One of our themes is that Israel is becoming a divisive topic inside American Jewish spaces. Rabbis are afraid to bring it up lest arguments break out. “The issue of Israel is and will be a continued major source of polarization and friction” inside the Jewish community, reports a leading sociologist. More evidence of the trend.
Last week at a political event at the Central Synagogue in New York, David Moore, a fundraiser for the UJA Federation of New York, the philanthropy that co-sponsored the event, gave a short speech about the UJA and brought up Israel and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in fire-and-brimstone fashion:
I don’t need to tell you the challenges we face are formidable…. While Israel thankfully is strong and vibrant… here on campuses especially we are engaged in a tough BDS fight that may well define how the next generation of all Americans view the Jewish state.
Moore’s pitch was odd because as we’d come into the synagogue, staffers for his organization had handed out a lavish brochure titled, “You + UJA.” In its 20 pages or promotions, it mentioned Israel only twice, and not head-on: “10,000 French Jews attended job fairs to help them start over in Israel… 1,400 small Israeli businesses have been built with loans we support.”
The emphasis was America:
We are your grandmother’s ride to her doctor’s appointment. Your child’s vibrant Jewish day camp. Your neighborhood’s LGBTQ safe space. Your cash assistance to rebuild after Sandy. We are your problem solvers and go-getters, stretching from Queens to Jerusalem and back again.
David Moore’s big issue– BDS– was not mentioned in the brochure the organization had just handed out.
I think the reason for the discrepancy is obvious. Moore was addressing a group of older Jews with a likely religious affiliation. Older Jews have a predictable generational attitude toward Israel, deliverer of the Jewish people. But the UJA isn’t going to talk about Israel in more general campaign literature because it knows younger Jews are running away from the place. For instance, the non-Zionist group #IfNotNow has regularly issued challenges to the Jewish leadership as a form of what it calls Jewish resistance. I bet a lot of the #IfNotNow folks support BDS.
As we reported last month, a consultant to Jewish Federations says that some funders are balking at giving money to Federations if the money goes to Israel.