With passing of time, a question of identity

Israelis living in the US consider themselves more American the longer they live there; More than half of Israeli-Americans living in the US do not send their children to Jewish day schools.

August 31, 2014 03:28
2 minute read.
Times Square, New York

Times Square, New York. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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NEW YORK – The Israeli-American Council is organizing a birthright-style program to help reconnect Israelis living in the United States with their home country, following a study that found that the longer Israelis live in the US, the more they come to define themselves as Israeli-Americans, not Israeli.

The study, conducted by the Israeli-American Council in December 2013, found that 83 percent of immigrants from Israel who have lived in the United States less than five years still define themselves as Israeli. The other 17% call themselves Israeli-Americans.

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The tipping point is at about 10 years, when 55% define themselves as Israeli and 45% as Israeli-Americans.

Despite the adoption of a partial American identity, time has no effect on the feeling that “in some sense that Israel is mine.” Respondents who have lived in the US for less than 10 years agreed with the statement 98% of the time. Those living in the US for more than 10 years agreed with it 96% of the time.

The study, which was conducted online, found that 17% of Israeli-Americans are married to non-Jews.

It also found that Hebrew fluency is significantly lower in the second generation of Israelis living in the US. Among the first generation, fluency before and after 10 years in the States ranged between 96% and 99%.

Meanwhile, in the second generation that’s lived in the US for less than 10 years, fluency was 78%. For those in the US longer than 10 years, fluency was 48%.


IAC’s definition of fluency is fluid, as the statistics lump together several categories of people: those for whom Hebrew is a mother tongue and those who speak Hebrew at a good level, or with a reasonable level of fluency.

More than half of Israeli-Americans living in the US do not send their children to Jewish day schools, the study found.

The length of time living in the US seems to have less of an impact on this decision. Out of the respondents living in the US for less than 10 years, 29% send their children to Jewish day schools. Out of those living in the US for more than 10 years, 32% send their kids to Jewish day schools.

Israelis who have been living in the US for less than 10 years are also more likely to socialize with other Israelis, the IAC study found.

IAC was also able to give a demographic sketch of the Israeli population in the United States. About 20% are 16 to 34 years old, 44% are between the ages of 35 and 44, 15% are 45 to 64 years old, and 11% are over 65 years old. Because these numbers were determined off a sample size, the percentages are not exact.

The program, called IAC Shelanu, is for Hebrew speakers living in America. The principle is still the same: A 10-day free trip for young people aged 18 to 26.

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