‘Israel no longer in top five issues influencing American Jewish voters’

“The American Jewish community and Israeli society exist in very different realities and these differences have been shaping the worldviews of these two communities.”

January 27, 2017 14:38
2 minute read.
People wave American and Israeli flags‏

People wave American and Israeli flags‏. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel is no longer in the top five issues that influence American Jewish voters, according to a new study released by The Ruderman Family Foundation on Thursday.

The report, titled “Israel - a Unifying or a Divisive Issue among American Jews?" was published by the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa and written by Alon Pinkas, former Consul General of Israel in New York and foreign policy advisor to four previous Israeli Foreign Ministers.

In the academic paper, Pinkas stated that Israel plays neither a “distinctively unifying nor patently divisive role” in American-Jewish life. In examining the relationship between Israel and US Jews historically, Pinkas found that “As Jews got closer to Israel, two diverging trends appeared: the relationship and affiliation grew stronger, but so did the criticism and disillusionment.”

Looking forward to today, Pinkas noted that while the bond between American Jews and Israel remains strong, the “ties are fraying.”

“Recurrent friction and unresolved issues have strained and weakened the links over the last 10 to 20 years and created widening cracks,” he wrote.

As such, the study cited a shifting mindset of Israel among the new and younger generation of American Jewry.

Memories of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War and remembrances of the Holocaust are further removed from today's American Jewish youth, who as a result, see Israel in a different light than the previous generations.

“US Jews concerns are specifically American and that their lively involvement and participation in American politics is not usually motivated by Israel-driven causes,” the study stated.

Pinkas identified four broad reasons for the growing divide between American Jews and Israel: historical (post-1967), cultural (diverging societal development), religious (the treatment of Reform and Conservative Jews), and political (“liberal” American Jews vs. “colonialist” Israel).

He added a fifth and “overriding” reason: normalization. “This means normalization of the recognition that Israel is strong and powerful and not facing an existential threat; normalization of the relations between Israel and the United States; and the normalization, in the social, cultural, and political domains, of Jewish life in America,” he wrote.

Despite the growing rift, Pinkas concluded that Israel will continue to remain both a divisive and unifying force with regards to American Jewry, adding that Israel remains the "best hope" for the survival of a collective American Jewish identity.

“The American Jewish community and Israeli society exist in very different realities and these differences have been shaping the worldviews of these two communities,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation of the report.

“Despite the differences between American Jews and Israelis, the two communities are intimately connected as the two largest Jewish communities in the world, which mutually benefit each other,” he said. “As we move into a new political era it is more important than ever for Israelis and American Jews to try to better understand each other and treat each other with mutual respect.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation has aimed to combat this disconnect and runs numerous initiatives including Knesset Missions to the US and the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, a groundbreaking academic program established in 2013 at the University of Haifa.

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