The greatest failure in world history

I hope that I caught your attention with that title.

No, I’m not talking about the collapse of communism in 1989, or the sinking of the Titanic, or even the drawn out strategic defeat of the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. 

And I’m definitely not talking about Bill Buckner letting the ball roll between his legs in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, costing the Red Sox the game and giving the Mets a chance to win game seven and the title. 

I’m talking about something that a plurality of you told us last year was your biggest concern.


I know ,some of you are thinking - what? The most vexing issue for the entire Jewish community around the world, especially here in Rockland and New York? And he thinks it’s the biggest failure in history?

Yes, I do. 

From Haman to Hitler, no endeavor has so spectacularly failed to end us - for that is the ultimate goal of antisemitism, have no doubt. In fact, after more than 2500 years of persecution for our ethnic and religious identity, the Jewish people are stronger than we have ever been by many measures. There is more Jewish learning - across the spectrum - happening now than at any point in our history. There is Jewish leadership in discovering our world and making it a better place - from the awardees of Nobel prizes to the creators of vaccines or developers of new technologies. There is a force solely dedicated to the defense of Jews and the Jewish state - and that force is among the most capable on the planet. The greatest democracy and engine of progress in history, the United States, was founded by statesmen who infused its Constitution and Bill of Rights with the ideas they found in Jewish texts…

So, yes, in every strategic sense, the kid who carves a swastika at a local school, the hateful poster on social media, the young woman screaming abuse at a Rabbi or the young man shooting a pellet gun at a haredi pedestrian - even the man who took so many lives in Pittsburgh five years ago - they are all embracing an ideology and motivation that has never achieved its objective, and it never will. 


Well, there are several reasons:

We have always been a stubborn, stiff necked people. That's how we were described in our earliest texts.

Our unique evolution as a people with a world shaping common religious practice has made us the most adaptable people and nation, able to manifest ourselves in a religious way when we had no recourse to land and self determination, and to shift to reclaim our indigenous peoplehood when that became possible. 

We have always understood the long game. L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim wasn’t just something we said at the Seder for 1900 years. It described our long term strategic goal. 

We have, at times in our history, like now, been blessed with allies and friends who have stood with us against those who embraced hate.

Finally, we can also recognize that it is our responsibility to face the tactical challenges of resurgent, dangerous, deadly antisemitism here and now, so that we can make certain that the historical failure of antisemites and their fellow travelers continues unabated. That is our responsibility at the Federation, and that is the responsibility of each and every member of our community. 

On a separate note, today marks the 56th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem. Political agendas aside, it is remarkable that we are only the second generation in almost 2000 years that can truly say ‘To THIS year in Jerusalem rebuilt!’ For that I am grateful beyond measure.