And I think there definitely are parallels, particularly within Europe today.
And yes, there is some bleeding-out from within the frum community today all over the world.
But pre-WWII Europe was worse.
Furthermore, pre WWII Europe did not have much forward-motion going on.
You had Rav Meir Shapiro's Lublin yeshivah and Sara Schnerir's Beis Yaakov. You had the yeshivahs, and special individuals who sacrificed a significantly more comfortable life in America to learn in the yeshivahs of Mir, Telshe, and Slabodka (including their even more self-sacrificing American wives—for those married to American women).
And that was pretty much it.
Yet today, you have a thriving kiruv movement worldwide.
Yes, the majority of Jews are moving farther away from Torah.
But a sizable wave is embracing it.
Within the FFB community, you have people who dig deeper and try to achieve more than what they were raised with.
Within Eretz Yisrael, we've seen a massive change.
For example, the anti-Torah extremism that Rav Miller and Rav Schach describe in pre-WWII Europe also made its way to Eretz Yisrael. In the not so distant past, Eretz Yisrael was contaminated by frothing-at-the-mouth radicals and the pursuit of non-Jewish ideologies, be they Communism or materialism.
The once Red Haifa was rotten to the core with viciously rabid Leftists. (If you don't believe me, please read How My Grandmother Stopped a Civil War by Haggai Segal.)
But over the past decade in particular, a softening-up has been warming through the Land.
If you ignore the entire media, Jews of all types get along pretty well with each other.
Secular Jews are feeling more and more comfortable approaching religious Jews, whether it's to ask when the next bus is coming or to ask for help holding onto an errant shopping cart so she can load up their car's trunk while holding on to her equally errant child more easily.
They approach you at the supermarket, wanting to know what chocolate spread you recommend or which jelly-filling is better, emphasizing that they only want a jelly-filling for their homemade sufganiot and not dairy dulce de leche cream because they want to eat them after a meat meal (telling you that both Chanukah & kashrut are important to them).
It's Time for a Prayer Intermission
They strove to imitate Edomite sports culture.
Nowadays, you have incidents like with Itai Schechter, who was formerly a star player for Beitar-Yerushalayim, taking upon himself to say Shema Yisrael if he kicked in a goal against Bnei Sakhnin.
He did so, his crowd went wild, and Itai went running over the stands where someone smacked a very large kippah on his head and he cried out an impassioned "Shema Yisrael...!" accompanied by equally passionate shuckling.
Now, I don't think that frum people should get overly excited about these types of things because the whole culture of sports is ridiculous and unhealthy.
And a crowd of enthusiastic Jews should use that energy and unity for acts holier than a soccer game.
However, it's quite a turnaround from what Israeli athletes were in recent memory.
And it's also to the people's credit that your average Israeli LIKES this in the sports stars.
Interestingly, the sportscasters immediately started ripping Itai apart, saying things like, "Oh, look what he did! I don't know about that...it doesn't exactly find favor in my eyes!"
Who on earth cares about finding favor in YOUR eyes, you Godless mityaven sports commentator?
And this is a major (though not obviously major) clash going on in Israeli society today.
The New Wave Gathering Momentum
They are still pushing their propaganda and agendas.
But now the people are pushing back, even if the people don't realize that by following their heart, they're providing push-back.
And it's not a war yet because you only have one side (the bad guys) actively fighting.
The other side (the good guys) are more like a happy wave gathering power as it pushes for shore.
It's not looking to demolish anything; it's just pounding forward on its own power.
It's going according to its own God-given nature.
If you stand in its way, you'll get swamped or mowed over.
But not because it wants to crush anything in its path...
...because it's beautiful powerful wave impelled to keep moving forward.
Athletes Getting into the Real Game
"I take upon myself to say Tikkun Haklali every day!"
"I take upon myself to daven Shacharit every morning."
"I take upon myself to learn Daf Yomi every day!"
"I take upon myself to always daven in a minyan on Shabbat!"
And so on.
Again, I don't want to get so ooh-ahh-woo! about soccer players who are clearly not even doing the halachic minimum. (You mean you weren't davening Shacharit until now?)
However, in contrast to years past, this is an amazing turnaround.
And the fact that they're proud to declare a deeper commitment to their Judaism, and that they want to be a positive example of teshuvah for Yom Kippur to their fans (many of whom are young and secular) and introduce this concept to them...wow.
