Youth 'not connected' to Jewish people

PM tells J'lem conference on Jewish future that not all Jews are set for Aliyah.

pro-israel support US298 (photo credit: AP)
pro-israel support US298
(photo credit: AP)
Young Jews don't identify with Jewish peoplehood and have no real sense of collective identity, US student activist Rachel Fish told the Conference on the Future of the Jewish People on Tuesday. "There is an obvious and critical disconnect between the generation currently running the State of Israel, as well as the organized Jewish communities of the Diaspora, and the next generations of Jews," Fish, who is pursuing her doctorate at Brandeis University, said in a short but dramatic speech that formally opened the three-day conference in Jerusalem. "The notion that belonging to the Jewish people is both a privilege and a responsibility is neither understood nor accepted by future generations of Jews," she said. "In an age of multiculturalism, which celebrates the romantic and exotic 'Other,' and which is depicted as the only moral approach to a complex world, young Jewish adults do not desire to carry the burden of Jewish history and identity," she said. "It is much more attractive to be for the 'Other' and a citizen of the world rather than for one's own tribe, which is viewed as particularistic." Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the attendees of his vision of the Jewish world's future. He noted that not all Diaspora Jews intended to make aliya, and that Jewish identity within the State of Israel also needed to be strengthened. The conference hopes to address what many see as a lack of a pan-Jewish strategy for dealing with threats to the Jewish people worldwide, from assimilation and disinterest to the Iranian regime and anti-Semitism in the West. The conference attendees, ranging from American Jewish organizational leaders such as Malcolm Hoenlein and Abe Foxman to scholars such as Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz and Benjamin Ish-Shalom, to Israeli leaders including Olmert and opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu, will participate in four working groups. These groups will deal with specific topics in the context of a pan-Jewish policy, and are titled "Geopolitics," "Jewish Identity, Identification and Demography," "Leadership" and "Vibrant Communities for the Next Generation."