December 6: Readers react to gov't campaign aimed at expats

Wow! Who would have thought that American Jews could get so upset about ads from Israel, the homeland of all the Jewish people.

Sir, – Wow! Who would have thought that American Jews could get so upset about ads from Israel, the homeland of all the Jewish people (“PM cancels government campaign to entice expats home,” December 4)? Is there not a major assimilation problem among the Jews in the US? Is it not true that over 50 percent of all Jews in America are intermarrying? The ads hit home too strongly.
Sir, – I wonder if Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver has any idea why Israelis leave and stay away for years, and why people living in the US are not really interested in making aliya.
Money spent on this kind of campaign will not work. How much did it cost? Maybe if Landver had recommended that the money be used toward our medical residents’ and interns’ salaries, it would help keep them in Israel. How many of these doctors have already sent their resumes out of the country? Not only are Israeli salaries too low, how about taxes? For instance, if someone is willing and needs to take an extra job, he is taxed 50 percent on that work. Does that make sense, especially when our Knesset members get so much vacation time with full salaries and perks? Let us work to keep our citizens here, and then maybe those living abroad will want to return.
Sir, – American Jewish federations have fallen to their lowest ebb. They have done little or nothing to enhance Jewish identity.
Shame on them for criticizing Israel’s ad campaign to return its expatriates.
Many of the expats have completely disassociated themselves from Israel and lost any sense of what it means to be Jewish. If enticement back to Israel and a return to one’s roots is a sin, then it is one worth committing.
How many of these expatriates have been lost to Christmas and intermarriage, and have forgotten what or when Hanukka is? How many care to remember when or what Israeli Independence Day is? How many perpetuate Hebrew as the spoken tongue at home? And if they perpetuate spoken Hebrew, why is it that many of their offspring can neither read nor write Hebrew? If not now, when should we attract these lost souls back home? In another 10 generations?
Sir, – The misunderstanding here is not on the part of the American Jewish community but on the part of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Its people fail to understand that the American-born children of Israeli yordim consider themselves Americans first, and rightly so.
Only the parents – not films or other types of propaganda – can instill in these children an attachment to Israel and to Judaism, and the parents’ attachment is thrown into question by the fact that they have left the county.
While the efforts of the Absorption Ministry may have some effect on second-generation Americans born of Israeli parents, I suspect that the return on the investment is low. A better return can be expected on helping absorption here in Israel.
As to giving the vote at election time to Israeli expatriates, these people have already voted – with their feet. I understand and even sympathize with some Israelis who leave the country, but I wouldn’t want people living abroad to have a say in who runs the government where I live.
Sir, – Perhaps the advertising campaign to lure Israeli expats home was somewhat misguided in that it disregarded the sensitivities of American Jews. But it raised a far more sensitive question with regard to Jewishness and Israelism.
Where does Jewishness end and Israelism begin if, indeed, it does end and begin? The point is that pure secular Israelism without even the smallest smidgen of Judaism is actually very vulnerable to extinction – even within the borders of our beloved Jewish country. Take it out of Israel and its vulnerability to extinction grows exponentially.
What makes Israel “Israel” is its Jewishness! The fact is that the Jews of the modern Diaspora are constantly fighting assimilation, and where there is no practice of any Jewish traditionalism they are lost.
Israeli expats who come from an entirely secular background are, therefore, victims of this phenomenon.
The solution to this problem is, therefore, a healthy mix of Jewishness and Israelism.
HAIM M. LERNER Ganei Tikva
Sir, – Hearing the truth can sometimes be painful.
The central message of the ad campaign was that the longer Israelis spend away from Israel, the greater the chance their children and grandchildren will lose their Israeli and even Jewish identity. Furthermore, the ads warned that marrying non-Zionist American Jews or non-Jews would only enhance the estrangement.
Canceling the ads in reaction to bad press was a disservice to Jews and Israelis living in the Diaspora. Expats and all caring Jews should face the painful reality – that a meaningful future for our people can be found only in the Jewish state.
Ignoring this self-evident fact and building a future in the Diaspora will lead to assimilation and a reduction of the Jewish critical mass.
Sir, – The pricey ad campaign that offended American Jews is a prime example of how government departments throw away money, not only wasting precious resources but actually causing harm.
Yordim who miss Israel know that they miss Israel without our government having to spend millions to tell them so.
It’s economics and employment opportunities that will bring them back – if they want to come.
The crew that came up with this showy boondoggle should be fired. The money saved could be used, for example, to provide school lunches.
Sir, – A special round of applause is due the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and it should stand up and take a bow for its efforts.
Every Jew is counted and accountable in Israel. The ministry has shown its love and caring for those who regrettably decided to leave home.
Dorothy holding her dog Toto proclaims in the movie The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”
Sir, – While the Immigrant Absorption Ministry wastes thousands of dollars on a campaign in the US to bring back expats who don’t want to return (and causes offense at the same time), this government is deliberately delaying the immigration of Ethiopian Jews who do want to come.
These people are waiting in intolerable conditions, in limbo, in transit, and we sit by and let this happen.
Israel was capable of absorbing a mass immigration in the days of extreme austerity, and now that our prime minister boasts of our booming economy, money cannot be found for a few immigrant centers.
Sir, – As a new immigrant (July 2010), I don’t understand why our prime minister had to intervene to stop this campaign. If these ads struck a nerve in the likes of Abe Foxman, maybe they were more effective than originally thought.
The fact is, there is tremendous assimilation in the US among both Israeli expats and American-born Jews. It’s obvious that the American Jewish community is in denial.
Ma’aleh Adumim