Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Great Divide

It seemingly took less than a few minutes for the most recent poll about the divide between American Jews and Israelis to get plastered on every Jewish website, news report, Facebook page, and e-mail box.

My response: resignation, and a yawn. Next thing we'll learn is that there is gambling in the house.
Israeli Jews are increasing in number and are living a Jewish national life daily, up-close, and sometimes with dangerous and deadly consequences.

The American Jewish population is decreasing, and for most American Jews, Judaism is a an occasional thing, Israel is a minor, very occasional thought (most haven’t even visited once), a source of discomfort when Israel has to do what a nation in the Middle East has to do to survive, and not something that fits in with their desire to be part of a universal, inclusive, feeling-good-about-reaching-out-to-others self-perception.

Much is written about how the divide between American Jews and Israeli Jews is exacerbated by Israel's conduct and policies toward Palestinians, toward and about non-Orthodox Jewry, and the like. How Israel is alienating the mainstream American Jewish community and alienating young American Jews.

This is true to a certain extent. Israelis live in a different political environment, with a different political structure, with a different perspective on synagogue and state, with a different security situation, and on and on. American Jews, from their perspectives, are just not going to be comfortable with everything Israelis do because of their situation and perspectives.

Because most of them are largely ignorant of Israel's history and circumstances and perspectives, and because most of them are heavily infused with and invested in their history, circumstances, and perspectives, American Jews are not going to be very understanding of or comfortable with much of what Israel does.

But this is for those who are paying attention. Most are not. Most hardly give a thought to Israel. On a daily basis, most barely give a moment to thinking and living as Jews.

American Jews’ connection to Israel is mostly falling by the wayside not because of any particular Israeli policy. Most pay little or no attention. It is evaporating because most Jews' connection to Judaism is evaporating.