Jewschool is co-sponsoring Love, Hate and the Jewish State 3: What’s Jewish about a Jewish state? on Thursday, June 24 at 7 pm at the JCC in Manhattan, along with 14 other Jewish social justice, spiritual and online communities.
The premise behind the Love/Hate series is that social justice and Israel feel awkward together. They just mix poorly. And the Jewish establishment is breathing down our necks trying to get young people to check their liberalism at the door instead of their loyalties to Israel. So this event represents a coalition of emerging Jewish communities who want an open space to discuss the most difficult issues.
As a taste of what NIF and Makom have been cooking up, here’s a question from the interactive part of the evening. Agree or disagree with each of these statements:

  • Anybody should be able to become an American citizen.
  • Anybody should be able to become an Israeli citizen.

Whoa, the guilt-and-fear-o-meter just spiked. Yeah, I feel anybody should be able to be an American. Even illegal immigrants should have a chance to legally join our multi-cultural melting pot. The more diversity the better! But in Israel — ooh, er, um, not so fast. I know what the “correct” answer to that statement is. And I know what my answer to that statement is. If they’re not the same, then I’m begging for the Jewish establishment to disown me. 
But let’s ignore the ugly establishment voices for a sec and have an open conversation. I value a multiplicity of ethnic peoples and desire success for minorities in every country. I come to this value because my people are wanderers. I want Israel to be for other refugees what pithy few other countries did for my people: offered them asylum in their time of need. Israel should accept Darfurian refugees. But how many? Israel is already 20% non-Jewish…what if it becomes 30%, 40%…51% non-Jewish? How do I feel about that?
Let’s try another.

  • It is more important to donate to non-Jewish communities locally than non-Jewish communities in Israel.

Hoo boy. To wit: I view Jews as a pretty wealthy bunch. Sure, there’s some Jewish poor, but I absolutely don’t see why I should give money to specifically Jewish poor and restrict my monies from helping the poor of all races and creeds. This is why I don’t donate to the Federation (among many reasons).
But when it comes to Israel…I am torn. Israel is not my country. America is. Israel is not my community. It’s their own community. In fact, I care that Israel is not the charity state it has been for its first 60 years. Yet I care that Israel specifically, a country ruled by Jews, is just and equal. I felt personally shamed when its income inequality reached the highest in the Western world. But giving money there feels like caring only about Jews, even if I’m giving to help non-Jews. How do I reconcile my care for my community here and my expectations for what it’s like over there?
Not easy questions. Incredibly thorny, difficult, scary questions that ultimately highlight my own blind spots and little hypocricies. But I need to talk about it — and the mainstream certainly isn’t the place for it. This is why emergent communities like Jewschool, Pursue, and others are co-sponsoring this interactive exploration and dialogue. Come for dialogue, stay for the drinks.
Full list of co-sponsors and registration here: http://www.nif.org/lovehate