June 6, 2024
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We Need a Nuanced Discussion Of American Aliyah

I often say, “Don’t waste time writing something that everyone agrees with,” so I thank the contributors to last week’s Jewish Link for their thoughtful responses to my article (“Now is Not the Time to Say, ‘Now is the Time to Move to Israel’ May 23, 2024).

As noted by all three respondents, my article neglected the religious and historic ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. This was deliberate. It cannot be denied that the settlement of our people in our homeland is a central pillar of our religious tradition. I would, however, qualify this with two points. First, there is some nuance regarding aliyah even within our religion. I am reminded of eminent diaspora rabbis such as Rav Soloveitchik, zt”l the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l and Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, zt”l who, while holding positive views toward the state of Israel and having the ability to move there, chose not to. Second, Judaism in general, and Zionism in particular, has always been a blend of religious idealism and practical considerations. Consider that Theodore Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, was an irreligious Jew who achieved his goals through strategic realpolitik rather than piety.

I feel compelled to repeatedly revisit this topic, much to the chagrin of my friends and family, due to the shortage of any perspective in our community other than “Aliyah for everyone ASAP.” The question of American aliyah is a significant one, one that will likely take on increasing importance in the years to come, and it is essential that we acknowledge its nuance and complexity. Indeed, the vehemence of some of the responses to my article suggests that I have violated a taboo of Modern Orthodoxy. Perhaps I have But if we cannot tolerate an open discussion of this important issue, then I believe we are all, even those who choose to make Aliyah, worse off for its absence.

To answer Rabbi Rothwachs’ very legitimate question, “If not now, then when?” — I would respond that aliyah is too personal a decision, for oneself and one’s family, to ever direct the community as a whole that now is the correct time to make aliyah. One caveat: I am not professing to argue theology with an esteemed rabbi; this is my personal view independent of Jewish sources.

Steven Starr
Hillside
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