Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Savitsky Redux

The furor engendered by Steven Savitsky's Aliyah malaprop was a rivetting sign of the power of the Blogosphere. Alison Kaplan Sommer turned to Calev Ben David of the Jerusalem Post to weigh in on the issue. His answer is here.

Personally, I'm very disappointed by his remarks, especially the understanding way in which he reacted to Savitsky's characterization of North American Olim as 'losers':

Take myself. Having moved here soon after graduating university, I certainly wasn't successful, and was unequipped with a medical, legal or business degree. Nor did I have a successful marriage, or for that matter, a particularly successful single life.
And yep, I admit, my family did help me out on occasion – although you certainly don't have to come on aliya to be a successful schnorrer. Was I also "running away from something"? No doubt about it. If I had been perfectly happy back in my native New York, why would I have left it?
I think that was a pretty typical profile of the young American olim of my generation.

I don't know who he's talking about (except himself). The American olim I know were all motivated by Love of God, Torah, the Jewish People and (of course) the Land itself. If they were 'running away' from something it was from assimilation (which wiped out 90% of my family). Mostly, they were 'running to' something, usually a more meaningful life and a chance to build a real Jewish future in the deepest sense of the words.

If 'losers' came here it was because American Jewry (the ones who stayed to be successful)decided that it could cure its flotsam and jetsam by dumping them here (as in 'The kid's got problems? Send him/her to a Qibbutz!'). Even then, this small minority of the oleh population was saved by Eretz Yisrael through the good graces of the Yeshivot and Seminaries that arose to help them. Are these also losers? I"d mention names, but the Torah prohibits it.

You know, I've often wondered about the parlor conversation of the Babylonian Jews who watched Zerubavel and Joshua or Ezra and Nehemiah leave comfortable homes to travel to war-torn, destroyed Yehud to rebuild the Temple. They probably clucked their tongues and talked about the 'losers' who were giving up material success in order to become a burden on the Jewish People.

Those 'losers' assured the survival of Judaism and ultimatelty gave the world the Mishnah and the Midrash,. the Sofrim and the Tannaim, the Amoraim of EY and the payyetanim. Without them there would be no Talmud.

Those of us who came here did so because we understood, implicitly and explicitly, that the Torah goes forth from Zion. Throughout the long years of exile that was also true. (This one is too long to explain here.) It remains true. As one very prominent American Jewish leader told a friend of mine at the Kotel a few years ago, 'We need you alot more than you need us.'

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