I attended the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) dinner on Nov. 13 and was once again reminded of how vital and important American Jewry is to both America and Israel. I am the first to recommend aliyah to Israel. However, if you are a Jew living in America in 2022, then you have an obligation to do your part in shaping the future of Israel and to defend it at every turn. In this era of hyper-communication, defending Israel is often part and parcel of fighting antisemitism. It is impossible to separate antisemitism from anti-Israel vitriol.
I have known the head of the ZOA, Mort Klein, for over 60 years. His father was my rabbi growing up in Philadelphia at a small shul called Yagdil Torah. Rabbi Herman Klein was a Torah scholar who could quote any part of the Torah or Talmud verbatim. He survived Auschwitz. He made the tallis my father of blessed memory wore until the day he died. He attended my bar mitzvah. My father had great respect and admiration for Mort’s father. They teamed up to make sure there was a mechitza at the shul, though there was a faction that did not want it. Mort’s father and my father won. It was one of those incredible memories that dances in one’s head as fresh today as yesterday.
As I told Mort at the dinner, he is carrying on the tradition of his father. Herman Klein spent all day learning Torah. Mort applies the Torah in all of his statements and actions. His impact has been huge.
American Jewry can and should learn valuable lessons from the ZOA and Mort Klein. It cannot use the excuse that they are not involved in politics. It’s a cop-out. If you are not engaged in the political process, then you allow the Ilhan Omars and Rashida Tlaibs to take over.
Israel came into existence because American Jewry and especially President Harry Truman’s partner in the haberdashery business, Eddie Jacobson, had a profound influence on the president. The same could be said of the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The latter two accomplishments were brought about by former President Donald Trump, who spoke at the ZOA dinner.
Israel advocacy does not end with such accomplishments. There is much more to be done. A declaration of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is a noble goal. A future president of the United States will undoubtedly make that happen.
It almost happened under Trump, but slipped through our fingers. That can’t happen this time. Illegal Arab construction in Area C, which according to the Oslo Accords remains in Israeli hands, continues at an alarming pace. This must stop and the illegal homes must be demolished. Illegal Arab construction is also underway all over Jerusalem and must come to a similar end. American Jewry can come to the rescue. It has a responsibility to do so.
In addition, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s pay-to-slay pensions for terrorists must cease. The Taylor Force Act moved us towards this goal, but unfortunately, it has not stopped the Biden administration from funding Abbas’s regime. If American Jews work for it, an American president will come along who will make sure there is 100% compliance with the Taylor Force Act.
It was wonderful to see so many young people at the ZOA dinner. I now know they will carry on the great work of the ZOA and all Israel advocates who fight each and every day for justice and an end to Arab terrorism. I see a great future for Israel advocacy and I hope our Israeli counterparts are taking notice. It is a team effort.
American Jews cannot rest on their laurels. New challenges arise every day. The next generation must step up.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.