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    According to a new
    ADL report,
    antisemitism in the
    United States has
    “skyrocketed” since
    Hamas’s October 7
    invasion of Israel. In
    the last three months, there were 3,283
    antisemitic incidents including 60 physical
    assaults, 553 incidents of vandalism and
    1,353 incidents of harassment. That is more
    than four times the number that occurred
    during the same period last year. In the
    aftermath of Claudine Gay’s resignation
    from the Harvard presidency, Harvard’s
    anonymous campus social media platform
    Sidechat has been filled with an unprecedented
    level of overt antisemitism. All posters on
    Sidechat are current undergraduates, graduate
    students, continuing education students,
    alumni, faculty, or staff.
    The wave of antisemitism is deeply
    troubling, disconcerting and profoundly
    worrying. We must do all we can to confront
    it, combat it, call it out, and create
    consequences for those who practice it. And
    yet, while alarming, there is something even
    more destructive, devastating, and dangerous
    to the safety and security of our Jewish
    future. Even with its meteoric rise, the
    statistical threat of antisemitism pales in
    comparison to the crisis of assimilation: the
    damage we are doing to ourselves and our
    contributions to the disappearance of our
    In the United States, intermarriage was rare
    until the middle of the 20th century, with
    rates never rising above 3%. In 1964, the
    intermarriage rate had risen to 7%. Today,
    70% of secular Jews in the United States, and
    50% in Europe, are married to non-Jews.
    In contrast to the other denominations,
    studies show that the Orthodox community is
    on the rise and exhibit high levels of
    demographic stability. While that conclusion
    is gratifying and validating, it is absolutely
    no cause for celebration or triumphalism; the
    hemorrhaging of other denominations is not
    the result of Jews flocking to the Orthodox
    Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l wrote
    (Tradition, Spring 1982):
    Nor do I share the glee some feel over the
    prospective demise of the competition.
    Surely, we have many sharp differences with
    the Conservative and Reform movements,
    and these should not be sloughed over or
    blurred. However, we also share many values
    with them – and this, too, should not be
    obscured. Their disappearance might
    strengthen us in some respects, but would
    unquestionably weaken us in others. And of
    course, if we transcend our own interests and
    think of the people currently served by these
    movements – many of them, both presently
    and potentially, well beyond our reach or ken
    – how would they, or klal Yisrael as a whole,
    be affected by such a change? Can anyone
    responsibly state that it is better for a marginal

    Jew in Dallas or Dubuque to lose his religious
    identity altogether rather than drive to his
    If the muscles of the left arm atrophy or the
    arm needs to be amputated, it is hardly a
    comfort that the right arm is strong and has
    larger muscles than ever. Sadly, rather than
    an honest review and return to tradition,
    ritual and halacha, there has been a doubling
    down of the policies and ideology that have
    brought these results to begin with.
    Some have suggested an embrace of
    patrilineal descent as a solution. Others
    argue it is time for rabbis to officiate at
    intermarriages. Aside from representing
    gross distortions of Halacha, mesorah and the
    will of the Almighty, these suggestions don’t
    actually address the core issues. They simply
    attempt to put a Band-Aid over a deeply
    infected wound that is gushing blood.
    Indeed, they are the equivalent of cooking the
    books or manipulating earnings so that they
    appear to report profit instead of loss.
    Recognizing patrilineal descent or accepting
    intermarriage just gives the illusion of
    addressing the problem; it doesn’t actually do
    anything to address the very real threat facing
    the future of American non-orthodox Jewry.
    If one thinks the Orthodox community is
    unaffected by these suggested monumental
    shifts in policy, they are grossly mistaken.
    Individuals and families who will have
    grown up thinking they are Jewish will meet
    our children through NCSY or at their college
    Hillel and their Jewish status will come into
    question. Children who apply to attend day
    schools or families that will seek membership
    in our shuls may have questionable statuses.
    These potential shifts in policy and practice
    will not only fail to stem assimilation, but it
    will further divide our people. This is not a
    hypothetical issue that may arise in the
    future. This is happening now in our own
    institutions and among families in our own
    community. I see these issues arise frequently
    – and tragically.
    Intermarriage is not a Reform or
    Conservative challenge, it is not the problem
    of the “unaffiliated” or “secular.” Too many
    Orthodox parents have reached out to me
    about their children who have gone through a
    robust Jewish education and grew up in
    observant homes who have met someone
    non-Jewish and are building a life with them.
    We are one people, one nation, and we are
    watching our family hemorrhage.
    Antisemitism and assimilation are not only
    both rising dangerous threats, our response to
    both must be one and the same – more Jewish
    pride, more Jewish practice, more Jewish
    passion. When talking about the mitzvah of
    tzitizis, our rabbis (Bamidbar Rabbah 17:6
    and see Nesivos Shalom) provide the
    following metaphor. A person was once cast
    into the sea and was drowning. The Coast
    Guard threw the person a rope and said grab
    on. If you hold onto it, you will survive but if
    you let go, you will be swept away and
    disappear. Wearing tzitzis reminds us of our

