Needed: A Return to Shtadlanus

We live in what some have accurately described as an “age of entitlement.” Or to put it bluntly, the “it is owed me” generation.

Whether it is generous support by parents, or a government handout, what for generations was perceived as a generous gift, is now considered a obligation and a right. Failure to come through in a comprehensive way is now considered ample reason for umbrage and indignation.

In many cases, this most troubling characteristic has done considerable damage to interpersonal relationships, as well as such core principles as a work ethic and a sense of taking responsibility for one’s own actions and to do for others.

This phenomenon spills over in other areas as well.

For four years, those on the right-wing of Israeli politics and their supporters on both sides of the ocean were delighted by a string of landmark decisions by the Trump administration. From moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and even releasing a peace plan proposal that would pave the way for Israel to annex parts of Yehudah and Shomron, it was for them a dream come true.

Now, with the advent of a new administration, their celebration came to a jarring halt.

While President Biden has not taken any steps to reverse Trump’s actions in regard to the embassy in Yerushalayim or Israeli sovereignty over the Golan (although his Secretary of State hedged when asked about the latter), he has now reversed in a significant way President Trump’s policy when it comes to funding the Palestinians.

As we reported last week, keeping a promise Biden made on the campaign trail, the State Department announced it intends to restore some $265 million-plus in aid to the Palestinians, including $150 million for the highly controversial United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Although the Biden administration is only restoring funding that previous administrations on both sides of the partisan divide had given, there is ample reason why many were troubled about this decision. It is certainly appropriate to raise, in a respectful and articulate way, these concerns with the Biden administration.

However, it all depends on how these concerns are raised, and from what position they are coming.

It is imperative to remember that contrary to the rhetoric coming out of Israel, the United States does not “owe” Israel — a country which it gives billions of dollars a year in military aid — anything.

For American Jews, it is especially important that we recall, as Harav Elya Brudny, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, put it in his remarks to Hamodia, although “we live in a medinah shel chessed … we are still not part of ‘management.’ In many ways, we are like the guests who are living in the basement at the goodwill of the superintendent.”

Yes, there are times when a grateful guest must speak up, especially when he feels that the lives of the innocent are at risk. But he must do so using the tone and wording of a grateful guest, not part of management — or one that is owed something.