The arrival of our third grandson has caused me to reflect ever more intensely on the state of the world and the direction it’s heading. I worry about what those who were recently born into our Jewish world will experience as they grow up, become young adults, attend university and make a life for themselves.
Today, we are witnessing increasing polarization and the inability to have reasonable conversations about many sensitive subjects, together with increasing levels of anti-Semitism, as well as the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East and abroad. Likewise, the risk of extremists – whether on the left, the right or Islamist – in our midst, combined with threats to our ability to speak out and ask questions about those risks, suggests that we could be facing a threat to our way of life.
Looking down at my newest family member, so innocent and helpless, emboldens me even more to do my part to respond to those threats. Are you doing the same? Are you taking the time to know what the issues are, understand the threats, develop the questions that need answering and ensuring that you have useful and informed answers to those questions?
Do you understand the workings of the Israeli democratic process, so you can better understand why various decisions are made, even if they are at odds with your own views? Are you aware of the BDS movement and how it discriminates against Israel in ways that are unique to the Jewish state, and why it is, at its core, an anti-Semitic movement?
Are you aware of the dangers now being posed by the so-called progressive movement, which is becoming more extreme and now includes many disaffected Jews among its ranks? Can you explain why the so-called “occupation” is a natural result of the aversion of the Palestinians, and the Arab world, to come to any kind of agreement that would see a Jewish state in their midst?
Are you familiar with the now rampant anti-Semitism in the U.K. Labour Party and the impact it is having on the Jewish community in that country? Are you able to differentiate between the many positive decisions, particularly for Israel, that have been made by the Trump administration, despite the bombastic behaviour of the U.S. president himself?
Are you comfortable with the rising influence of those who would limit free expression in the name of stopping Islamophobia and the increasing tendency to respond to questions and concerns with accusations of racism? Do you understand the nature of the anti-immigration movements in many European countries, which are changing the face of their societies and political systems?
Are you aware of the investments Iran has made in Hezbollah, in Gaza, and now in Syria, as it attempts to gain control over that part of the world, while it holds Israel in its crosshairs? Are you therefore aware of the major steps being taken by the U.S. to curtail Iran’s strength and how important that is to Israel and the Jewish people?
Are you aware of the steps taken by the U.S. to redefine who is a Palestinian refugee and therefore limit the negative impact of UNRWA? And speaking of the Jewish people, where do you stand on the rift that has grown between Israel and much of the Diaspora, particularly with non-Orthodox American Jews?
Our duty to our families is to understand what issues, trends and challenges face us, and to, at a minimum, be able to speak on an informed basis about those issues. Ideally, we will actively support those who are trying to make a difference for our global Jewish community in those areas, or speak out ourselves. It is too easy, particularly in this, thus far, safe country, to avoid focusing on the threats facing our world. For too many, those are problems for others to solve. But if you are not one of the “others,” who will be?