Dear Rabbi Fried,
Thank you for a fascinating, strong Jewish position on not changing our cultural garb, including wearing kippot, even when Arab terrorism in Israel focuses on religious Jews, as stated in your recent article titled “When life’s on line, can we change our habits?”
I’d like to raise a question regarding the comment you mentioned as to the Chief Rabbi of France’s ruling that no Jew should wear a kippah in the street in France since it is a danger to life in that country.
First, do you agree with his ruling? Second, how does that fit with your position of not changing our religious garb when facing terrorism in Israel?
Concerning the Chief Rabbi of France’s ruling, I have never investigated the situation personally to formulate my own opinion. I am confident, however, that the Chief Rabbi has utilized the proper halachic parameters to make that determination. Furthermore, it would not be necessary to determine that there’s imminent danger to life to make a ruling not to wear a kippah in the street; danger of being hurt would be sufficient, and we all are sadly aware of how imminent that danger is in France today for anyone who is distinguishably Jewish.
With regard to my position that religiously clad Jews in Israel should not change their garb to avoid being the targets of Arab terrorism, that position may, on the surface, seem to contradict that of the Chief Rabbi of France. If Jews should remove their kippot in public in France to avoid terrorist attacks, why not the same in Israel?
My humble opinion is that the question facing Jews in France vis-à-vis the Jews in Israel is fundamentally dissimilar.
This is because France, or anywhere else in the Diaspora, is essentially different for the Jewish people than Israel. The Diaspora is not really our place; we are here temporarily. No matter how much we feel at home, we know, based on both our distant and recent history, that we’re not to reside in any given place in the Diaspora forever. Israel, however, is our eternal Home. Empirically, it’s in Israel that we truly belong. It was promised to our forefathers that we will inherit the land. No matter how long we sojourn in the Diaspora, it is transient, with us praying daily to return Home.
If in a place like France it becomes necessary to protect Jewish lives by not wearing religious garb in public, Jewish law dictates to do so. Although this may demoralize French Jewry to some extent, what this will accomplish (and it has done so to a large extent) is to serve as a wake-up call that Jewish history in France is drawing to a close and it’s time to pack their bags and return Home.
Many thousands of French Jews have made aliyah in recent years and many more are planning to do so, especially the young people. They see the writing on the wall that they have no future in France. In my old neighborhood of Bayit Vegan in Jerusalem, French has overtaken English and Russian as the most commonly spoken second language. This is the silver lining in the Jewish tragedy taking place in France today.
In Israel, however, it’s unconscionable that we would allow a situation to arise which would demoralize the populace, putting them in danger of giving up and perhaps even leaving. (Israel has already been greatly weakened by the great numbers of Israelis who have left and now live in the U.S. and throughout the world).
To have the Jews of Israel pick up and leave due to Arab terrorism is not an option, and therefore they need to be strengthened, physically, emotionally and spiritually. As we mentioned, to have a dedicated segment of the population give up on their religious values by forgoing their religious garb would cause a deep sense of despair in that sector.
This would undoubtedly have a ripple effect of gloom across the entire population, for a number of sociological and spiritual reasons. Conversely, to remain proud and strongly Jewish despite the potential danger this may elicit will strengthen Jews across the entire strata of Israeli life, providing the stamina and positivity to withstand the difficult times we face. This strength, with the help of God, is a crucial fiber in the makeup of the chain linking together the generations of the Eternal Nation of Israel.
Dear Rabbi Fried,