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Should French Jews Make Aliyah?

In the late 1960s, Chanie’s grandparents, Rabbi Dovber and Leba Grossbaum, were living in Newark, NJ. As the neighborhood was going bad and it was no longer very safe for Jewish families, they considered moving to Brooklyn, which had a thriving Jewish community. 

All their neighbors were slowly moving away, but before they jumped on the bandwagon, they asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe what he thought about it; his response surprised them. He unequivocally encouraged them to stay put, saying that by them leaving, the community will suffer. Sometimes a person must sacrifice his own personal wellbeing for the benefit of others. 

So instead, they waited it out. It wasn’t until they were literally the last Jewish family in the neighborhood that they sold their home (at a loss) and moved to Brooklyn.

I recall this incident as the recent tragic events in Paris—the brutal murder of four Jews at the Hyper Cacher market—spur renewed calls for French Jews to emigrate to Israel. “Aliyah” has always been a dream for many Jews around the world, especially those living countries where life as a Jew can sometimes be quite difficult.

While on the surface getting as many Jews to Israel is a very noble call, not always are things as clear cut as they appear. In fact, for years whenever Rebbe was asked his opinion on this matter, he always stated that the ramifications on the Jewish community being left behind must be taken into consideration.

Here is an excerpt of a letter the Rebbe wrote in 1981 to a Jewish doctor in South Africa:

[T]he gain of a new immigrant, or group of immigrants, should be weighed against the loss that their emigration from their present country will cause to the local Jewish community. If the person happens to be a leader in his community, and his departure would seriously affect the wellbeing of the community—spiritually, economically or politically—thereby weakening that community’s support for Eretz Yisrael, then the gain would clearly be more than offset by the loss. We have seen this happen time and again, when the leaders of a community have been persuaded to make aliyah, with the inevitable result that the community dwindled rapidly, physically and spiritually. In a small community, the departure of a single influential member, whether a rabbi or layman, can make all the difference.

(I encourage you to read the letter in its entirety here.)

So, perhaps instead of urging our French brethren to abandon their communities, let us encourage them to stand proud and strong WHEREVER they are, and pray that by following in G-d’s ways, He will surely protect them.

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