Is Aliyah Detrimental to American Jewry?

In Jonathan’s Sarna’s article in The Forward about the challenges of American Orthodoxy, he lists aliyah as one of the challenges:

Third, American Orthodoxy is experiencing a significant brain drain. It sends its best and its brightest to Israel for long periods of yeshiva study, and unsurprisingly, many of them never return. One can think of multiple examples of remarkable Orthodox men and women who might have had a profound effect on Jewish religious life in America but preferred to cast their lot with the Jewish state. Can a movement that sends its most illustrious sons and daughters to Israel truly expect to triumph here in the United States?

Israel expects that American Jewry will support the State of Israel and this is even more true for American Orthodoxy. The Modern Orthodox Jewish community in the United States is extremely supportive of Israel – donating funds, educating students about the importance of Israel and encouraging tourism to Israel.

Sarna’s thesis, that this philosophy ultimately hurts American Orthodoxy is an interesting one.  The bulk of Orthodox Jews educated in yeshiva in the US remain in America. The ones who make aliyah go to Israel looking for better educational opportunities for themselves or their children or in order to fulfill the mitzvah of living in Israel. Are these the cream of the crop religiously and intellectually? Are these the Jews who could be influential active members of religious communities in the US?

Today is the Salute to Israel parade in New York City. Many Jewish day schools will be marching in the parade to celebrate Israel’s independence and to show their support for Israel. The organizers expect 100,000 participants and one million spectators.

Support for Israel is built into the American Orthodox educational system and this is unlikely to change soon. Whether this will really have an effect on the quality of Jewish communities in the American Diaspora remains to be seen.

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2 Comments on “Is Aliyah Detrimental to American Jewry?”

  1. Rena Says:

    You say “Support for Israel is built into the American Orthodox educational system and this is unlikely to change soon.” I hope that you’re right. Anything else would be unthinkable. There are plenty of people who don’t support Israel, we don’t need Orthodox American Jewish children to be among them.

    • Hadassah Says:

      Interestingly, some of the people who don’t support Israel are also sending their young people here – for yeshiva, marriage etc. Maybe they have the same problem the Modern Orthodox have, just without the parades?

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