Editor’s Note: Jewish Sacred Aging contributor Rabbi/Chaplain Laurie Kurs offers this guest d’var Torah for this week.
This Parsha of Ki Tavo touches on a variety of interesting major themes and ideas. A quick summary: It speaks of first fruits and harvest. from the land that your God יהוה is giving you. Tithing in the third year and then,
The LORD freed us from Egypt…AND, when you enter the land that your God יהוה is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it…
“Israel, which is called an INHERITANCE, will come to the Land of Israel.”
The last two thoughts are quite prophetic:
When the King of Heshbon and the King Og of engaged us in battle, but WE DEFEATED THEM.
“My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation…”
Lastly – and most stirring
When you cross over to enter the land that your God יהוה is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as יהוה, the God of your ancestors, promised you…
To realize these ideals were written eons ago, but are mostly still relevant today. When we remember certain events of the 1950s and 60s, one would surmise, not much had changed.
So many times throughout our history WE as a people have been subjected to enslavement and persecution. Yet, we as a people have always come out on the winning end. We won every war —and we won all the land!!
Contrary to today – which is a sad commentary on our youth —there is a perceived culture of complacency among the younger Jewish community and particularly its leadership, which is in absolute opposition to the actions and positive actions of the Jews of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
How today, antisemitism is growing – exponentially, particularly on college campuses — is in direct contrast to how we seniors faced it head on in earlier years.
On February 6, 1917, during World War I, a 25-year-old journalist named Jacob Landau founded the Jewish Correspondence Bureau to inform Jewish communities around the world about the fate of the Jews wherever they lived. What began as a volunteer effort in The Hague later transformed into the JTA, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
1934 marked the short-lived launch of an expanded Jewish Daily Bulletin, with the linotype ceremoniously set by Jacob Landau’s close personal friend, Albert Einstein.
From 1949 through 1960, JTA was supported in large part by members of the Council of Jewish Federations.
We seniors who actively worked towards goals serving Jews wherever they lived, held their heads high as Jews. Today, a century-plus since its founding, JTA remains committed to serving as an indispensable source for unbiased, high-quality, timely journalism about issues of Jewish interest and concern. What happened to being a young PROUD JEW?
“Israel, our inheritance”. 1947- 48: Did not Jews worldwide cheer on, encourage and applaud the new State of Israel, just as the Torah envisioned? We worked towards, supported, encouraged, predicted, promised. An OLD NEW land – the Jewish inheritance — aka the state of Israel.
We, the seniors of today, were the youth of those earlier years who made terrific strides in forming, working for, volunteering, marching, picketing, and otherwise publicizing the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, established in New York City in 1964, also known by its acronym, SSSJ.
Then, college students from Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University and Queens College met to discuss the plight of Soviet Jews. The meeting was the starting point for a grassroots movement. The actions of the young people then, very committed activists, resulted in a successful global movement.
Eventually emigration restrictions eased and Soviet Jews were allowed to leave in larger numbers. Among those who left are Russian-Israeli Avigdor Lieberman, Finance Minister of Israel (2021–2022), and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. The 1970s Soviet Union aliyah was the mass immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel after the Soviet Union lifted its ban on Jewish refusenik emigration in 1971. (I may still have my FREE SOVIET JEWRY NOW pin that so many of us wore then.) The 1970s Soviet Union aliyah was the mass immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel after the Soviet Union lifted its ban on Jewish refusenik emigration in 1971.
Kahane, Refuseniks, Anatoly Sharansky, the Jackson-Vanik amendment. Do you know these names?
WE DEFEATED THEM – then AND now!!!
KI TAVO – “It’s a testament to how mostly young activists of the early 70’s carried out G-d’s promise, making Aliyah, settling in Israel, buying trees — Israel, is our inheritance”.
“That” generation of those early years certainly did G-D’s work. May today’s youth be as successful as we were.
Today’s generation is charged with 1) fighting antisemitism again; 2) reminding all deniers — who won the wars AND land; 3) educating our people — shepherding our texts from print to digital to expand their reach and impact a new generation in new and unprecedented ways — i.e., Sefaria , offers a library of Jewish texts in digital texts, a new way to spread the word.
NOT exactly the same scenario playing out today, but the goal is exactly the same.
Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs is a Life Member of Hadassah and spent her youth in Brooklyn, volunteering for such organizations as Junior Hadassah, the Civil Air Patrol, BBYO, and Young Judea. As an adult, she became a member of Hadassah, BBW (B’nai Brith Women), Women’s American ORT (Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training) and The National Council of Jewish Women. She has a Masters in rehabilitation of the handicapped. She taught for 25 years and upon retirement became a hospice chaplain. Rabbi/Chaplain Dinerstein-Kurs is a member of NAJC, Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. She and Steve, her husband of 53 years have two children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren!