US, Israeli Jewish divide worries academics

Panel expressed fear that the lack of Jewish content in secular Israeli identity was disconnecting communities.

"I'm concerned about a situation in which my grandchildren and yours will not have a common language," Hebrew Union College president Rabbi David Ellenson on Tuesday told the Herzliya Conference run by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of the IDC Herzliya. Ellenson, along with other speakers at the panel titled "Jewish Identity and National Strength," expressed their fear that the apparent lack of Jewish content in secular Israeli identity was aggravating an already-dangerous disconnect between the American and Israeli Jewish communities. "Our unity and resilience require that our people in Israel and around the world internalize the concept of 'Jewish peoplehood,'" Ellenson continued. "The crisis of Jewish identity in the 'secular' sphere inspires doubts among young Israelis as to the justice behind Zionism and the State of Israel," said Prof. Aliza Shenhar. "This crisis deals a terrible blow to the unity of the Israeli Jewish collective." According to Rabbi Michael Marmur, dean of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, "The [Zionist movement's] notion that just breathing the air [of Israel] and serving in the paratroopers will solve the problem of Jewish identity is wrong." The main question is "what we do together now to offer a range of serious rooted Jewish options," to provide what young Israelis "in their thousands" were searching for: "a rich, healthy Jewish identity," Marmur told The Jerusalem Post.