The yearning for a return to Zion is deeply ingrained in the Jewish psyche–and has been realized with the birth of the modern State of Israel. Yet the Jewish Diaspora persists, as it has for millennia. The writer, an experienced reporter and author of Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora uses several examples to argue that the Diaspora is a vibrant and enduring part of the Jewish story..
Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism running amuck across Europe. Jews abandoning economically ravaged Argentina in favor of Israel or America. And the curses of intermarriage and assimilation linger. Those are the brow-furrowing themes that dominate the discussion of the Jewish condition worldwide these days.
Sephardic synagogue, Buenos Aires
That image of a people in crisis is compelling. It also is only part of the story, and ignores an equally real and riveting tale of Diaspora renewal.
Reports from France, Germany, and England of a rising wave of anti-Jewish incidents are distressing. But just as the machine-gun attack at a Jewish community center in California can overshadow the comfort level Jews have achieved in America, so too dramatic reports from Europe should not blind us to their inspired success stories.
Consider the German case. Germany today has the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world, with the deluge of Russian Jews during the 1990s swelling its numbers from 27,000 to well over 100,000. While they make up less than .1 percent of the German population, Jews are consulted by the media on everything from politics to the arts. Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet Union are given citizenship along with benefits substantially more generous than they would receive in Israel or America. The rare desecration of a Jewish cemetery or temple is treated like a crime against the state. Even non-Jews are naming their children Sarah and Jacob, and they are unearthing Jewish grandmothers who, just a half century ago, would have ensured them a spot on a deportation train. Being Jewish is, quite simply, high fashion in today’s Deutschland.