Have some American Jews replaced Judaism with liberalism?.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The very sad truth is that the vast part of American Jewry has willfully decided not take advantage of the religious freedoms offered by the US, and instead decided not to educate their children and grandchildren in any shape or form to be Jewish, sits at the heart of the present divide between American and Israeli Jews. As someone involved in Centrist Orthodox Zionist Education for close to four decades, I see the fruits when a community does invest vast resources from ages 2–23+, from preschool through attending a College like Yeshiva University, with at least a year in a Yeshiva in Israel post high school, so that they remain Jewish. Our children and grandchildren overwhelmingly affiliate with Judaism, mitzvot, Torah, Jewish Holidays, values, ideas, lifestyles, beliefs – which also includes being connected to the Jewish Nation and the Jewish State – on multiple levels.
Hence if a population has almost insured that for two generations its offspring do not know much about Torah, Jewish Law, Jewish History, Jewish Culture, Jewish Holidays, Jewish Language – Hebrew and Jewish ideals then is it a wonder that they are “alienated” from this State? They have been brought up to be citizens of the world, to be liberal and progressive in a way that is defined by those on the Left of the political spectrum. These ideas as a rule clash with Judaism’s ideas and values, and especially its idea of nationhood and nationalism. Their alienation is not a function of a government in Israel or a politician. Mind you, these governments and politicians have been democratically elected by Israel’s citizens, but their alienation is a function of their education and their world view, as well as their ignorance of almost all things truly Jewish.
I am sure that people who represent the aggrieved American Jews who feel alienated by present day Israel must realize that using the terms tikkun olam and kavod habriyot over and over, when taken out of context of the 613 Commandments and Jewish Halacha are simply “progressive” slogans that anyone can bend to mean almost anything. They are not the core Jewish values that they are presented to be by those who have almost nothing to do with traditional or normative Judaism.
I respectfully suggest that the time has come to be intellectually honest. The problem is not with Israel, its policies, its government or politicians. But rather the problem is that a vast number of American Jews have willfully decided to reject most of what Judaism has to offer and teach and replace Judaism by a new definition of liberalism and progressivism – that one can argue are anything but truly liberal and progressive – and certainly are not Jewish. For these non-affiliated Jews, the idea of Jewish nationalism and Jewish statehood is baffling at best, evil at worst.
As a rule the progressive community is against the Nation-State Law and pro open borders. Hence, the alienation felt by many American Jews from Israel, is not a function of what Israel does. It is rather a function of what Israel is: The Jewish Nation State of the Jewish Nation. Something most of the Jewish nation has been praying and waiting for since the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. But something that new Jewish progressives view as an embarrassment, anachronism or worse a Fascist-like ideology.
We can and certainly must have conversations between those of us who are unabashedly pro-Israel, because we see Israel as either the beginning of the road to the ultimate redemption of the Jewish Nation, or feel it is the historical destiny of the Jewish Nation. So, let’s begin this conversation by addressing two diametrically opposite views of Jewish Nationhood and Statehood. This will help us have a meaningful and fruitful dialogue. Otherwise a great deal of time will be wasted discussing different policies of this or that Israeli Government, official or prime minister, when in reality that’s not the issue at all. The real issue is: What is a Jewish group’s connection to traditional, classic, historical Judaism? That will help us get to the core of the issue that presently divides much of American Jewry from the State of Israel.Yotav Eliach has been writing and lecturing about Judaism and Zionism since 1978. Most recently his book: ‘Judaism Zionism and the Land of Israel’ was published by Dialog Press in April 2018. He is also the Principal of Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, New York.