from 5.6 to 5.2 million. How did that happen? Every other minority group in America is up… WAY up! The number of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Asians and Moslems increased tremendously over these last 73 years, so what happened to the Jews? As a matter of fact, the overall population in the USA more than doubled during these years; from 147 million in 1948 to 327 million today. So, I ask again; everyone is increasing but the Jews are decreasing?? What’s going on?
The obvious answer that comes to mind is intermarriage – and that is definitely a major factor – but I want to go deeper than that since I don’t want the Orthodox Jews reading this article to say; “Well, at least that doesn’t apply to me…” Let me give it to you straight without being politically correct. You are disappearing because you are becoming insignificant.
It always bothered me that 4 out of 5 Jews died during the plague of darkness. We are all familiar with the famous Rashi (Shemot 13:18) that only 20% of the Jews left Egypt… but why? If 3,000,000 Jews left (men, women and children) – and that was just 20% - then 12,000,000 – YES! 12 Million – died in the days before the big exodus. What did they do to justify their tragic end? We have always learned that the Jews who left Egypt were far from righteous… they were on the 49th level of impurity (out of 50!! – definitely not tzaddikim!) so what did the 80% do that the 20% did not?
Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus ztz”l (in his book Gates of Emunah – chapter 5) asks this exact question and gives an answer that will send shivers down your spine. “What was the sin of those who died in Egypt? It was not idolatry, for among those who left Egypt there were also idolaters. Neither was it adultery, for none of the Jews were guilty of this. Those who died were guilty of only one thing: They did not want to go out of Egypt. For this they were considered wicked, and they died during the plague of darkness… What does it mean they were wicked? It means they did not want to change their current state. Leaving Egypt and becoming HaShem’s people was a major change and they did not want this… There are two components of leaving Egypt: the desire to leave and to believe that we are capable of it… the 80% said ‘Leave us alone! We want to stay here.’ This was not because life in Egypt was so wonderful. They suffered greatly there… they simply lacked the desire to change and become transformed into different people” – Am Yisrael.
Without going into a long dissertation, this is exactly what has been happening in America since 1948 and this is why the Jews are disappearing. Since 1948, the concept of the Nation of Israel has returned, yet this is only in Eretz Yisrael. Every Jew living outside the Land needs to know that the transformation has begun… from Jewish communities to the Jewish nation. This is the modern day “Yetziat Metzrayim” (exodus from Egypt) and if you lack the desire to change and be transformed into different people then the fate of the 80% becomes a reality. Of course I don’t wish any harm on any of my Jewish brothers and sisters… on the contrary!! I want you in Eretz Yisrael with me! Yet, for that to happen, you need to want to leave. Emunah in HaShem is not enough! Yes, you need strong, unshakable faith but you also need “the desire to change and become transformed into different people.”
Those who did not do this, when the Jews left Egypt, were called wicked. Today, I use a different word; insignificant. The future of our people is exclusively in the Land of Israel and if you choose to remain outside – as 12 million did many years ago – you will simply become insignificant and eventually disappear. Therefore, I am begging each and every one of you to take this Pesach seriously. No, not just the cleaning or the shopping but the message for our generation. What side would you have been on in that first Pesach? With the 20%? Leaving everything behind and going to an unknown place but knowing that you are about to become Am Yisrael? Or would you have been with the overwhelming majority – the 80% - who wanted to serve HaShem and learn His Torah in Goshen and remain as Egyptian Jews?
This Pesach, make the right decision. Leave the disappearing Jewish community of American Jews and join your nation in Eretz Yisrael. We want you, we need you and we will give you the biggest hug when you get here.
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