Assimilation – Causes and Solutions
I am doing research for a Jewish studies course in my university. Today, with "Jewish continuity" such a priority (as it is in every generation), can you answer the question: What has been the secret of success for Jewish communities throughout history?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
The Torah provides us with two insights: First, in Genesis 46:28, when the Jews move down to Egypt, Jacob sent Judah ahead of everyone in order to make advance arrangements. The Torah describes Judah's preparations as "li-horot" – "to teach." The Midrash says that before even a synagogue or a JCC, Judah established a Jewish school. For a thriving Jewish community, Jewish education must be the number one priority.
Second, the Midrash says that when Jacob's family first arrived in Egypt, they made a pact amongst themselves in order to prevent assimilation. They agreed not to change their names, style of dress or language. With these safeguards, they were able to keep a healthy distance from the fads of secular society.
Using these principles, Jews have managed to stay strong all these millennia. But in today’s world, we are finding more of a challenge, and the consequences are devastating. Young Jews are apathetic and disinterested.
But we can break the cycle and turn our ship around. How? By renewing our commitment to Jewish education and Jewish observance. The Torah offers literally thousands of opportunities to express Jewish identity on a regular basis. Light Shabbat candles, or say the Shema. Listen to audio classes while commuting, or start a lunchtime study group at the office. Speak Hebrew, play Jewish music, or pay that long-overdue visit to Israel.
Another key element in combating assimilation is to reach out to other, less affiliated Jews. It is a Torah principle that if you know a piece of wisdom, you are obligated to share it. If we can’t rely on those who care, then who can we rely on?
Project Inspire is an organization (started by Aish HaTorah) which provides user-friendly tools for Jews to reach out and inspire other Jews. See more at: www.kiruv.com
If you are reading, then you care. So don't hesitate. The options are endless. The reward is eternal.