Although 89% of Israeli Jews say they see a “moral importance” in Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community, more than half (60%) say they oppose the American Jewish community influencing decisions related to religion and state in Israel, according to a new study by the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Additionally, the study showed that 78% of respondents said they do not have either an excellent or very good understanding of the differences between the religious streams of US Jewry. Almost a third (32%) report somewhat of an understanding, and more than a quarter (26%) have little to no understanding.
The study was commissioned by the foundation and conducted by the Dialogue polling company, interviewing 500 Jews from a demographically representative sampling of Israeli adults.
“The Israeli public openly admits to not knowing enough about the American Jewish community and its organizations,” said Ruderman Family Foundation president Jay Ruderman upon seeing the survey results.
“This is a two-way relationship, and both sides must work to strengthen it.”
Some 57% of Israeli respondents say they have little or no knowledge of American Jewish organizations. However, 51% of the respondents said they believe “the largest Jewish organizations in the United States help to advance Israeli interests in the United States.”
Moreover, 37% of respondents said they likewise believe that American Jewish organizations represented a Democratic Party political agenda.
According to the poll, 38% of Israelis say their main connection to US Jewry is through Israeli media, while another 30% said that their connection is through family.
“We must work to change” the reality that Israelis do not know enough, Ruderman said.
“Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community is important for both sides and affects all areas of life,” he continued.
The survey was released on Friday, a day after Dan Illouz, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, announced a new initiative aimed at connecting Diaspora Jews to the holy city. The initiative was announced in a Facebook post.
Illouz immigrated to Israel 10 years ago from Montreal, Canada and is a member of the Hitorerut Party.
As a city council member, he may ask the mayor two questions every month from the floor of the council. Going forward, he will ask one of his questions in the name of someone from the Diaspora.
“I hope to become a bridge for Diaspora Jewry and Jerusalem,” Illouz said in a statement. “Israel belongs to the whole Jewish people, and so does its capital: Jerusalem. I believe that means everyone has a stake in the city.
“I hope Jews from around the world will not only want to invest in Jerusalem – to visit and enjoy everything we have to offer – but also to have some influence,” he continued. “While Jerusalemites definitely have a vested interest in what’s going on here, Diaspora Jewry should also be given a chance to speak out.”