And yes, in some areas of the world, it is starting to resemble pre-Nazi Europe.
And the statistics back this up.
This then leads many people to say that everyone needs to make aliyah, as if that is THE solution.
It could be that is part of the solution; it depends on motivation and the facts on the ground here in Eretz Yisrael.
Yet Chazal consistently states that Jew-hatred comes when the more well-to-do Jews are too ostentatious AND/OR when Jews do not observe Torah and mitzvot with true dedication and a happy heart.
Therefore, what is the real source of the Jew-hatred?
So if you look ONLY at expressions of Jew-hatred (particularly in Europe), you can make strong comparisons to the state of Jewry prior to WWII.
The media, political parties, street crime – all is increasingly against Jews, whether it's against actual Torah values (like England's new standards in education) or attitudes & acts in the street or an anti-Israel platform (whose hypocrisy is exposed by how these same Israel-haters completely ignore the other countries that do the same and MUCH worse)...it's all turning against Jews.
Digging deeper, if you look at the rate of assimilation or just the bare fact that non-shomer Shabbat Jews vastly outnumber shomer Shabbat Jews – and have outnumbered them for a couple of generations now – you can also make that conclusion because contrary to popular belief, much of European Jewry had gone off the derech (with NO sign of it coming back) and its outwardly religious people were often lukewarm on the inside.
(This is as Rav Avigdor Miller describes, both in his books and lectures. Rav Mordechai Gifter also notes this in his book and lectures too.)
Interestingly, the American-born Rav Gifter initially felt sympathetic toward political Zionism.
Apparently, the way it expressed itself in America in his time (1930s) was appealing.
However, once Rav Gifter arrived in Europe and saw the virulent hate expressed by the rabidly anti-religious Tziyonim there, the 18-year-old Mordechai Gifter wrote to a Mr. Siegel (source):
...I would ask you to see to it that Zionist speakers are not permitted to speak for the Brotherhood.
You may be surprised to read such a statement from me.
You must well remember our bitter discussions on the subject, you – con, and I – pro.
That's what he says.
What changed his mind so drastically?
This (boldface mine):
The time has arrived, however, when I must admit that you were right.
It is (hard) to recognize this fact in America where Zionism is not so active in Jewish life.
However, in Lithuania and Poland, where Zionism is very active and takes a major part in Jewish life, one is able to see clearly the true face of Zionism.
One sees that their sole purpose is to break all that is traditional; to destruct all that is holy.
On the contrary. Many are religious and see their Zionist beliefs as an extension of their religious beliefs. They feel that, in complete contradiction to what Rav Gifter observed in Europe, their Zionist beliefs build all that is holy.
Yet that is not what Zionism was at its inception.
In fact, the secular Jew who coined the term (Nathan Birnbaum, not Herzl) eventually rejected the whole ideology when he later did teshuvah.
Rav Miller recalls these people marching around with signs against religious Jews and the big rabbanim. They also called yeshivah students "parasites" to their face.
Note: Despite the juxtaposition of Medinat Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael in the minds of many Jews today, a great many knowledgeable Jews adore Eretz Yisrael while opposing Medinat Yisrael.
Rav Gifter himself maintained a profound love for Eretz Yisrael, even moving there at one point. When he was called back to head the yeshivah in America, however, he did not return to his normal residence, but instead moved into a small area of the dormitory to give expression to his feeling of being in Golus.
Oh, Dear...This is All So Distressingly Familiar...
Testimony from that book includes dynamics familiar to us today.
For example, one survivor recalls with disgust the issue of shechitah being battled out in the Polish parliament. This occurred as the power of Hitler (yemach shemo) grew and Poland's actual survival remained at stake.
"But no," recalls the survivor, "they had Jews on the brain."
We see this today where countries face very serious threats to their future, yet instead they concentrate on "rights" for toeva and for people who (often suffering from childhood trauma) imagine they are a gender other than the one they obviously are, crushing Torah schools, and shechitah.
They ignore truly horrific abuses of human rights in many other countries and focus only on how, say, an Israeli soldier shot at (but did not kill) a Jew-hating woman who tried to kill him with a gigantic rock.
Here's another quote from Children of Dust and Heaven:
The university authorities pretended to be deaf and blind; police didn’t interfere (not unless the Jews were winning!) since the universities enjoyed a territorial autonomy, or some such excuse.
