from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

American Jews and Israel

May 18, 2016

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Are American Jews and Israel drifting apart? In an article and a podcast I examine the theories and two recent books on the subject.

The article is the monthly essay at the web site Mosaic, and can be found here. There are very interesting responses as well from several distinguished commentators: Profs. Jack Wertheimer, Martin Kramer, and Daniel Gordis.

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Here is how the essay begins:

 

Everyone knows that American Jews and Israel are drifting apart—and everyone is confident of the reasons why. Israel, it is said, has become increasingly nationalistic and right-wing; “the occupation” violates liberal values; and the American Jewish “establishment,” with its old familiar defense organizations and their old familiar apologetics, has lost touch with young American Jews who are put off by outdated Zionist slogans and hoary appeals for communal solidarity. In brief, the fundamental problem resides in the nature of the Israeli polity and the policies of the Israeli government, which together account for the growing misfit between Israelis and their American Jewish cousins.

 

This, at least, is the new conventional wisdom. It is wrong—but the precise ways in which it is wrong, and by means of which it mistakes and overlooks deeper realities, are worth examining.

 

And here is the final paragraph:

 

Perhaps the Israeli and American Jewish communities will drift farther apart, and perhaps the level of criticism will rise. Work should be done, by all means, to prevent or minimize such trends. But the problems with which we are dealing won’t be solved by casting blame on Israelis or their politics. The problems begin at home, and so do the solutions.

 

The essay examines in particular the role of intermarriage in changing the nature of the American Jewish community and its relationship with Israel--something the three comments also take up.

There is a further discussion of all these issues in a podcast in which the executive director of the Tikvah Fund, Eric Cohen, interviews me. It can be found at the web site of the Tikvah Fund here. As Tikvah explains it,

More on:

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Israel

 

Abrams examines the conventional wisdom that American Jews are becoming less attached to, less interested in, and even more antagonistic toward the Jewish State. If so, he and Cohen ask, do we understand why, and are we willing to confront the real reasons? What are the new fault lines within American Jewry itself, and what does this mean for the America-Israel relationship more broadly? What does all this mean for Israel, given the tremendous threats it faces in a radicalizing Middle East, and in a political world in which new forms of anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism seem to be on the rise?

 

If these are subjects of interest, I urge you to take a look or a listen.

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