References to Diaspora Jews as in exile reveals need for greater empathy – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on May 7, 2020

The International Bible Contest for Youth is one of the quintessential components of a traditional Israeli Independence Day. Watching Israeli and Jewish youth from around the world grapple with devilishly detailed questions about King Davids deeds, Jeremiahs jeremiads, or Ezekiels exhortations, perhaps while hunting around for the barbecue fire-lighters from last year, is one of the time-honored customs of Israels national holiday. But this year, the light-hearted and good-spirited contest was marred somewhat by comments by the long-standing host of the quiz, Dr. Avshalom Kor, whose presence in the living rooms of Israelis on Independence Day for over 30 years is now just as traditional as the quiz itself. During the course of the contest, Kor made several disparaging remarks about the experience of Jews of living in the Diaspora, including saying of one of the international contestants who appeared rather solemn, What does he have to smile about? He lives in exile. He also referred to the Diaspora as the exile, which is not widely used and which critics said implied a derogatory view of Jews outside of Israel. In response to the criticism, Kor insisted that he views Jews in the Diaspora as his brothers, and said that all contestants in the Bible quiz from around the Jewish world would testify as to his fond attitude toward them, while at the same time persisting in his use of the words exile and exiled communities, in his non-apology. Regardless of the specific offense Kor gave, the issues that he brought to the fore regarding attitudes in Israel toward the Diaspora, and regarding the language used to relate to Jews around the world, are very relevant today, when the ability of Jews in Israel and outside of it to understand and empathize with one another is often questionable. In the opinion of Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, dean of the Orot Shaul yeshiva and head of the Tzohar rabbinical associations ethics department, Kors comments reflect the ideological underpinnings of Zionism of bringing Jews to the Land of Israel as part of a national revival.Cherlow emphasized that he is very much in favor of aliyah by Jews to the Jewish homeland, but says that the condescending attitude of Kor to the non-Israeli contestants is unhelpful and even dangerous.Millions of Jews live outside of Israel, and we want to strengthen their Jewish identity and to empower them, he said. This type of language has the opposite effect. It says there is no significance to anything you do there, to the Torah you study there, to your Jewish identity there; the only thing worthwhile you can do is immigrate to Israel.Cherlow said that this is a very dangerous attitude for the Jewish people, since it creates a division in the nation between the good ones who came to Israel and the bad guys who didnt.We have millions of Jews outside of Israel for whom making aliyah is not relevant at the moment, and therefore we have a great mission to preserve the connection between all parts of the Jewish people, including those who do not come to the State of Israel, and engage with all the of Jewish people and their Jewish identity, said the rabbi. ALTHOUGH KORS sentiment is unhelpful and potentially damaging, it is by no means rare.Shmuel Rosner, an editor at the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, said that research he has conducted shows that fully 56% of Israelis believe that being a good Jew means to live in Israel.Most Jewish Israelis would tell you that living in Israel is an important component of being wholeheartedly, more meaningfully Jewish, said Rosner. Kor has revealed an important secret, even if it was impolite. A significant number of Israelis think like this.Rosner said that this perspective cuts across a large swath of Israeli society, including the religious-Zionist communities, as well as those who define themselves as religiously traditional and even secular-traditional. The two main sectors of society that do not widely hold such views would be the totally secular, as well as the ultra-Orthodox, who see no national or religious significance in the State of Israel. What lies behind this perspective?Rosner argued that the goals of Zionism even at its early stages always included the belief that to restore the Jewish people to completeness and make it whole, Jews must have a place they call their own, be able to govern themselves and establish their own culture. Zionism includes the assumption that to be fully Jewish, you must be able to manifest the traditional and religious components of Judaism, as well as its national aspects, and the only place you can manifest all of these components is in Israel, said Rosner. And he said that the use of the word exile instead of the common term outside of Israel, or Diaspora was part of that perspective, since it implies that living in Israel is more complete. Rosner insisted, however, that there was no taboo in the use of the word exile to describe where Jews live outside of Israel, but said simply that the term is outdated. Cherlow sees the use of language as reflective of the less than positive attitude toward Jewish existence outside of Israel, and also sees religious overtones in the use of the word exile.The core ideology of religious Zionism which Kor, as a member of the religious-Zionist community, clearly holds is that there is no place for Jews outside of the Land of Israel, and therefore the presence of Jews there must ultimately be ended. Jews cannot ignore that the State of Israel is the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption, said Cherlow, in reference to the phrase used in some religious contexts by the religious-Zionist community.The rabbi said that the word Diaspora, which for some also has negative connotations for Jewish life outside of Israel, is more acceptable because, although not neutral, it is less disparaging than exile.Living in the Land of Israel is one of the pillars of Judaism and the Jewish people, but another pillar is to preserve the Jewish people itself, said Cherlow.Diaspora implies that Israel is the center, something I believe in; there is a religiously ideological component of living in Israel. But Diaspora also implies a connection with Jews in Israel; the word exile negates that connection.Jews in Israel and around the world often have opposing views on matters of politics in Israel and the countries of the Diaspora, on the place and character of religion in the Israel, and on Jewish identity itself. Kors comments make clear the delicate fabric of the relationship between the two populations and the ever present and ongoing need for both sides to understand and empathize with each other better.

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References to Diaspora Jews as in exile reveals need for greater empathy - The Jerusalem Post

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