And the few professors who didn’t approve of these barbarities had no voice, and in some cases they themselves went in fear of the mob.
Another survivor remembers that in those times, he & his father still felt fairly comfortable at work among their non-Jewish co-workers. The streets had become dangerous. And upon complaining the Polish police after a bloody beating, the Jews were told, "But you are alive, aren't you?"
But at work, he and his father didn't feel any discrimination at all.
Interestingly, this survivor credited davka his religious commitment as the reason why his co-workers treated him well.
Describing himself as a "proud and traditional Jew" who didn't change his Jewish name, he took off Saturdays with no hostility from his non-Jewish co-workers or bosses, stating that his religious father experienced the same courteous treatment from his place of employment.
This right here flies in the face of the assimilationist belief that we need to assimilate more in order to be accepted.
Not only were this young man and his father obviously religious Jews, they were HAPPY to be Torah-observant Jews.
And this is davka exactly what he felt protected him and his father.
It's counter-intuitive, but supported by millennia of Torah scholarship.
And again, going back to what Chazal says about flaunting materialism and flouting Torah & mitzvot, both were rampant in Europe prior to WWII.
(Please see Some Telling Hints from the Diary of an Austrian Woman between the World Wars for more on that, even though I'm convinced that the diarist exaggerated some of her observations due to the envy and sinah endemic to Esav.)
Note: Needless to say, there were committed religious Jews who suffered serious acts of Jew-hatred and completely assimilated Jews who were treated well by their non-Jewish colleagues. These things aren't black and white. It is just interesting to note that despite the Jew-hatred innate to Polish culture and despite the poisonous atmosphere of the times, this man felt protected by his heartfelt uncompromising commitment to Yiddishkeit, which is exactly what Chazal says protects Jews, especially when the entire Jewish people behaves this way.
Politically Correct Weasel Words
In Poland, the Jewish ghetto was known by the oh-so innocent-sounding "Jewish District."
The people who kidnapped Jews for brutal slave labor were known as "the Employment Exchange." (!!!)
Round-ups to the death camps with their gas chambers and crematoria were called "Humanitarian Resettlement."
One survivor from Children of Dust and Heaven notes that "Everything had a nice-sounding title," recalling how the Jews themselves got "so entangled in these euphemisms that we kept using them ourselves."
This we for sure see today.
Just for example, "Palestine" is the Greek & Latin term for Eretz Yisrael. Coined by the ancient Greeks in (which predates Islam by several centuries), it cannot even be pronounced properly by Arabic-speakers who lack the "P" sound in their language.
(This is why they always call it "Falastin.")
The The Jerusalem Post used to be called the The Palestine Post and the Jews here were known as the Jews of Palestine.
(Although we Jews amongst each other have always referred to our Land as Eretz Yisrael or Eretz Hakodesh – Holy Land; Eretz Avoteinu – Land of our Fathers, and so on.)
Yet today, when we hear the word "Palestinian," do we think of anyone other than the Arabs – particularly Muslim Arabs?
Do we ever associate Jews with "Palestine" anymore?
Heck, the Jew-haters of Europe used to taunt us: "Zhidy, zhidy, go back to Palestine!"
And now they say, "Give Palestine back to the Palestinians!"
Say what? Who?
"Palestinian" also implies a people who've been in Eretz Yisrael since ancient times, yet if that were true, they would use an Arabic term and not an unpronounceable Greek term coined by non-Muslim non-Arab invaders.
I'm not saying there weren't Arabs here previously. Of course there were.
But Islam is relatively new to the scene and many of the Arab clans in Eretz Yisrael now do not trace their roots back to where they live now in Eretz Yisrael, but to Egypt, Jordan (which is a fairly new creation as an official state in its present boundaries), and other areas.
Although you could also circle that area around to anyway originally belonging to the Jewish people because much of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Sinai Desert also fall within the Torah boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, and Jews are only asking for a very small slice of all that in which to settle.
(Please see Eretz Yisrael in Its Entirety: A Photo Documentary for more on that.)
Regarding other issues:
- Calling abortion "pro-choice" and a describing a fetus with its own DNA, heartbeat, and organs as "a clump of cells" or "a clump of tissue"?
- Insisting that euthanasia (which sounds so innocent) is "death with dignity" and "compassionate" when it often means starving the person to death when they cannot express their suffering or opposition, or helping a depressed 24-year-old kill herself.
Oh, it's all so "humanitarian"! (sarc)
Just like "humanitarian resettlement."
The Ever-Present Enemedia
In this same book mentioned above, a Polish survivor recalls one shocking Sunday in September in which journalists & film-makers invaded a town with a significant Jewish population.
They set up tables with cards and piles of money, then (with beatings, kicking, and rifles) forced respectable Jews to sit there and play cards.
Even more appalling, a bearded chassid was forced (via the same violent means) to sit on a chair while they made a "notorious Polish streetwalker" sit on him, the resulting events both filmed and photographed.
All of the above was done to show the alleged "vice and debauchery" of the Jews.
Conveniently, the soldiers with their fingers on their triggers and their beatings and kicking of the victimized Jews were not shown.
Please note the collaboration of military personnel, journalist, professional photographers, and film-makers in this revolting scenario.
Talk about the enemedia. Unbelievable.
We see this today all over the media, including social media.
Sometimes, it is obviously planned and staged in advance (like "Pallywood") and sometimes it's someone jumping to conclusions without investigating the actual story.
Blogging, Tweeting, and Podcasts before the Internet
The Yiddish theater (so romanticized today in some circles) was rabidly anti-Torah and acted out incredibly vulgar scenes ridiculing cherished Laws in a way that even assimilated Jews today would find hard to excuse.
Anti-religious Jewish newspapers brainwashed Jews to go off the derech, while seriously irking non-Jewish leaders, sometimes dangerously so.
(Like when the slavishly lionized Eliezer Ben-Yehudah nearly got the entire Jewish population expelled from the Turkish Empire, including the Jews of Eretz Yisrael! So much for secular Zionist passion...)
And like podcosts and video-sharing channels, lectures based mostly on some sort of socialism attracted Jews from all ranks.
In her memoir, Gutta: Memories of a Vanished World, the chassidish Gutta Sternbuch remembers attending Communist meetings – "not because I shared their beliefs, but for the intellectual stimulation of the heated discussions."
How many frum Jews, even though they knowingly disagree with the beliefs expressed, surf websites & public-sharing videos, subscribe to accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and podcasts...just because it's more stimulating than opening a sefer or listening to a shiur or davening?
Gutta also identified with Jabotinsky's Zionist Revisionists, attending their meetings once or twice a week. She invented excuses to her firmly chassidish father about where she was and while a bit more open with her mother, she still concealed the frequency of her attendance.
Gutta also wished to attend the talks delivered by more radical lectures on Leil Shabbat, but her mother drew the line at that.
Yet that too recalls some of the frum teens today, despite coming from fine families and attending the best schools the frum community has to offer (which is more than Gutta had until she went to the Beis Yaakov for older girls in Krakow).
Fortunately, her time in Beis Yaakov saved Gutta, completely transforming her from an inwardly rebellious & doubtful Jew who merely went through the motions of halachah to a warmly committed & knowledgeable Jew who was able to transform the lives of others and pass on a warm Torah tradition to her own children.
Look What We're Doing RIGHT!
In pre-Nazi Europe, the only kiruv movements of which I'm aware (although they did not call themselves that) were the Beis Yaakov school system for girls, the Batya girl organizations, the Lublin Yeshivah, Telshe Yeshivah & educational system, and various individuals who chose to learn in the European yeshivahs with great mesirut nefesh, including those sterling individuals who sacrificed a comfortable American lifestyle to learn Torah in the best places, later becoming our Gedolim and talmidei chachamim and their wives who arguably sacrificed more than even their illustrious husbands for Torah.
Maybe there are some I'm forgetting, but this is what I recall for now.
- Jews growing in Torah
Both on the large scale and the small scale, frum Jews of all stripes work to spread Torah & kiddush Hashem to the farthest corners of the Earth.
Whether it's massive organizations or a simple individual who makes a friendly impression for a fleeting moment, frum Jews strive to do whatever is in their capacity to influence fellow Jews to return.
More than ever before (at least in recent centuries), you have Jewish men completing the entire Shas. You have gatherings of thousands to celebrate the siyum of this monumental accomplishment.
