Identity, Israel

Age, Israel, Identification

According to a new study (full disclosure: I co-authored it), younger Jews, pretty much across the board, express a weaker sense of attachment to Israel than do their elders. Pretty much every measure that we looked at revealed a similar pattern of dis-connection.
older = more attached to Israel
younger = less attached to Israel
To explain: Disconnection or disidentification are not the same thing as criticism, which is to say that people critical of Israel’s politcs might score rather high according to their levels of attachment and identification.
For Jewschool’s purposes and primary interests, there are two things worth noting here:
1. There is no correlation between political orientation and connection to Israel. Identifying one’s self as “conservative” or “liberal” did not translate into a marked difference in one’s sense of connection to Israel.
2. Obviously, there are lots of factors that count when calculating this stuff, but one that remains most interesting and strong is the ongoing production of authentic, thoughtful, rich Jewish life that does not require or revolve around the State of Israel.
Check the full report here.

24 thoughts on “Age, Israel, Identification

  1. Other possible reasons for youthful detachment from Israel: a) narcissistic era we live in; b) increased assimilation (the same cultural trend that results in Jews marrying out; c) constant demonization of Israel by Mobius, pbs, nbc, cbs, nytimes, etc. creating a “I don’t want to be that attached” attitude.

  2. This is both sad and frightening. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday the US stopped supporting Israel as strongly as it does now, but I pray that Jews never stop. This just shows the need for programs like birthright.

  3. incorrect– did you actually read the post?
    because your 3rd point contradicts the findings, but you seem to be attempting to explain them.

  4. Incorrect: incorrect.
    narcissism has been going on at least as long as… well.. narcissus. and that’s a long time.
    assimilation, too — frankly, the word, as you’re using it, isn’t reall helpful in describing the complex cultural exchanges that result in things ranging from the passover seder (modeled on the greek symposium), the havurah movement, or DJ Socalled. If, by assimilation, you mean “loss,” that’s a different story, but not one that either my study or I cover.
    Adam: sad? frightening? why? why not “challenging?” Israel can’t rest on its laurels (such as they are) for connecting to American Jewish youth… so, what’s next? And, it certainly does not show the “need” for bri. while there’s a strong correlation between time spent in israel and one’s connection to it, it’s not causal. and, off the record, I wonder about “connections” between people and places like Paris or Rio, once they visit there, too….

  5. Can it be that today’s kids just take Israel for granted? Unless you’ve gone through an intensive Zionist/religious education system, I bet most Jewish youngsters in the Diaspora comprehend just what it took to achieve Jewish independence after 1800-or-so years ago, and *what everyday life was like* for Jews before the modern state of Israel.
    Old folks lived through the eras of the chalutzim, the machteret, the independence war, and a whole series of wars that were(historians may dispute this, but) were (perceived at the time as) existential threats to the Zionist project at all.
    I think many of us today under-estimate how big a change the restoration of Jewish sovereignty has effected PSYCHOLOGICALLY in the Jewish people as a whole. The fact that we can respond to the Holocaust from a position of vigor is amazing. The “wandering Jew” exists no more! The Hanukah story is tangible. Many of us have to think up new ways to relate to Tisha Be’av.
    …and so the Jews become “a normal nation”. I wonder what the results would look like if one compared diaspora-Jewish attachment to Israel with diaspora-Irish attachment to Eire, or diaspora-Greek attachment to Greece. I’m venturing that it would look a lot the same.
    I bet if you gave the Rroma (“gypsy”) people a homeland, they’d look a lot like our parents in how they related to it, for a while. And then they’d start to look like us younger folks.

  6. AYK, Kol Ha’Kavod. I must say, I am VERY skeptical of reports like this, as the communal response tends not to be, “lets understand what Jewish life means for contemporary Jews so we better serve them,” but rather, “why aren’t these Jews behaving in the ways WE want them to? What can we do to encourage connection to israel, marry jews, fear anti-Semitism?”
    I really appreciate finding #2, because I, and so many people I know, do live rich Jewish lives (I’m a professional Jew for god sake) without israel. In fact, I would go so far as to say that when one cannot base one’s Jewish identity on what is going on “over there” but must work hard to build vibrant community “over here” that one’s Jewish life is enriched immeasurably.
    I’m not sure how I would have been measured in your survey. I am disconnected from israel, in that I find the ethnocracy, militarism, and religious orthodoxy revolting, but I’ve lived in Israel, follow the news closely, and have been involved in anti-occupation activism, so I’m connected. Its not apathy that create a separation for me, but disgust. How did you separate those things out?

