Jewish Journal


October 30, 2012

Can Israel and Diaspora Jewry agree to disagree? I think they don’t have much choice



(Photo: Reuters)

I'm taking a break from the American political campaign for a couple of days – I know, taking a break now is a little strange, but life doesn't always work exactly the way it should – to discuss important matters to the Jewish people.

The Jewish People Policy Institute is having its conference Tuesday and Wednesday; as a member of the institute, I will be participating in a number of forums dealing with Israel-Diaspora relations and with Israel's role in preserving the Jewish people.

Later this week, in the hope I can find the time, I want to share with you some lessons from these discussions - in which people much smarter than me are taking part. But until then, all I can share is the link to, and some of, the content of the paper I wrote for this conference: Agreeing to Disagree: Jewish Peoplehood Between Attachment and Criticism. This is how the paper begins:

Three important facts touching on the relationship between Israel and American Jews – the two communities that together comprise some four-fifths of the Jewish world – have recently become clear and are agreed upon by almost all researchers:


1. Young American Jews are not “distancing” from Israel. They still feel “attached” to it.

2. Travel/study Israel programs work: young people who experience Israel feel a strengthened attachment to it.


3. Attachment to Israel does not mean an absence of critical thinking about it, nor does it imply agreement with Israel’s current policies.

Similarly, three important conclusions arise from these facts that should influence the Jewish establishment’s policy making in the years to come:


1. There is no crisis of lack of attachment in relations between Israel and the American Diaspora that requires intervention.

2. All evidence suggests that travel/study Israel programs should be strengthened and expanded.


3. While Israelis and Americans can and should try to agree on more issues, they seem destined to maintain a relationship with each other based on an understanding that, in many areas, they will not agree.

This paper will briefly survey developments relating to points 1 and 2 and look more broadly at point 3. Finally, it will pose questions that should be addressed by policy makers.


If you want to know more, you'll have to read the paper. It's not very long, and not very complicated. Gary Rosenblatt of the NY Jewish Week has already read it, and wrote about it in his weekly column. He says my paper contains "good news" – yet another reason to take a look at it.

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