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A Letter to a Student Activist:

Dear _____,

I have great respect for all the work that you are doing on campus to combat the anti-Jewish propaganda of Palestinian and other Arab student groups. I am aware of your sense of isolation, and I share your concern about the growing anti-Semitism on your campus. As you indicated, it is somewhat ironic that you - a person who has always been understanding of the problems of the Palestinians and supported a two-state solution to the conflict - are now engaged in combating their lies and distortions about Israel and the Jewish people.

The purpose of my letter is not to discuss politics, however, but to respond to your thoughts about your future. You mentioned that you will be making plans in the next two weeks regarding your summer activities, as well as your studies over the next few years. Knowing of your love for our people, I would therefore urge you to seriously consider how you can best prepare yourself to serve our people. You follow the news in Israel carefully, and you know that our problems are not just from our enemies. You are aware of the loss of vision in Israel, and you once expressed shock at the materialistic attitude of much of the population. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing, the media is full of hedonism, and much of the country is busy imitating the worst aspects of contemporary western culture. We have serious internal problems in the diaspora, as well. I certainly don't have to describe to you the high rate of assimilation in North America, nor do I need to tell you that the majority of American Jews have little or no knowledge of their spiritual heritage.

As a student of Jewish history, I feel that the leaders of the Jewish people within the coming years - both in Israel and the diaspora - will be men and women who are rooted in the spiritual vision of the Jewish people. The leadership of our people, in my opinion, will not be drawn from the ranks of political activists, but from the ranks of spiritual activists - individuals who are helping their brothers and sisters to rediscover our Covenant with the Compassionate One and each other. As the late Yigal Allon, Israel's defense minister, once said: "Before we can become a light to others, we first have to become a light to ourselves." It is therefore worthwhile to consider a serious study of your spiritual roots - to study the Torah that has nurtured and preserved our people since the days when we stood at Mount Sinai.

I realize that you grew up in a secular-oriented home, and that you were not exposed to deep Torah study. But it is never too late to begin, my friend, and you can't consider yourself "over the hill" at age 20! In fact, there are people in their seventies and eighties who are beginning to study Torah. If you need some help in choosing a program suitable for you, please let me know. Most of these programs offer scholarships and you can attend some of them through "Birthright." There are also work-study programs, in case you need a break from full-time study.

When the Jews in the vast Persian Empire were threatened with annihilation, they began to turn inward. They began a collective process of teshuva - a return to the Compassionate One and each other. The Talmud records that when they experienced redemption from their enemies, they voluntarily reaccepted the Covenant of Torah. Purim is therefore a holiday when Jews fully returned to their roots and recommitted themselves to their unique and universal destiny.

There are indications that we may be entering a "Purim" period of our history, with serious dangers facing our people. Today one does not have to be a political scientist to be aware that a great and terrible war could engulf the Middle East with repercussions for Jews everywhere. We therefore need to rediscover our spiritual strength and vision so that we can once again merit a great salvation, just like in the days of Purim. For the celebration of Purim and its message of renewal will always be with us:
"And these days should be remembered and celebrated by every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim should never cease among the Jews, nor shall their remembrance perish from their descendants." (Esther 9:28)

Much Shalom, and a Good Purim!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

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