And again, the average Jew in Eretz Yisrael thinks this is a good thing.
They like them for it.
Her Beautiful Crown of... "Rag"?
Let's put aside the fact for a moment that it's not exactly tsanuah or appropriate for any Jew to host this kind of event.
But I think she's relatively new to frumkeit and still attached to that world. These things take time.
So what you had was a beautiful young woman dressed as modestly as she could while still looking as fashionable as she could. And she even covered her hair fully with a fashionable hair-covering of lovely white satin.
And boy, did the higher-ups and their minions go after her!
What is that rag on her head?!! came the tweets.
Lots of nasty put-downs and criticism ONLY because of her tsniyus.
And I wouldn't exactly describe bright gleaming white satin as "a rag."
For some people, there is nothing worse than a pretty young woman dressing with dignity. Even worse is a pretty young woman who is — GASP! CHOKE! — shomer negiah.
If you are a total lech who gets personally offended by pretty girls who are not hefker, then things like tsniyut and yichud and shemirat negiah can drive you into a rage.
I'm serious. I've seen secular people get really angry about it even when presented with the situation very nicely.
Anyway, the regular Jews thought she was just fine.
But the powers-that-be and their minions were outraged and disgusted.
And they tried to rip her apart on social media.
Shabbat Wins Over Hellenism
He needn't perform on Shabbat, only after Shabbat.
But despite not looking religious, he refused because of the public chilul Shabbos.
And again, the media tried to rip him apart.
But the people loved him for it.
He also turned down a 1,000,000-shekel gig because it was on Shabbat.
Remember, this is a secular-looking pop star with mostly secular songs who plays to a predominantly secular audience.
Yet everyone LOVED him for it! Even his secular fans.
And despite the media take-down, Omer Adam performed before an audience of an unprecedented 50,000 not long after he turned down Eurovision.
Again, despite negative media coverage and the outwardly secular persona of both Omer Adam and much of his fanbase, real Jews (even if they aren't religious yet) appreciate Jewish commitment.
There is that Jewish spark that cannot be extinguished.
(Hopefully, all these precious Jews will start listening to kosher music only and Omer Adam himself, who has also performed religious songs, will also transition into completely kosher music, b'ezrat Hashem.)
Tanach, Mefarshim, and Mussar Top the Charts
He went through the yeshivah system, then the IDF, and is now a tremendous star in the Israeli music industry.
Much to his credit, he married in his 20s and has several children, thereby avoiding the usual pop-star lifestyle.
Religious feeling permeates his music and his music has permeated the Israeli music industry.
Among Yishai's fans are masses of seemingly secular Jews for whom his religious expression (which he says emanates from Tanach, its mefarshim, and mussar) resonates with them.
I don't know whether the secular Israeli media has tried to take him down yet, but they seem mystified by him.
It looks like they can't get their heads around how a former yeshivah bachur could be so talented & successful on his own, and they're equally mystified why people love his music so much.
A First: Pandering to Religious Values to Maintain National Popularity
"Do you think they really mean it?" the other person chuckled. "They're only doing it to attract an audience."
"But that's exactly it!" I said. "Since when have secular Israel pop stars felt a need to increase their popularity with lyrics like 'Lashon hara lo medaber elai (Evil speech doesn't speak to me)'?"
They sing about seeking closeness with Hashem, rejecting lashon hara, and all sorts of Torah themes.
It's a good beginning and going in the right direction, but I won't pretend that the unkosher aspects of their music or their lifestyles are acceptable. They're not.
And I also won't compare this in importance to the movement of Jews who are strengthening their actual emunah, mitzvah-observance, and Torah-learning.
However, it's still a radical turnaround for the good.
It definitely indicates a positive direction among the Jews of Eretz Yisrael.
When you see that a formerly antagonistic or apathetic secular culture now actively embraces religious expression, that indicates something good simmering beneath the surface.
And this is happening in the face of corrupt Hellenist culture overtaking the world via phones and computers.
And it's happening despite the fact that anti-Torah powers have imported hundreds of thousands of secular or pagan non-Jews from both Russia & Africa into Eretz Yisrael.
And it's on oncoming wave that isn't giving weight to the strategically placed detractors who are too absorbed in their own illusions to see how insignificant they really are.
The wave keeps coming and increasing momentum.
B'ezrat Hashem, we'll all merit to do complete teshuvah from love.