Last summer, I received an e-mail from a freelance writer doing a piece on the — then new and wildly successful — TV show "Survivor". She wrote, "Six thousand people applied to appear on the show, and not a single one was Jewish!" She asked me to help her understand this phenomenon. "After all" she noted, "wasn't it the Jews who survived the Holocaust?"

The dictionary offers two definitions for the term "survivor". 1. To continue to live or exist. 2. To live longer than; outlive. In plain English, we have two very different ways of thinking about survival: is our existence important and meaningful on its own, or relevant only when we have someone to compete against?

Jewish survival is not a game. We don't continue to exist to spite our enemies — we continue to exist despite them. The focus of our survival has always been to live rather than outlive.

For more than three millennia, we survived every imaginable and unimaginable difficulty. Yet we never looked for challenges or invited impediments. In fact, in our morning prayers we daily petition Heaven, "Bring us not to the hands of temptation". Obstacles have always been placed in our way, but not because we wanted them.

Enter the year 2000. Now it's popular to tempt and entice oneself. In today's media culture, the badge of spiritual courage is earned by living precariously on the edge of sin and immorality. Television shows like "Survivor" or "Temptation Island" hail and promote this perverted type of sentiment. It is sad to see people embrace compromising situations where selfishness and desire tend to get the better of them. It is sadder yet to see society cheer and encourage this behavior.

If it is true, I am heartened by the fact that not a single applicant to Survivor was Jewish. In a strange way, it defines and reaffirms the true survival skills we possess as a people.

In the course of our stormy two thousand year galut ("exile") we have survived and continued to flourish. But perhaps the greatest challenge has still to be faced.

We have survived the horrors of persecution and genocide. We have met the challenge of recovering from the ashes. We spent five decades frantically rebuilding in every way imaginable. We have passed every roadblock placed in our way. But can we survive the self-inflicted ones as well?

Jewish survival is dependant on the positive drive and desire to live Jewishly, not the need to outlive or overcome enemies (or the Australian outback). This drive and desire is nurtured, cultivated and sustained by constant education, involvement and commitment. Diligent pursuit of Torah knowledge, spirituality and Yiddishkeit will all ensure our survival.

Won't you please join us a little more often? Whether it's Shabbat or daily services, classes and regular social programming or special events, we've got something for everyone in the family. So forget Puala Tiga, Temptation Island and the Outback. Instead, get involved in your local Jewish community and help us survive as a people — forever!