‘Times’ Mentions Crisis in American Jewish Identity Over Israel

I don’t usually read "Who is a Jew?" articles that quote Israeli rabbis. They are always filled with How-many-angels-can-dance on the head of a pin arguments utterly devoid of spiritual meaning. And as far as I’m concerned, a foreign country can define nationality any way it likes, it’s not really my concern. Who is a Muslim?

Gershom Gorenberg’s piece in yesterday’s Times was no exception. Though along the way it included an important distress signal from Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, who said the Israeli rabbis are just pushing American Jews further away:

“All the data shows a growing rift between American Jews and
Israeli Jews, and the younger you are as an American Jew, the less that
you care about the state of Israel. This is just terrible. And one of
the reasons for it — not the only reason, but one of the reasons for it
— is this kind of insulting treatment of the majority of American Jews
by the Israeli rabbinate.”

The data that Eisen’s referring to is last year’s landmark study "Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation From Israel."  I believe, based on a quick search, that this is the first time the Times has mentioned it. Funded by the Bronfman philanthropies, the study says that young American Jews (born after ’74) have grown up with the intifadahs and the Lebanon war, "memories and impressions less likely to cast Israel in a positive, let alone heroic light." (Not to mention Jimmy Carter and the apartheid wall.) And furthermore, the authors wrote, intermarriage and integration–i.e., the mingling of elites in the Ivy Leagues and every other station of the American establishment, with the result that 62 percent of Jews under 35 are marrying non-Jews–have made "attachment to Israel specifically, and identification with collective loyalties generally, less intuitively obvious."

This is the crisis in American Jewish identity. Older Jews are wringing their hands over this (the ones who are voting for Hillary Clinton), but it is possible to see this trend as a healthy sign. Note the words "attachment to Israel" offered as a positive form of "collective loyalty". And you say that there is no such thing as "dual loyalty" to Israel? It is part of the program. Young Jews are recognizing that this is their country, not Israel. Now that’s a story!

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Speaking of Apartheid walls.

    From The Same Country That Made 9/11 Possible…Israeli technology to keep US borders safe
    link to homo-sapien-underground.blogspot.com

  2. Richard Witty says:

    I understood the Gershom article as a description of the divide between the orthodox and the more secular and moderately religious Jewish community.

    The majority of American Jews that affiliate, affiliate with the "conservative" Jewish movement (not orthodox, but more adherent than reform or reconstructionist.). The orthodox rabbinate has gotten the authority to determine what marriages are Jewish.

    And, by extension, who is Jewish for the purpose of the right of return.

    Its an irony, that functionally puts the orthodox rabbinate in OPPOSITION to the Zionist effort of immigration.

  3. Jim Haygood says:

    "There is no civil marriage in Israel," states Gorenberg in the first paragraph. How, then, do non-Jewish couples get married in Israel? Or even worse, 'mixed' couples (one Jew and one gentile)?

    Or does the world's last apartheid state define religiously mixed marriages as 'miscegenation'? Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    "Its an irony, that functionally puts the orthodox rabbinate in OPPOSITION to the Zionist effort of immigration," says Richard Witty. That's called getting hoisted on your own tribalistic petard.

    How many other states in the world deny civil marriage — if ANY? Israel is a complete outlier, and I don't mean that as a compliment.

  4. Charles Keating says:

    Gotta keep the blood line going to stay the only survivor group.
    Nothing means more. Look at history.

  5. Charles Keating says:

    G-D means maternal history.

  6. Montag says:

    Jim Haygood,
    As I understand it, couples who can't marry in Israel either just live together or make a quick trip to Cyprus for a Civil Marriage. Either way it serves to buttress a secular lifestyle. By denying its citizens the right to civil marriage Israel is becoming much the same kind of political dinosaur as the Papal States became before they were forcibly annexed by Italy in 1870.

    When Massachusetts Governor Jim Curley tried to ban civil marriages in the 1930s he was quickly told how unacceptable the idea was. One newspaper opined, "Even Atheists have a right to marry in Massachusetts."

  7. Jim Haygood says:

    Montag: thanks, that's what I suspected. It closely parallels the Jim Crow South, where interracial couples could not get married. They could go outside the South and get married, and possibly have their out-of-state marriage recognized upon returning. But they also risked prosecution for miscegenation (which is the burning concern of Jewish anti-assimilationists, though they understandably avoid the term).

    Another aspect of the world's last apartheid state revealed.