    commitment and responsibility to a
    life of Torah and mitzvos. Grabbing
    on to those ropes and what they stand
    for gives us life. Tzitzis themselves
    are not the solution, but they are
    symbol of a lifestyle of mitzvos. Eitz
    chaim hi la’machazikim bah, the Torah
    is the tree of life for those who grab
    onto it. Let it go and you will be swept
    The storms of change are raging
    around us. The current is getting
    stronger and stronger and sweeping more and
    more people away. The only way to stay
    safe, and remain true to our values, our
    traditions and our obligations, is to make a
    commitment to not only hold on to Torah, but
    to demonstrate a willingness to swim
    upstream at times, to go against the tide, to
    dare to be different and to be willing to stand
    out. This is no easy task and takes great
    courage, but we have it within our very DNA
    because our great patriarch Avraham planted
    it there. Avraham was called Avraham
    Ha’Ivri meaning mei’eiver, on the other side.
    When the whole world took one position and
    stood on one side, he had the courage to stand
    out, remain true to the vision and will of the
    Almighty, and to stand on the other side, even
    when it meant standing by himself.
    The great Piacetzner Rebbe, R’ Kalonymous
    Kalman Shapira writes in his spiritual diary,
    Tzav V’Ziruz:
    You cannot remain static in this torrent river
    just by standing firm in your place – you must
    actively swim against the flow. You may not
    be successful in swimming upstream, but at
    least you will not be swept down by the flow.
    So it is with spiritual life and the purity of
    spirit that you have attained. You cannot
    retain them against the flow unless you
    continue to struggle for spiritual growth. You
    must swim upstream without respite –
    upward, onward against the flow. There may
    be a limit to how far you can go, but at least
    you will not be drawn down with the flow.
    W.C. Fields once said, “Remember, a dead
    fish can float downstream, but it takes a live
    one to swim upstream.” Those who are
    spiritually dead, cut off from our timeless and
    time tested traditions, are floating away. We,
    the community who are willing to swim
    upstream, must not only swim harder, but we
    must be willing to grab on to those around us
    and share our life preserver, the Torah.
    These findings, both of the rise of
    antisemitism and the growth of assimilation,
    demand a mass movement of outreach. The
    needle won’t move and the problem won’t be
    solved by kiruv professionals and rabbis
    alone. A difference will only be made when
    every Torah shul, institution, and individual
    sees as part of their core identity and personal
    mission to not only hold on to the sturdy tree
    of Torah (eitz chaim hi la’machazikim bah)
    to prevent being swept down the river, but to
    reach out and extend a hand to those floating

    Milton Friedman, the great Nobel Prize-
    winning economist and professor at the

    University of Chicago, had a very simple
    suggestion for how to identify a person or
    institution’s priorities. Many people
    eloquently describe their beliefs, values, and
    principles and talk about what is most
    important to them. Friedman advised to
    ignore what they say. If you want to truly
    know what someone’s priorities are, it is
    simple – Look at someone’s budget and you
    know what is important to him/her. See how
    someone prioritizes their money and you will
    know their priorities.
    We claim to care about outreach but do our
    institutions, shul and schools have an
    outreach budget? Do we have dedicated
    people working on this cause? Do we put our
    money where our mouth is?
    This is our generation’s test; it is our
    challenge. Many summers ago, I worked at
    Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem as an advisor in
    their Discovery program. My friend and I
    were fresh out of yeshiva and when asked to
    recruit at a particular location that we didn’t
    feel was appropriate for “Bnei Torah” to
    spend time, we resisted. A meeting was
    scheduled with Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l,
    founder of Aish. After some small talk, he
    asked us what the problem was. We explained
    that we were yeshiva guys trying to work on
    ourselves and we didn’t feel that it would be
    good for our neshamos to hang out at an
    immodest location. I will never forget what
    he answered.
    He looked us in the eye and with the greatest
    sincerity said, “Let me ask you. If you were
    in Eastern Europe and the train was leaving
    to Auschwitz and a woman extended her
    hand for you to pull her off, would you
    hesitate to take it because you are a yeshiva
    guy?!” Well, the train is leaving and it is
    taking millions not to Auschwitz, but to
    assimilation and oblivion. You need to go
    recruit and figuratively extend your hand to
    pull people off the train and redirect them
    from assimilation and into Discovery.”
    It has been said that in Europe they killed us
    with hate and in America, even with the
    rising hate, they are mostly killing us with
    love. Will we rise to our generations test and
    care enough to not only be willing to swim
    upstream ourselves when necessary, to stand
    tall, proud, to be passionately practicing, but
    also to extend our hand to those around us
    who are being swept away. If the answer is
    not a resounding “yes,” the consequences of
    the combination of antisemitism and
    assimilation will be devastating.