Significance of Israel’s 71st Birthday for Israelis

Significance of Israel’s 71st Birthday for Israelis

Rabbi Geffen reflects on being Jewish in America.

Rabbi David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.

The grandson of a close friend, where I live, came with his wife and infant to visit their grandmother. I happened to be sitting there having some coffee. This young man with his black kippah was born in Miami in 1989, and his parents made aliyah shortly afterwards. His father practiced law in Israel until he died.

When he realized I was from the USA, the young man immediately asked me, “How terrible was the murder of the woman in the Chabad shul in California? Won’t the Jews in the USA realize that they are hated? As comfortable as they think they are, hopefully, they will wake up and come to live in Israel. Here they will be safe. Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, we need them all. After the Holocaust, we hope that Israel will truly be the homeland of all Jews.”

Now some statistics. Please look at the murder of Jews in the USA. We all know that in 1915, Leo Frank z’l was lynched in Marietta. Dr. Marx was his rabbi; my father Louis Geffen z’l, at 11, was chased by Christian kids on the morning after the lynching;  Rev. P.S. Clein, shammes [caretaker] of the AA was here; William Silver, grandfather of the noted plastic surgeon was here; Larry Frank’s grandparents were here; the Seligs were here; the Massells were here; Dr. Joe Jacobs was here. All the “heres” are Atlanta.

For over a hundred years no Jew was killed in the USA because he was a Jew. Sure, Bugsy Siegel and all his colleagues were killed as gangsters and whatever else they were. Only in 1966, Dr. Morris Adler z’l was assassinated on the pulpit in his Shaarey Zedek synagogue in Detroit by a young man whom he was counseling.

Then it is 2018: 11 Jews murdered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Now, currently, on the last days of Passover 2019, a woman was murdered at a Chabad synagogue in Poway just south of San Diego.

The killer entered during the morning services on the last day of Passover, April 27, and started shooting. Four wounded, one the rabbi, and the fourth died. Every report in the media emphasizes that this is an anti-Semitic act. We could argue: Look at the French statistics regarding the murders of young, middle-aged and elderly Jews. Other European countries have had their share of Jews being murdered. The USA is different.

As we await the celebration of the 71st birthday of Israel, we are wondering why Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah organization can only assist 3,500 American Jews annually to come here. It is pathetic when Israelis read these numbers. The basic question is, why are American Jews putting themselves in “anti-Semitic harm’s way?”

Yes, Israel would love to have many more American Jews coming here. Their initial hope is: 50,000 Reform, modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative, secularist, Yiddishists and others make aliyah. Israel will truly be a pluralist country. The skills of American Jews, in their prime, will be employed to help Israel develop even more. There are plenty of jobs here waiting to be filled.

Oh well, some will say, Geffen is batty. We support Israel with our dollars, not with our bodies. We will have to learn Hebrew; we will lose contact with our American relatives. Everybody uses WhatsApp and Skype, and plane fares have dropped dramatically. Most of all, there is a spirit of development here. There is more to be discovered. There are ancient Hebrew texts waiting to be deciphered. American Jewish scholars in all fields have won the highest honor of the country, The Israel Prize.

Israelis and David Geffen, in particular, want you to think about aliyah seriously. Don’t wait until an anti-Semite with a powerful rifle comes into an Atlanta synagogue, the Marcus JCC, The Breman/Federation building and the Breman Home for the elderly. I am serious, please come here. Sadly, the hate directed toward Jews is growing day by day.


David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.

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