May 10, 2024
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May 10, 2024
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Each Friday evening, as part of our sacred tradition, we chant the verses of “לְכָה דוֹדִי.” Within these timeless words, one stanza resounds with profound relevance in today’s landscape, defined by the alarming surge of global antisemitism:

הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי

Awaken yourselves! Awaken yourselves!

כִּי בָא אורֵךְ קוּמִי אוֹרִי

For your light has come! Get up, my light!

עוּרִי עוּרִי שִׁיר דַּבֵּרִי

Wake up! Wake up! A song, speak out!

כְּבוֹד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּה

The glory of Hashem upon you is revealed!

Traditionally, these verses have been interpreted as a call for Jerusalem to awaken from the slumber of exile and reclaim its brilliance as the center of the world. Yet, there exists another poignant interpretation directed at Jews in the Diaspora. It implores us to awaken to the profound miracles Hashem has bestowed upon our people over the past 76 years. These miracles, whether concealed or overt, bear witness to His enduring presence and protection. Consider, for instance, the recent Iranian assault on Eretz Yisrael, where a miraculous shield of protection enveloped our land, thwarting the majority of incoming threats.

However, amidst these wonders, we must wake up and confront the disquieting surge of antisemitism sweeping the globe, particularly in the United States. In 2023 alone, the Anti-Defamation League documented a staggering 8,743 antisemitic incidents, marking a distressing 140% increase over the previous year and an 875% surge from a decade ago. This wave of hatred targets Jewish communities across various spheres, from college campuses to businesses to our own neighborhoods, with over 400 attacks on Jewish-owned establishments.

Many dismiss this rise in antisemitism as a passing phase, hoping for a return to normalcy post-conflict or post-election. Yet, such optimism is misplaced. Regardless of electoral outcomes, the threat persists, fueled by entrenched prejudices and political scapegoating. Under any administration, Jews find themselves ensnared in a perilous web of blame and hostility.

Antisemitism, an ancient malaise, has resurged with virulent force, exacerbated by geopolitical tensions and ideological rifts. Its resurgence signals a profound societal malaise, one that imperils the safety and well-being of Jewish communities worldwide. In the face of this escalating threat, we are reminded of our collective destiny as a people and have witnessed an increase in Jewish unity.

Biblical and rabbinic teachings underscore the imperative of Jewish unity as a prerequisite for redemption. Just as Yaakov exhorted his sons to assemble before revealing their fate (Genesis 49:1), so too must we unite as one nation, heeding the call of our sages to stand as a single, indivisible entity.

As we navigate this tumultuous terrain, we must also reckon with the decline of the American Jewish community. Once a beacon of prosperity and opportunity, it now grapples with dwindling numbers and waning influence. In 1950, the American Jewish population stood at 6 million; today, it hovers around 4 million, while it should naturally have grown to around 50 million. The prophetic words of the Neviim echo through the ages, foretelling the dissolution of Diaspora communities and the search for refuge elsewhere.

Yet, there exists a refuge in a Jewish homeland, where opportunities abound. As written in Yechezkel 37:17, “And join them one to the other and they shall become united in your hand.” Indeed, Hashem orchestrates the intricate tapestry of Jewish history, offering clues to our collective destiny. As galut draws to a close, we are faced with a pivotal choice: to passively witness the fading embers of our legacy in the Diaspora or to ignite the flames of renewal and resilience in Israel.

The responsibility rests with each of us to heed the wake-up call, to safeguard our heritage for future generations, and to embrace the dawn of a new era with courage and conviction. As articulated in the closing verse of last week’s parsha, Acharei Mos:

וּנְטַעְתִּים עַל־אַדְמָתָ֑ם וְלֹ֨א יִנָּתְשׁ֜וּ ע֗וֹד מֵעַ֤ל אַדְמָתָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תִּי לָהֶ֔ם אָמַ֖ר ‘ה אֱלֹקֽיךָ׃

“And I will plant them upon their soil, nevermore to be uprooted from the soil I have given them,” said the eternal your God (Amos 9:15).”

Rabbi Paul Bloom lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Ettie. Paul is a retired IBM Research executive and is currently CEO of PDB Futurecom, helping Israeli startups connect with American partners and investors. He is also on the Board of Directors of the NY Israel Chamber of Commerce.

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