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!