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Why Shallow American Jewry Is An Epidemic

Last week, both Elisa and myself heatedly posted on the Cindy Chupack NT Times op-ed about her love affair with Christmas and embracing different cultures when it suits her material needs. This week, Rabbi Yisroel Gordon attempts to explain what … Read More

By / December 28, 2006

Last week, both Elisa and myself heatedly posted on the Cindy Chupack NT Times op-ed about her love affair with Christmas and embracing different cultures when it suits her material needs. This week, Rabbi Yisroel Gordon attempts to explain what has become coined The Pottery Barn Jew through his interpretation of the parsha.

Why is American Jewry so shallow? Why is their connection to their heritage so tenuous? The answer can be found in this week’s parsha.

Yaakov is old now, but he is journeying to Egypt to see his long lost son Yosef before he dies. On the road out of Israel, Yaakov receives a prophecy.

I am G-d, the Lord of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt for I will make you a great nation there.

Presumably, G-d would only tell someone not to be afraid if they were. What was Yaakov afraid of? Egypt’s a great country! It’s got exotic restaurants, tourist attractions, boating on the Nile… and Yosef runs the place! What could be bad?

The answer is that these are precisely the things that make Yaakov nervous. Yaakov is afraid of assimilation. And he was right – the Jews very nearly lost their identity during their stay in Egypt. This is why G-d came to Yaakov, to reassure him that his descendants would not vanish in the Egyptian melting pot. (R. Yaakov Kaminetzky, d. 1986)

In summary:

This week’s parsha illustrates the traditional Jewish plan for survival in exile. It starts with a healthy fear of assimilation, followed by the early creation of Torah schools and clearly defined Jewish communities. This was obviously not the model for Jewish immigration to the United States and now we suffer the consequences.

Today our brothers and sisters joyously embrace the religions of America, whether it be Christianity, Secularism, Materialistic Consumerism or some bizarre combination of the three. They are lost to our people and don’t even know it yet. But don’t blame them or the Pottery Barn catalogue. Blame the grandparents who came to these shores without fear.

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