Sunday, May 30, 2010

Disaffection Among American Jews for Israel

Shalom All,

Daniel Gordis' article about the origins and problem of disaffection among American Jews is scary.

I must say, however, that I think there are primary causes that most people are either failing to cite at all or are playing down far too much. I would cite the following four which I think are most influential:

1. Americans in general are feeling that America's role in affecting other countries is both far too great and increasingly detrimental to American interests. This is, in my mind, the primary battle that we need to win. If Americans don't really care what is happening in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, North and South Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Lebanon, Sudan, China, Georgia, etc... Why should Americans care about Israel? One could make the argument that our own problems are overwhelming our focus just as they were in the 1920s an early 1930s. The horrific occurrences along our Southern Border in places like Juarez are being treated as if they are not really our problem, even when Americans are killed there.

Meanwhile, in relation to several major problems that we would rather not have (Muslim anti-US terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East), people such as Hamid Karzai are calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "festering wound" for Muslims and Americans, including our President, are buying it. Of note and entirely missed by most of the "let's get the hell out of there" set in America is the fact that the "festering wound" is not the absence of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but the EXISTENCE of Israel. The additional fact that many young American Jews are part of the "let's get the hell out of there" set simply means that there are Jews who share the incorrect view that peace will result in the healing of the "festering wound." Radical Muslims, those whose inconvenient hatred and attacks against us are SOMEWHAT bothersome, don't want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they don't want peace, but a Palestinian, read MUSLIM, state in Israel's place. The way to heal the "festering wound" for them is to eliminate, not make peace with, Israel. Most young American Jews have no clue that is the case and many on the political left, including Jews, young and old, are promoting the misunderstanding that peace BETWEEN Israelis and Palestinians will heal the wound to which Karzai and others including Al-Qaida figures refer.

2. American Jews have failed and are continuing to fail miserably at teaching about the history of Jew-hatred and have devoted virtually all the time allotted to the subject to teaching about the Shoah which we describe as a wholly unique event. This combination, namely focusing on the Shoah and its uniqueness, gives any sane student the impression that while the Shoah was horrific, it is almost certainly unlikely to happen again, so what is the purpose of having a refuge for Jews? Besides, America is our refuge, right? This is clearly the impression that most young American Jews have. Most American Jews have little or no understanding of or knowledge of any of the rest of the long history of Jew-hatred. For most of them, the Crusades were solely Christian anti-MUSLIM events and 1492 was the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Pogrom is a typo missing an "r" and with an "a" exactly as this word processor is telling me now. They do not see any need for a Jewish state because the Shoah will happen "never again" and Jews have nothing about which to worry in 2010 America.

3. Israel is increasingly being seen by American Jews as not the Jewish state, but the ORTHODOX, or even worse, ULTRA-Orthodox, Jewish state. Progressive and secular Jews not only feel ashamed at the actions of the settlers and sickened by Israel's military actions, even when they see them as justified by security needs, but they are ashamed and dismayed by Israel's Rabbinate's and Knesset's pro-Orthodox and anti-pluralistic biases, much less legal restrictions, and they have every reason to do so. If the state is theirs also, those laws should not exist. Those biases should not exist. Reform and Conservative Jews should be welcome to practice Reform and Conservative Judaism with the APPROVAL and SUPPORT of the state and accompanied by all benefits given to any other Jewish streams. The only possible sane response to the absence of that approval and support is that "Israel isn't really OUR home, but one we help to provide for THEM." "THEM" referring to those who are NOT LIKE US and who often believe things that we, Progressive and Secular American Jews overwhelmingly reject and by which we may well be offended. That attitude has to change, but it CAN NOT unless Israel's leadership ends the Orthodox monopoly in Israel. This is URGENT, but instead of moving toward ENDING that monopoly, recent legislation is aimed at SOLIDIFYING it and WORSENING it!!!

4. Affiliation for Pedagogy is the primary way that most American Jewish families connect to the Jewish community. This leads to most American Jewish adults having little or no access to information about Israel, much less an inspired desire to care about it. They simply do not encounter it. We need to create programs that inspire Jewish adults to enter our doors for reasons other than dropping off their children and we need to get them to stay to learn about Judaism long past when their children are out of their homes, to see their congregation as their spiritual home, and to feel a real connection to other Jews. That we likely need to start with the children and young adults we now have the ability to inspire means that the problem of disaffection will be with us for some time. But only if we rectify it, and only then, can we truly change the dynamic.



T. said...

why should american jews sympathize with Israel? it is not their country (aside from the fact that it is not a country at all. it is an illegal terrorist state) American jews are born in america, european jews born in europe etc... their home is where ever they are raised. you are seeking to make a historical connection which does not exist- it is solely based on a religious scripture that is not acceptable as proper evidence for anything, and yet it is used to justify stealing land. and now you wish to install a feeling of national unity which does not exist between americans who happened to be jewish- and zionists who are living in a terrorist state. if i were jewish and living in usa or europe i would not want to do anything with Israel. seek your state in heaven if you really believe in god- but while you're still living on this planet learn to coexist with other humans. peace

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Pogram is a typo missing an "r," exactly as this word processor is telling me now.

It is telling you that because the correct spelling is "pogrom."

Rabbi Kaufman said...

Okay, now THAT is FUNNY!!! I was so caught up in the analogy I didn't notice that I misspelled the word!!! Hah! Thanks.