Manufacturing a Diaspora-Israel ‘rift’ - Opinion

It is obvious that the so-called “rift” between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is an invention of the Israeli Left and the anti-religious press which gives American Jews an agenda in a sovereign state.

By DAVID J. MARTIN
June 1, 2019 23:30
3 minute read.
Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state.

Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Each day, virtually without exception, the Israeli press bemoans the rift between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry. As examples of the insensitivity of Israel toward the valid interests of Diaspora – particularly American – Jewry, the press points to the never implemented Western Wall arrangement and the non-recognition of various so-called pluralistic streams of Judaism.

Most recently, the head of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community, who lit a torch on Independence Day, publicized a letter criticizing the prime minister for not doing enough for Diaspora Jewry.

To be sure, the situation described above stems from the illogical connection between religion and a secular Israeli political establishment. Simply stated, how can the state legislate and the (overtly anti-religious) Supreme Court adjudicate matters relating to religion when the primary force to join (rather than separate) state and religion is political blackmail by the religious parties?

Moreover, it is obvious that the so-called “rift” between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is an invention of the Israeli Left and the anti-religious press which gives American Jews an agenda within a sovereign state where they do not live.

Having said all that, and without derogating from the seriousness of the problems outlined above, it is also illuminating to examine the substance of the so-called rift from an empirical point of view.

What is the nature of “American Jewry” that makes it entitled to Israeli consideration? With regard to the 15% of the American Jewish population that is Orthodox/observant or quite traditional (excluding the anti-Zionist Satmars and their brethren), their connection with the State of Israel is based on a belief that the settlement of the Land of Israel is a divine commandment and that the secular State of Israel – despite all of its faults – is a step in the fulfillment of the promise of redemption. What about the other 85% of American Jewry? What makes them Jewish? What makes them entitled to participation in Israeli political life? The vast majority of American Jewry has never visited Israel. The overwhelming majority of the Orthodox community has been to Israel many times. The vast majority of American Jewry does not send its young people to study in Israel. The overwhelming majority of the Orthodox community does so. Aliyah from the United States is disproportionately Orthodox. Assimilation and intermarriage are commonplace in all of American Jewry, other than the Orthodox. Some 200,000 American Jewish children – virtually 100% of that population – study in Jewish schools. Less than 5% of non-Orthodox Jewish children have a significant Jewish education. So, what makes American Jewry Jewish? Is it simply birth or genetics?

Quite frankly, I don’t think that the laity of American Jewry really cares whether men and women can stand together at the Kotel or whether their clerics can perform weddings in Israel. What they feel is that until recently to be Jewish was to be downtrodden.

Even if a Jew in Poland or Morocco was wealthy, he knew deep down that he was surrounded by danger – because of this ethnic background. In the 20th century this changed. Jews truly felt empowered in the United States, and this empowerment was strengthened by the fact that a Jewish state – where they did not live, and did not want to live – had developed military power and economic status. When an American Jew voices his position as to the Jewish state, he is demonstrating that he has gone from a lowly, marginally tolerated semi-human being to a powerful member of the world community. Diaspora Jews want the advantages of being tied to the Jewish state without any of the responsibilities or obligations.

Diaspora Jewry speaks about the lack of democracy in Israel’s relations with them. They are the majority and their wishes should govern. The fact is that they are a tiny minority in every measure of Jewish contact. Democracy means “majority rule with preservation of minority rights.” American Jewry wants Israel to relate to religion on the basis of “minority rule.” That is both illogical and inappropriate by any measure.

The writer is an advocate and attorney at law with Weksler, Bregman & Co.


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