There is such a vibrant disconnect between the American Jewish community, and Israelis. The state of Israel continues to experience growth, is one of the happiest places in the world for people to live, and has a rapidly growing Jewish population.
In Israel, elections are upcoming on November 1. The reality is that between the major political parties, there’s very little real radical differences. There’s no peace partner with the Palestinian Arabs (who can’t even make peace between themselves), across the political spectrum its agreed they won’t allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and domestic concerns are of primary concern for most Israelis I speak to (Inflation, Traffic, Education, etc.).
Meanwhile, American Jews and Jewish organizations rant on about things that have very little to do with keeping people Jewish, or excited about Judaism or Zionism. These “leaders” are completely out of touch with the reality of Jewish life and the schism is likely to continue.
Even the most liberal of all Israelis today are unlikely to see American Jewry as vibrant or something they can identify with. College campuses – full of Anti-Semitism – have Hillel organizations which seem to care more about “social justice” or other liberal minded issues which have zero to do with keeping kids Jewish, married to Jews or strongly connected to Israel.
Michael Steinhardt, the great Jewish philanthropist recently wrote a book Jewish Pride which rightfully notes that Jewish institutions in the US aren’t doing enough to make Jews Jewish. And the truth is, besides Chabad, that’s absolutely true. Steinhardt rightfully has said that Israel is … “…a country with vigor, courage, creativity, and boundless self-confidence. And yes, it is still heroic to build a proud, sovereign Jewish community with a world-class military, a vital culture, and a myriad of cutting-edge technological exports. American Jews have a great deal to learn from the Israeli example.”
Yet, the American Jewish community is too busy dealing with issues which have zero reality for the things that are important for Israeli Jews.
Steinhardt rightfully says, “To me, a proud secular Jew is one who knows our history; who understands our people’s heroism over many generations; who feels a powerful sense of peoplehood, including a sense of responsibility and care for other Jews around the world; and who embraces the underlying joy that a strong Jewish connection gives us.”
For all the Jewish money in American Jewish institutions, have any of them instituted initiatives for Jewish kids to learn Hebrew?
Do any of them teach about Jewish heroes? Recently visited the amazing ANU Museum at Tel Aviv University where there’s a great exhibit called “Heroes – Trailblazers of the Jewish People” where Jews learn about Jewish heroes. In Israel, the Jewish heroes include people like Shalom Aleichem, Hanna Arendt, Marc Chagall, Albert Einstein, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Ofra Haza, Baruch Spinoza and others. Teaching about people like this would inspire American Jewry.
“On the whole, we are not fired up,” writes Steinhardt, a co-founder of Birthright. “We are not in love. We are not, as a community, showing courage or creativity or heroism. If anything, the opposite is true. Every year, more and more young Jews seem to just drift away. However, you want to measure it… our sense of Jewish purpose seems to be dissipating.”
American Jewish organizations don’t teach these things – they focus on progressive issues, advocacy for Democratic ideas. As was recently reported, The Anti-Defamation League launched “thorough review” of its educational content to address materials “misaligned with” the organization’s values after Fox News published a story accusing the anti-hate group of including “concepts from critical race theory” and “far-left ideas.” They mention “intersectionality,” “structural racism” and “white privilege”; references to gender-neutral pronouns and the Black Lives Matter movement; books about trans and gender non-conforming children; and a post praising the Women’s March, whose founders have ties to the antisemitic Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan.
This is American Jewry. This is what they think is important.
As we review college campuses, even those without blatant Anti-Semitism have people like David Myers running education at institutions like UCLA, where he holds the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History. Myers, formerly President of the radical New Israel Fund supports some forms of a boycott against the State of Israel. This is the people educating our children. These are the people “inside” the tent. Is it any wonder American Jewry is dwindling and seeing so many issues?
American Jews need more time in Israel and need to focus on Jewish issues rather than external issues. As Steinhardt writes in his book, his life is suffused with a “simple, yet profoundly energizing joy in being Jewish, in having Jewish friends, a Jewish family, and leading a Jewish life.”
He is right. That really matters. All of these things really matter. What doesn’t matter is American Jews criticizing Israel – the homeland of the Jewish people, and something the rest of the world does enough of. American Jews should focus on improving assimilation rates rather than all these mundane issues which do nothing for American Jewish survival, or the great State of Israel.