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 The Jewish people are by their very nature an optimistic and hopeful people. We believe that things will get better and that we, in the world at large, really can and will have a rosier future no matter how dismal and discouraging current affairs may be. I have always regarded myself as an optimist and since, in my lifetime, I have seen many great miracles and accomplishments, I have always felt that my optimism in life and regarding the Jewish people was correct and valid.

However, having been born in Chicago and witnessing the difficulties and vicissitudes that have always visited that city and its sports teams, there is within me a streak of realism that tempers any unwarranted optimism about the present and future. Therefore I feel justified in stating that I am very concerned about the future of American Jewry. I speak not only regarding the spiritual and religious demise of over half of the American Jewish population, but I am worried about its physical security as well.
Even though there currently seems to be no threat of physical violence or even of unwarranted discrimination against Jews in the United States, I feel an undercurrent of resentment against Jews that, God forbid, under circumstances that we cannot predict or control, can be fanned into the fire of hatred and discrimination against Jews.
Anti-Semitism is alive and well, having morphed into anti-Israel and BDS movements and organizations. This is especially true on college campuses throughout the United States.  As these movements grow and intensify, the danger to the American Jewish community becomes more apparent. Naturally what is most ironic in this matter is that there are many Jews who themselves are the leaders and supporters of these destructive forces.
If God forbid they continue to grow and have influence, then even the most secular, leftist, anti-Israel Jew will also find that he or she is still Jewish. If the Holocaust taught us anything it is that when the demon is loosed it does not differentiate between types of Jews.
I recently attended a gathering at the home of friends of mine. The meal was in honor of grandchildren whom had recently married and were celebrating the week of their marriage. I was seated next to an American young man who was Charedi in dress and outlook. He was very cordial and friendly to me as I was to him. However, as the conversation at the table began to focus on the future of American Jewish life – a topic that seems to consume many Americans who have immigrated to Israel but still have children or close relatives living in the United States – many around the table expressed misgivings about the future of Jewish life in America and even regarding the security of Jews, their property, influence and participation, in American life generally.
There is no doubt that Jews are disproportionately represented in the left and progressive section of the American public. There is also no doubt in my mind that the numbers, wealth, influence and political clout of Jews in American life is exaggerated both in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. My dinner companion cavalierly told me that there was nothing to be worried about since there was such a large amount of Torah being studied that the preservation of the Jewish community in United States was to be guaranteed.
I debated with myself as to whether or not I should respond to that rather dubious claim. My rabbinic instinct told me to be quiet whereas my historic sense of reality demanded that I avail him of a very different view of the matter. I finally said to him that there were greater yeshivot in Babylonia, Spain, North Africa, Iraq, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Belarus and the Czech Republic in past times than there are in the United States today. And yet the Jewish communities in all those countries of our dispersion are no longer in existence or influence in the general Jewish world of today.
My companion was shocked at my statement of heresy. But I saw that I had struck a nerve that he did not realize was present within him. Belief is naturally fundamental to Jewish life and to every Jew. However, reality also must play a role in how we view personal and national decisions that life and history force upon us. We cannot afford to ignore the reality that exists within the societies in which we live. The lessons of Jewish life and existence over the past century should not be forgotten.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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