Jews are also either returning to Torah or rethinking their observance of Torah to make it stronger and more authentic.
And these Jews are struggling to make themselves better Jews with awe-inspiring self-sacrifice. Some of these people have made such incredible turnarounds in their lives or are struggling to strengthen their emunah and commitment to Torah & mitzvot against overwhelming odds.
And I'm talking about regular people, not people you will read about or see on a stage.
You know them too.
Maybe you are even one of them.
- A driving thirst for Torah knowledge
Rav Shalom Arush's Garden of Emuna and the books that followed took the Jewish world by storm. Classic mussar books, Chazal, commentaries, the Talmud, Tanach – they're all being translated in a myriad of languages due to demand.
Websites that offer authentic Torah only (like Rav Itamar Schwartz's Bilvavi or Toras Avigdor) — and are not poisoned by either wonky comments or forums or the well-intentioned writings of non-talmidei chachamim — are experiencing enormous popularity.
- Choosing Meaning over Comfort
- A hunger to get back to the basics of Judaism
Whether it's via Rav Avigdor Miller's passion for Torah and Hashem, or Rav Shalom Arush's detailed how-to for strengthening emunah, or Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus's warm explanations and encouragement, plus many others who offer classes and writings on strengthening emunah & bitachon, there has been a tremendous resurgence in striving to be what Hashem really wants us to be and toward cultivating really deveikut with Him.
Please see Why This Generation is So Astounding to get a clearer idea why ANYONE doing ANYTHING according to Torah is just astounding in our times.
It's a tremendous zechut.
Literally EVERYTHING is against us.
It's you against 10,000 minions of the yetzer hara.
And hardly any of us possess the keilim (inner resources) of previous generations to fight against the regular yetzer hara, let alone this overwhelming onslaught from both within and without.
- An explosion of chessed
Hospitality and bikkur cholim have risen to unprecedented levels within the frum community, with some communities hosting facilities and offering assistance in ways and on levels that no one else does, despite the frum community being so small.
Tzedakah collection sites like Chessed Fund and others manage to collect astounding amounts for emergency situations in a record amount of time from Jews around the world.
- Please also see Is the Revolution in the Israeli Entertainment Industry a Sign of Something Deeper & Better Churning within the People? for even more indications of Jews moving in positive directions.
I'm sorry for the examples I'm leaving out.
There is so much more good than what is described here. It's impossible to list it all, baruch Hashem.
The point is the with the exceptions listed at the beginning of this section, the above positive movements were NOT occurring prior to World War II.
And this is why it is hard for me to completely buy into "Oh, this is just like Europe pre-WWII!" and other on-the-brink-of-Nazism analogies.
Yes, I buy into to some extent because some of the comparisons ARE true – as described above.
There is a lot of rejuvenation happening parallel to the decline.
And the decline is pretty severe...
...which makes the rejuvenation even more impressive.
Who is REALLY a Jew? These Surveys Simply Don't Make the Grade.
(Well, unforeseen by the non-frum anyway.)
Let's take America, for example.
The frum community is expanding and blossoming in ways hard to imagine 50 years ago.
At the same time, non-frum Jews are disappearing.
That's not a happy thing. We want all Jews to fulfill their soul's potential, both for their sake and ours.
All Jews should be happy-hearted fully committed Yidden, b'ezrat Hashem.
At the same time, this overwhelming percentage of non-frum Jews compared to frum Jews is shrinking.
It's not just that they're assimilating; they're disappearing.
For example, when a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, he produces non-Jews and not Jews.
Or if he decides not to have children at all, it's the same result as far as the Jewish community goes.
So at some point, just by virtue of intermarriage, the frum community will overtake the non-frum community in sheer numbers.
Non-Orthodox places of worship are closing as their communities bleed out or change the definition of a Jew in order to accept non-Jewish constituents.
Non-Orthodox schools face the same issues as the non-Orthodox places of worship.
Some surveys have tried to chart this, but I simply cannot accept their numbers.
These surveys do not work by a halachic definition, which is the only definition with which to work.
Way too many non-Jews self-identify as Jews due to lack of knowledge (including distorted beliefs promoted by non-Orthodox clergy).
For example, let's take a family in which a Jewish man had his non-Jewish woman undergo a non-kosher conversion. (Or may she chose it for herself.) Either way, we know it's not a real conversion because she never intended to keep even the 10 Commandments (of which Shabbat is one of them).
