After the release of a recent study that found only half of American Jews under the age of 35 are comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, an arm of the Chabad/Lubavitch movement, announced a new six-week course that focuses on the "millennia-old spiritual bond between Jews and Israel." The courses, given in hundreds of locations, are expected to reach 10,000 young Jews.
The Rohr JLI, according to its website, is "the largest institute of adult learning of its kind, operating in over 200 cities around the world. We provide the essentials of Jewish literacy in a series of thoughtfully designed six- and eight-week courses. Every course is accompanied by a student textbook and enhanced by engaging audio-visual presentations."
In an interview, Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan of the JLI Executive Committee said they planned to teach that Jewish history did not begin outside the Land of Israel, but with Abraham's arrival in the Land in Genesis 12. The Jewish people, he said, cannot exist without their land. "Jews can live outside of Israel," he said, "but they must have the concept and bond with the land. The courses will help people answer the question: why is Israel relevant to me?"
Rabbi Kaplan denied that Chabad is shifting its focus toward the State of Israel for general outreach purposes, because it turns people on. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very focused on Israel, mentioning it constantly in his discourses," he said. "Many American Jews are against Israel because they are politically to the left of the Israeli government. But our attachment is because of the land, not any particular government."
The courses are scheduled to begin in November 2007, and they are free for anyone under 30 years of age. The instructors will be the Chabad emissaries in cities throughout the United States and the world.
Here we see Zionism falling out of fashion as a secular movement and gaining as a religious movement. The young generation of secular Jews in America no longer feels a special attachment to the Zionist state, and it is a religious organization, Chabad, that seeks to teach them to be Zionists.
Religious Zionism is more dangerous than the secular variety because it claims to represent the Torah and true Jewish belief, when in fact it is a serious distortion. The Jewish people indeed has an historic connection to the Holy Land, dating to the time of our ancestor Abraham. But for the past 1938 years we have been in exile and are forbidden to make any attempts on our own to regain sovereignty over the Land.