It is the easiest time in Jewish history since the destruction of the Second Temple to be Jewish. It is also the best time. Our national identity has been restored with the State of Israel. Centers of Jewish learning abound. Thousands upon thousands of Jews have returned to their traditions, culture, and heritage. Hostage communities have been liberated in Russia and Ethiopia. And all these accomplishments took place within the 60 years after nearly 40 percent of the Jewish people were exterminated.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, in his Nov. 5 column “Non-Jews as saviors of Judaism,” points to the American Jewish intermarriage rate and Israel’s position as scapegoat at the United Nations as some signs of our failure. The fact is that Jewish immigration and the Jewish birthrate have increased the Jewish population in Israel to 6 million. There are 10 times as many Jews in Israel now as there were in 1949. While the world may criticize Israel out of a thinly veiled anti-Semitism, the world trades with Israel and depends on its innovation and creativity. Even the Saudis trade with Israel, so hatred stops when there is profit to be made.
The problems Rabbi Boteach recounts are simply not new. The whole Chanukah saga was a response to assimilation and intermarriage that was occurring more than 2,300 years ago. Most of the Jews in Spain did not leave, which is why more than 10 percent of people in the Iberian peninsula have Jewish genetic markers. The Jews were perceived as a tremendous problem by the Romans, requiring massive military expenditures not only in 66 to 70 C.E. and then at Masada, but also in 117 C.E. and with Bar Kochba in 135 C.E.
Despite this, Judaism has delivered monotheism to over half the world. The list of Jewish Nobel Prize winners shows but a small fraction of the contributions the Jewish people have made to the world. Most importantly, the Jewish people have stood the test of time, while all the peoples and empires around us have disappeared, from the Hittites and Assyrians to the czars and Soviets.
The validity of the promise made to Abraham is still manifest for all to see. We have failed at nothing.