The new religion of American Jewry
Well, the delegations from the Jewish Federations of North America have graced our shores once more in their annual meeting, though it was not necessarily a meeting of the minds. While it’s always important to welcome our friends and show appreciation for their kinship – and their cash – these are somewhat troubling times. If the latest polls are the least bit accurate, American Jewry’s support for Israel – particularly among the younger generation, both on campus and off – is in a dangerously steady decline.
This dissonance is most dramatically illustrated through the prism of US President Donald Trump. Here in Israel, we – no less than three-quarters of us – absolutely love the guy; but the numbers are flipped in America, where just 23% of the Jews support him. Even on issues that ought to be bipartisan, such as Trump’s fulfillment of the long-standing American pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the Donald gets low marks. Less than half of American Jewry applauds the move, as opposed to 85% of us Israelis, who cheer it with full hearts and an exuberant waving of the Stars and Stripes.
One of Judaism’s core values is the principle of hakarat hatov, showing gratitude for the good things bestowed upon us. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, mandating that the embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was passed overwhelmingly, and presidents ever since – Republicans and Democrats alike – paid lip service to it. But since Trump, who has this nasty habit of actually keeping the pre-election promises he made, be it the Iran deal, punishing the Palestinians for their embrace of terrorism, or standing up for us in the UN – finally enacted the law, the reaction has been not only disappointing, but downright disgusting.
Where are the thanks from the American Jewish community, from every stream and segment? Where are the letters and tributes and accolades that should be pouring in, telling Trump and Ambassador David Friedman how much they appreciate their verification of something we Jews have steadfastly proclaimed for 70 years, that Jerusalem is our eternal capital?
Indeed, the very fact that this year’s Jewish Federation assembly convened outside Jerusalem pretty much tells the whole story.
I understand that American Jewry continues to cling tenaciously to the Democratic Party, and that their dislike – no, hatred – of Trump is vicious and visceral. But are they not willing to give any credit whatsoever where credit is due? Are they so blinded by enmity of the man that they cannot acknowledge all the positive things that Trump has delivered to us? Excusing Obama’s lukewarm support for Israel and his outrageous parting gifts of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and $150 billion to the world’s primary promoter of terrorism is one thing; denying Trump’s genuine goodwill toward Israel is quite another.
In truth, what we are seeing today is a conflict between the traditional Judaism of Israel and the new religion of American Jewry: liberalism. This conflict is manifested in the frantic push for pluralism in Israeli institutions, with strident demands for looser conversion guidelines, same-sex and civil marriages, and a dilution – if not eradication – of the rabbinate, by people who have no desire whatsoever to actually live in our society. With all the ills afflicting our little country – and God knows, we have oodles of them – we still are doing pretty well, thank you. If we are going to solve those nagging problems, it won’t be because the solutions are imposed upon us from the outside, or via articles savaging Israel published in the contemptuous New York Times by self-appointed Diaspora experts on what is best for Israel. It will be because of forces from within that determine what is best for those who built this land, pay its high taxes, serve in the army and suffer with bad cable TV.
The truth is, America – land that I loved and still do – you would do well to show us a healthy amount of respect, because, truth be told, you need us at least as much as we need you. We here in Israel are the ones shaping the future of Judaism. We are the engine of Jewish scholarship; the paradigm of Jewish entrepreneurship. We are a living miracle and testimony to the unbreakable spirit of Am Yisrael. We are the pride and joy of every Jewish generation; a model of courage in the face of adversity; the fulfillment of billions of prayers over thousands of years; the magnificent – albeit unfinished – portrait of the Jewish homeland that countless generations longed for and died for.
When asked for its list of priorities, liberal Jewish America consistently names reproductive rights and unrestricted abortion, support for the LGBT community, gun control and affirmative action among the items high on the agenda; Israel barely makes the cut. But it’s wise to remember that sage, God-fatherly advice: Never take sides against the family; they’re the ones who will be there for you when the chips are down.
[Is American Jewry] so blinded by enmity of the man that they cannot acknowledge all the positive things which Trump has delivered to us?
THE US Embassy, taking pride of place in Jerusalem.