Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Is Judaism in US better than in Israel?

Many religious American Jews don’t want to make aliyah (emigration to Israel). They say Israel isn’t religiously ‘Jewish’ enough.
Forget the fact that our Sages have said, “whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] is considered to be one who has a G-d, and whoever dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael [land of Israel] is considered to be one who is G-dless..as if he worships idols (Tractate Ketubot, 110b; translation per ArtScroll Daf Yomi edition, 2011).
It doesn’t matter. America’s Jews are stubborn. Israel isn’t G-dly enough. They’d rather live with a majority of non-Jews.
That non-Jewish majority may now turn against religious Jews. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) ruled by a 5-4 margin that same-sex marriage must now be the law of the land (of USA) (Allen West, “Why the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage could lead to civil war”, allenbwest.com, June 26, 2015).
This ruling could cause problems for Orthodox Jews and their Orthodox Rabbis. For example, to paraphrase West (ibid), what will happen when a gay couple goes to an Orthodox Rabbi and asks to be married?
You say, wait a minute: why would a gay couple go to an Orthodox Rabbi to ask to be married? The answer, of course,  is simple: to sue that Rabbi and his synagogue for breaking the law.
Do you think the gay community isn’t anti-Semitic?  You’re wrong (Warren Hoffman, “Antisemitism in the Gay Community”, Huffington Post, January 27, 2015). Do you think the gay community—and its supporters—don’t identify Judaism as anti-gay? You’re wrong (ibid).
For many in America, Jewish ‘people’ aren’t the only ‘Jewish problem’. For them, the religion of Judaism—along with the Christian religion—are also ‘the problem’: both religions oppose gay marriage.
Within the religious Jewish community in America, both the Orthodox Agudat Israel of America and the Orthodox Union (OU)—the two top organizations for religious American Jews—understood immediately what this Court ruling could mean to religious Judaism. In a statement that came out the same day the ruling was announced, the Agudat Israel of America warned that its members face ‘moral opprobrium and were in danger of ‘tangible negative consequences’ if ‘[religious Rabbis and institutions] refuse to transgress their beliefs’ (Seth Lipsky, “U.S. gay marriage ruling puts Orthodox Jews on collision course with American law”, Haaretz, June 28, 2015).
Those ‘tangible negative consequences’ could well include expensive lawsuits. There will certainly be lawsuits as a result of this ruling because this decision opens a horrible ‘pandora’s box’: it could turn into a Constitutional nightmare.
It pits same-sex marriage against the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion (ibid). This new ruling means that a religious clergyperson, when confronted by a gay marriage request, can now obey either the law of the land or his religion. He has no other options.
This ruling will also create absurdity, and that’s not going to be good for those who are religious. For example, the ink on the ruling has hardly dried, but we’ve already seen the first absurdity: when Orthodox Jewish youth in New York City decided to protest a pro-gay parade on June 28, 2015, their school wouldn’t let them go to the parade. The public reason for this refusal was that going to such a parade wasn’t appropriate. But, privately, with such a new ruling, there might have also been some legal concerns as well: was it legal for a school to allow the youth in its charge to protest what was now legal?
Would your school want to take the risk of finding out how that could fall out--in today's pro-gay climate?
Nevertheless, it appears that someone—we don’t know who—felt that protesting gay life was still important. So ‘someone’ sent surrogates to do the protesting (Alex Griswold, “Orthodox Jews Can’t Protest Gay Pride Parade, Hire Mexicans Instead”, mediaite, June 29, 2015). 
Yes, plainly Hispanic men, dressed in absurd costumes that looked like comic imitations of ultra-religious Jewish clothing, protested the parade. Of all the crazy costumes in that gay pride parade, these Hispanic protesters ended up wearing the oddest costumes of all (ibid).
That absurdity doesn’t make Orthodox Jews look like geniuses.
Our Talmud (ibid) says that “a person should always dwell in Eretz Yisrael [land of Israel] even if he has to dwell with a majority of idolators, and a person should not dwell outside of Eretz Yisrael [even among] a majority of Jews” (per the ArtScroll translation, Ketubot, 110b).
Do religious Jews in America reject their Sages' words?  I can’t answer that question. But they certainly appear to prefer living among a majority of non-Jews.
The gemara here is correct. It really is better to live in Israel.
Perhaps the SCOTUS is sending a message. Perhaps it’s time for religious Jews to make aliyah.

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