The new re­li­gion of Amer­i­can Jewry

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIONS - STE­WART WEISS The writer is di­rec­tor of the Jewish Out­reach Cen­ter of Ra’anana. [email protected]­sion.net.il

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?

(Marc Is­rael Sellem)

THE US Em­bassy, tak­ing pride of place in Jerusalem.

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