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Will Jews Exist? Iran, Assimilation & the Threat to Israel & Jewish Survival


By Staff Writer
From left: Yeshiva University President, Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Joel, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Jewish philanthropist, Sheldon Adelson,  Offered Solutions to Challenges of Jewish Survival. Photo: Omar Flores.
From left: Yeshiva University President, Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Joel, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Jewish philanthropist, Sheldon Adelson, Offered Solutions to Challenges of Jewish Survival. Photo: Omar Flores.
Esther and Richard Joel, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Bret Stephens, Shmuley and Debbie Boteach. Photo: Omar Flores.
Esther and Richard Joel, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Bret Stephens, Shmuley and Debbie Boteach. Photo: Omar Flores.
Rabbi Boteach with audience following the panel. Photo: Omar Flores.
Rabbi Boteach with audience following the panel. Photo: Omar Flores.
 

A provocative panel discussion presented by This World: The Jewish Values Network and hosted at Yeshiva University Tuesday evening titled “Will Jews Exist?” addressed the existential threats facing Israel and American Jewry today including disappearance due to an increase in intermarriage and assimilation, and threats to the state of Israel from countries such as Iran.

The discussion focused on solutions to these issues on the heels of a recently released Pew study on Jewish continuity. That study revealed devastating findings that point to the fact that American Jews are falling away from Judaism and affiliation to the Jewish community. Among the results were a nearly sixty percent intermarriage rate, a decreased synagogue affiliation and, shockingly that a third of all Jews light a Christmas tree.

“This study was truly one of the saddest things that I have ever read with regards to the disinterest and lack of pride among American Jews,” said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. “I wanted to quickly put together a world-class panel to discuss how it can be reversed. We were so happy to see a huge audience turn out on a week’s notice.”

In addressing the question on why Israel’s reputation was so awful on American university campuses, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel said “The problem with assimilation starts with the family, it starts in the home not on campus. This is the first generation where being Jewish is an option, not a tradition, and if it is an option, why would young Jews exercise the option?”

He added that the education should start within the family so that the younger generation is familiar with the story of Judaism. Joel praised Birthright, saying that “a trip to the Jewish Homeland gives a young, disconnected Jew permission to own their Jewish story. Over seventy percent of Jews have given their children no Jewish Education. That is where it starts. Our role is to be the teachers of Israel. To be a force in the world and the Jewish World.”

Rabbi Boteach challenged Joel’s statement saying that the problem is not the investment in Jewish education but rather our model. He suggested that rather than only bettering Hillel or Chabad on American campuses across the country to entice students to join, we should bring Judaism to the mainstream. “What we need to do is to stop the model of creating more Jewish bastions and bring Judaism to them. We need more Jewish-values based TV shows, radio programs, and op-ed writers. We need to influence American culture with Jewish wisdom and values.”

Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson added that a most noble thing that a Jew can do is to be a mason to “mix the mortar that connects one generation of Jews to the next. Without that, we do not have any Jews.”

Shifting topics to Iran and the threat to Israel, Adelson said that President Obama’s current diplomatic relations with the country is “the worst negotiating ploy I could ever imagine.” He added that we are negotiating out of weakness and warned against trading land for peace and said that he is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state based on the example of Gaza and how it had become a Hamas terror state.

Wall Street Journal columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens agreed on the opposition to a two-state solution, adding that he would agree to a two-state solution if the other state is Canada.

On President Obama’s promise to not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Bret Stephens added “Ours is an administration that goes out of its way to appease its enemies and does not think carefully about the harm it is doing to traditional American friendships and alliances around the world. A perfectly foreseeable consequence of an Iran with nuclear weapons is a catastrophe for the state of Israel and for the United States as well.”

More than nine-hundred people attended the evening panel, which served as an important dialogue to raise awareness on the issue of American Jewry.

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About This World: The Values Network: This World: The Values Network is built around the teachings of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” and his passion for bringing Jewish values to mainstream American culture as a way of fighting genocide, healing and strengthening families, diverting society’s focus from material greed, and inspiring children to emulate caring, compassionate relationships. The Network’s renowned lectures and broadcasts--featuring world personalities and leaders--religious services, web site, and published columns cater to an international audience. Its goal is to inspire more people to eloquently convey Jewish values in print and on the airwaves to both help America heal some of its greatest ills and to inspire Jewish youth with the power of its ideas.

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