Monday, June 05, 2006

Fading...

[Less than three of the world's fifteen million Jews are religious]...This devastating state of affairs means that on this Shavuot holiday four-fifths our Jewish brothers and sisters... [inadvertently excluded] themselves from celebrating their heritage simply because they are not even aware of the existence of such a Jewish holiday. Lack of a Jewish education enables countless Jews to turn away from their ancestry in search of a more familiar, albeit assimilated life. Ignorance cripples the Jewish people more severely than any persecution the Jews have endured.

In America, the land of personal and religious freedom, ignorance has thoroughly devastated the Jewish people. In 1950, American Jewry numbered at approximately six million...[and was] projected to flourish into twelve million people. Yet, in a mere two generations American Jewry has actually shrunk by one million, and we are currently only five million Jews strong. We are literally fading before our eyes.


Rabbi Tzali Freedman
Regional Director, Central East NCSY



A few years ago I heard a shiur given by Rav Leib (Lawrence) Kelemen. He told us a moving story about his best friend, Alex, who was an officer in Tzahal in the '70s. I don't remember the entire story, but the basic gist of it was that the unit was under fire, and some soldiers were trapped behind enemy lines. Alex risked, and ultimately gave up, his life, by stepping forward to save some of his Jewish brothers. Rav Kelemen, with tears pouring down his face as he recalled his friend, spoke about mesiras nefesh for klal yisrael. Exhorting us to get involved in kiruv, he asked us, "Who will step forward? Who will stand up?"

Everybody present stood up, and I imagine that most had the same thoughts as I, a deep conviction that this is what I want to do, that this is crucial, that I want to dedicate my life to doing kiruv. However, like any inspiration, that faded.

Do I still have the drive to do kiruv?

Yes.

Does it burn within me with the same intensity?

No.



The problem is that I became complacent. I have my friends, my family, my life. Thank G-D, things are good. But I start to forget about others. And I forget just how crucial it is. As much as anyone can play with the numbers and demographics, and say that Orthodox Judaism is growing, and Reform and Conservative are both shrinking, the facts remain the same: the Jewish Nation is shrinking. Most of the loss to Conservative and Reform is not due to their members becoming Orthodox. It's because of intermarriage and conversion.


This is a tap on the shoulder. It's our turn. Get involved. Volunteer in kiruv programs. Invite your neighbors over for a meal. Don't just leave it for Ohr Sameach, Aish, NCSY, "the professionals". Ask around. To paraphrase JFK, the question is no longer 'what can my nation do for me?' - It's time to ask, "what can I do for my nation?"


It's time we stepped forward, stood up.


It's time we reached out.

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