American Jews marching in New York with Israeli flags. How can we bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora?.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Recently a colleague who is in her 50s told me a story. She grew up in a town of around 55,000 people in Connecticut that had one Modern Orthodox synagogue. Her family had a membership at a synagogue in a neighboring city, but because she had made friends with the students affiliated with the Modern Orthodox synagogue, she attended its youth functions. She said that as adults, very few of those students married Jews and continued a Jewish lifestyle. I asked her if any of those friends of hers attended any yeshivot in high school. She said they did not. At the time, there was no Jewish high school in her area.
People bring up many factors when talking about assimilation, but most studies find that the two most important influences on keeping a person involved with Judaism and the Jewish people are education and Jewish camps/social programming for young people.
Jewish camps provide young people with a kinship to other Jews, fostering Jewish ethnicity. However, Jewish education enables young people to see the wisdom of the Torah/Talmud.
How many young people across the world leave the Jewish people and religion without ever even knowing that there is such as thing as the Talmud? I am sad to say that I think there are many. In addition, unfortunately, not all institutions provide a truly challenging curriculum.
Approximately 20 years ago Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the son of Holocaust survivors, set out to provide Jews around the world the opportunity to obtain an exemplary Jewish education. He did this not by creating new schools, but by offering a set curriculum and a system of study to Jews of all ages. He wanted students to be able to study in yeshivot or in study groups at the same level that they did back in Europe prior to the Holocaust.
Of course, his global Jewish education organization, Dirshu, is not the only group educating Jews across the world, but it is one of the most successful. Over the past year I have spoken to so many Dirshu students who said that study with Dirshu stopped them from drifting away from an observant Jewish life. In every instance, they told me the study of Torah nourishes them spiritually.
Recently, Rabbi Hofstedter traveled to Hong Kong and Australia to provide continued support to the Jewish communities there. They are very dissimilar communities, yet all greeted Rabbi Hofstedter with warmth and appreciation. The chairman of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, Rafael Aharoni, met with Rabbi Hofstedter, educating him on the Jewish community in Hong Kong. Then the rabbi went to Melbourne for a siyum (celebration) concerning the completion of a section of study of the Talmud, and from there he went to lecture to a diverse Jewish community in Sydney.
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If you are wondering why I mention the travels of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, it is because Jews often feel alone in the world. It is important that Jews all around the world know there are groups that support and care about them, especially when it comes to education. Ignorance is the root of all evil and I strongly feel this is true when talking about the worldwide Jewish community.
Whenever, I hear Jews misconstruing things that they have “heard” are in the Torah, I know that it is really because they have never studied the Torah themselves, or the Talmudic interpretations of those passages they have read.
If we want to keep a vibrant Jewish population worldwide we need to educate Jews of all ages and must seek to provide opportunities for all Jews, no matter where in the world they live, to learn about Judaism through the study of Torah.The author is a frequent contributor to The Daily Wire, NOQ Report and the Resurgent, and has had pieces published in The Jerusalem Report and The American Spectator.
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