(And the 10 Commandments aren't even the barest minimum for a Jew. Kashrut, for example, is essential, yet not one of the 10.)
Let's say this interfaith couples has 3 children (which is on the bigger side of families nowadays), who are not Jewish, but probably think they are and are considered so by their Jewish father and non-Orthodox rabbi.
Yet out of these 5 people, only 1 is actually Jewish, yet all 5 will claim to be Jewish if you ask them.
That's a pretty big margin of error.
The question then becomes whether these non-Jewish children who generally either marry other non-Jews-who-think-they-are-Jews or marry outright non-Jews continue to self-identify as Jewish and whether their own children do (or whether these non-Jews-who-think-they-are-Jews consider their own children Jewish).
This gets fuzzier because some do and some don't; it depends on how strongly they perceive their alleged Jewish identity.
In my own family, I know who is a Jew and who isn't, but I'm not clear on whether the children (most of whom are in their 30s and 40s by now, though some are much younger) of the fake converts still self-identify as Jews.
I'm pretty sure some of them don't, but simply don't say so as not to hurt their parents' feelings.
Oh, and we haven't even gotten to issue of when non-Orthodox Jews adopt non-Jewish children and either give them a fake conversion or no conversion at all, yet still raise them to be proud Jews.
And yes, I realize there are Jews who don't realize they are Jewish.
But my own observations tell me that the number of non-Jewish claiming to be Jews far outnumbers the number of Jews claiming to be non-Jews.
Maybe I'm wrong, but this is what I see so far.
And to repeat, the surveys don't differentiate according to halachah.
So when you see one of these surveys that say that 10% of US Jews are frum, but 35% are Reform, 18% are Conservative, and 30% non-denominational, I'm like, "Puh-leeze."
Last year, the cantor's wife from my parents' place of worship for the Movement for Conservative (which is actually quite liberal) Judaism, which hosts a relatively large congregation, reported to me mournfully that none of the Jewish boys in their congregation are marrying Jewish girls.
Furthermore, they davka didn't want to marry Jewish girls.
Now maybe it's not literal that none are marrying Jewish girls, but it's definitely an overwhelming majority.
Yet how many of their wives and children will identify as Jewish, either Conservative or non-denominational at least?
At least some certainly will.
And I would also cut that 35% of Reform Jews by at least a third.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but between intermarriage and non-Jewish adoptees, I can't imagine that this self-proclaimed 35% (or the self-proclaimed 18% of Conservative) is actually Jewish.
Please remember that as of 2013, the American Jewish non-Orthodox intermarriage rate stands at 71%.
So going back to the example of a Jewish man with a non-Jewish woman and their one, two or three non-Jewish children (or two Jews with their adopted non-Jewish children who are raised to identify as Jews), you really have (in non-Orthodox communities) a large number of scenarios in which there is only 1 Jew for every 3-5 people who identify themselves as Jews.
In all sides of my family, regardless of what part of America they live in, the number of non-Jewish grandchildren outnumber the number of Jewish grandchildren.
(This, by the way, does not even begin to cover the non-Orthodox Jews who decide not to have any children at all.)
So whatever the surveys show, it seems there are far fewer non-Orthodox Jews than shown.
(And I'm not sure what to make of the non-denominational 30%. Are they more likely to be Jews or non-Jews? I'm honestly not sure.)
And if so, wouldn't this make the percentage of Orthodox Jews even higher? Remember, we're trying to count authentic Jews, not innocent people duped by their non-frum clergy into thinking they are Jewish when they're not.
Still Not Clear Yet
I'm honestly not sure.
But it's not similar enough to the pre-WWII state of Jewry.
Yes, there are some very strong similarities.
But there are some powerful differences too.
Some powerfully good stuff is also happening, and maybe you're one of the people who is working behind the scenes in your own way to contribute to that powerful good.
Chazal repeatedly exhorts us to view acts of Jew-hatred as a springboard to do teshuvah and also to tone down anything that might inspire envy.
(Please see The Kli Yakar - Parshat Devarim & scroll down to the last section to see his exact words on this issue.)
So taking all the above into account, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach while working on my own issues.
And I'm hoping and praying for the best.