The Widening Gap between American and Israeli Jews Is about Far More Than Politics

Much has been written, including in Mosaic, about the divergence between American Jews and Israel. To Elliot Jager, the reasons are not hard to identify:

Why should Israelis and American Jews see eye to eye? Americans and Israelis are not alike. They have different concerns, interests, lifestyles, and even a different calendar. Most American Jews do not speak Hebrew. Nor do they treat Friday night as special, whereas more than 60 percent of Israelis observe Shabbat by lighting candles or reciting a benediction over wine before sitting down to a family-centric dinner. With all these differences and more, it’s not surprising American Jews do not make Israel a high priority when they go to the polls to vote. . . .

To remedy the situation, thousands of young people have been brought to Israel through a Jewish program intended to connect them to their heritage. . . . Even visitors with the best intentions, [however], fail to grasp Israel’s precarious topography. It is doubtful they realize the hills overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport are in the “occupied” West Bank and that a single terrorist armed with an Iranian-supplied surface-to-air Stinger missile could shut down the country’s main airport. . . .

To be fair, Israel bears some responsibility for the estrangement between American and Israeli Jews. Israel has forgotten that the diaspora has been crucial to building the country—from museums to hospitals to the Knesset [building] to the new national library. Increasingly, this devotion is not shown respect. Jews in the United States want to see non-Orthodox Judaism strengthened in Israel. They want non-Orthodox rabbis to be permitted to officiate at Israeli weddings. They want an area adjacent to the Western Wall where families can pray together, rather than be segregated by sex, as is the Orthodox practice. . . .

Of course, it does not help that a plurality of Israelis—many of whom are as ignorant about the non-Orthodox streams in the United States as U.S. Jewry is about Israel—opposes setting aside any space near the Western Wall for non-Orthodox prayers. . . .

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Israel My Glory

More about: American Jewry, American Judaism, Israel and the Diaspora, Judaism in Israel


In Brooklyn, Attacks on Jews Have Become Commonplace, but the New York City Government Does Nothing

July 17 2019

According to the New York City Police Department, the city has seen nineteen violent anti-Semitic attacks in the first half of this year and 33 in 2018, compared with only seventeen in the previous year. There is reason to believe many more unreported incidents have taken place. Overwhelmingly, the victims are Orthodox Jews in the ḥasidic Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Williamsburg. Armin Rosen, examining this phenomenon, notes that no discernible pattern can be identified among the perpetrators, who have no links to anti-Israel groups, Islamists, the alt-right, or any known anti-Semitic ideology:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Brooklyn, Hasidim, New York City