May 25, 2013
Back From the Battleground
Returning from a lecture tour on European campuses, David Nesenoff has one question on his mind: "How did the Rebbe know?"
By David Nesenoff
You may remember the one about the old Viking slave ship where 100 exhausted, tired, beaten, hungry men, who were rowing with wounded hands on their oars, are told that there is good news and bad news. The good news is that "today you will have lunch." The bad news is that "after lunch the captain wants to go water skiing."
After traveling on my never-ending speaking tour at over 120 Chabad centers throughout the world, I can conclude that the good news is that Shluchim are well Baruch Hashem, but the world, not so much.
First the good news: The Shluchim on college campuses are working very hard and getting beautiful results. Rabbi Dovid and Sora Cohen filled their dining room with young people for a beautiful Friday night Shabbos meal in Wimbledon, England. Rabbi Mendy and Brocha Lent packed a tent with over 150 students in Nottingham England on Friday night. Rabbi Michoel and Chana Sorah Danow filled a huge hall for a Shabbos meal where they prepared and served, of all things, Swedish food in Leeds, England.
And of course, in North America, the Chabad campus Shabbos tables I also visited and spoke at were filled at Boston U., Tufts, Tulane, Emory, UCLA, Santa Cruz, Binghamton, Stony Brook, Delaware and McGill.
Also, the Chabad communities and their Shluchim are beautifully laboring effectively and thriving in all the corners of the world that I spoke at - from Sydney and Melbourne in Australia to Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Belgravia, Bournemouth and Mill Hill in England, and from El Paso - Texas to Montreal - Canada, and from San Francisco to Dublin - Ireland.
I speak about anti-Semitism (stemming from my Helen Thomas exposition;) I speak about Israel and the reason it is the Jewish homeland; and I speak about Chabad. I speak as a former liberal rabbi; I speak as a comedian and filmmaker; I speak as a journalist who uncovered an anti-Semite at the White House; I speak as one who travels the globe; and I speak as a father whose children are now chasidim.
AND FOR THE BAD NEWS
Interestingly enough, my three speaking topics are relevant to the bad news that I am about to share with you and they are the key concerning the path to resolving or at least understanding that bad news.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, it is an old story with a new more dangerous twist. The bad news is that anti-Jewish behavior, attitudes and activities are alive and well. They are in very dark places and they are festering - right where we left it in Europe and elsewhere.
Before the State of Israel, anti-Jewish conduct had to be blatantly directed at Jews. The new anti-Semitism is a smarter more talented fiend. Just as the Nazis' first move was to place yellow stars on the Jewish stores, the boycott Israel/divestment movement is the beginning of a most insidious veil of anti-Jewish schemes that in every sense seeks to place yellow stars on Israeli products and stores.
The irony of the Israel blockade that attempts to stop weapons and dangerous supplies into Gaza is that those worldwide Gaza Hamas sympathizers are trying to block Israel's peaceful businesses from the entire world.
And just like the semantics of "elections," where terrorists are voted into office, equals the façade of an Arab spring democracy, the term "boycott" cleanses the evil out of the anti-Semitism, which in reality it purports and professes. While the very last of Europe's Holocaust survivors in this world survive, the European Union seeks to start all over again and place a yellow star on Israel's stores with their boycott recommendations.
Within Europe, it is the young people, as always, that are the greatest key to unlocking or dead bolting the future of a civilization.
It was Gaza Week at Goldsmiths College in London when I came to speak there. A table was set up collecting money for Gaza and distributing propaganda literature and a Jewish student running that Gaza event.
On another campus in northern England, even the head of the student Jewish Society was a proud vocal supporter of the Palestinian causes and their activities.
And when I spoke at Oxford University, a Jewish member of the audience challenged my take on Helen Thomas being an anti-Semite. During my visit to both England and Australia, members of the government made anti-Jewish comments including New South Whales Councilor Shaoquett Moselmane who called the creation of Israel a "corruption of justice."
Between the professors, the College Board policies, the anti-Israel "student" bodies, student apathy, teenage rebellion - the unsuspecting student and Jewish student have very little chance at finding truth.
And it is there that the Rebbe sent his Shluchim, highly capable and motivated rabbis and rebbetzins. It is astonishing that the Rebbe knew that the battleground for Israel and ultimately Yiddishkeit and Jews would be fought on these university lands.
Chabad on campuses throughout the world bring the truth of Torah into a place that on a good day is seemingly sometimes void of moral values and on a bad day strongly steers the boat of collegiate life against Israel and its sea of Jewish people, mitzvos and morality.
These Shluchim arm themselves with challahs and candles and sometimes apparently even Swedish meatballs. They believe that a Jew who is close to Torah and mitzvos and Shabbos will ultimately be close to Israel and Klal Yisroel, the Jewish people.
When I speak, and have a passport in my pocket filled to the brim, I recall the words of the Rebbe, which he uttered on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1972, when he was asked about his future plans and the possibility of resting.
"One shouldn't look at one's passport, " the Rebbe answered. "We must look at how many of one's years were productive… What matters is to live a lifetime of full days…Now is the time to begin."
Indeed, it is not the time to rest; it is a time to begin; it is a time to double all our efforts to teach, learn, inspire, call, visit, care, feed, comfort, invigorate, support Eretz Yisroel, do Jewish, replenish, refurbish, and to re-energize all our families and friends and communities.
And despite some global anti-Jewish adversity, we are all going to grasp new fresh passports and begin! To those of you whom I've had the joy of meeting and to those whom I will soon have such a pleasure, this is just a postcard to say "Keep up the tremendous work Chabad, very best regards and see you soon!"
--David Nesenoff speaks at Chabad Houses and campuses around the world and can be contacted by email: Rabbi@RabbiLIVE.com