  7. Ok, I take it back. ive just read the whole report. Ari did in fact fall into the trap that most communal professionals do. After discovering increasing distance from Israel in younger age cohorts, rather than asking “If Israel is not important to these Jews, what is? How can we build a vibrant Jewish community that serves these young Jews?” Ari asks, “What can we do to restore the older connection?”
    Sorry charlie, that doesn’t cut it. Even if Birthright “works,” it is insulting for communal professionals to say “I know what will provide a fulfilling life for you kids, and that is attachment to israel.” The goal of the organized Jewish community should be to serve and support Jews in living vibrant meaningful lives, to connect to the lives and values of american Jews. It should not be to coerce American Jews to be more like communal professionals think they should be.
    Ari, as I said above, I appreciate finding #2, unfortunately, that is not what report itself concludes. You get it exactly right with your interpretation of the intermarriage findings. American Jewish identity is changing. It is more accepting of fluidity, cultural syncretism, and diversity. Ethnic attachment cannot survive this move into post-modernity. If they want to be ahead of the ball policy makers (like you Ari) should be asking, how can we support this kind of new Jewish identity, rather than trying to shore up a failing model.
    Nice research, interesting conclusions, but your policy suggestions are blind to the reality you have discovered.

  8. israel engages in demographic warfare and ethnic cleansing; enacts segregationist policies that deprive non-jews of equal rights and equal protection under the law; uses violence against its own citizens (on the right and left); brokers arms deals with human rights abusers; trafficks in sex slaves, narcotics, and blood diamonds; deprives holocaust survivors of financial aid; refuses entry to refugees from genocide; denies the armenian genocide; tolerates violence against women and homosexuals; coddles christian fundamentalists; and is governed by criminals (including, notably, sex offenders).
    and yet, in all my ranting and raving over the years, what have i sought?
    that the jewish community should wake up and do something. that we get involved. that we jump in and fix things. that we clean up the mess. that we eradicate the corruption. that we put an end to the things that shame israel as a nation, jews as a people, and g-d as our father.
    you can ignore what’s going on there all you like. so long as it doesn’t fit your impression of reality, you’re free to tune it out. but when the state comes crashing down, because it’s rotten to the core, be certain to acknowledge the fact that you were given every possible warning, and that you chose to accuse the messenger of treason, rather than heed his warning.

  9. Ari asks, “What can we do to restore the older connection?” Sorry charlie, that doesn’t cut it.
    Gotta disagree.
    But we gotta ask the right question, and that is not “how can we make young people more connected to Israel,” but “how can we make Israel relevant to young people?”
    As a liberal, American Jew I feel a little more alienated from Israel every time Ovadia Yosef opens his pie-hole. When I hear his ramblings and pratings, I say to myself that in America there is freedom of Religion for everyone, but in Israel there is freedom of religion only for Non-Jews.
    There are rays of hope – there is the IMPJ (International Movement for Progressive Judaism) – but so long as an exclusively orthodox rabbinate controls religious life, Israel’s primary purpose for me is a place to flee if things go bad here.
    To make it a place I WANT to be means putting all the major streams on an equal footing, stopping the sanctimonius BS at the Kotel, and not blinking at overseas converts.
    Israel will always have my support, but for these things it will also always have my criticism.

  10. Read the Mobius post; even if you are a bright 15 year old who knows it’s full of shit, wouldn’t that viewpoint, amplified in most of the media, create a “why do I want to get involved” attitude?
    Then you have Danny Rubinstein, an editor and Palestinian beat reporter for Haaretz (the Guardian of Israel) going before Durbin II and calling Israel an apartheid state.
    If 5% of the “Jews” out there are crapping all over Israel, doesn’t that necessarily have an alienating effect on all Jews as to their vision of Israel?
    It takes real strength to fight off the anti Semites, radical Muslims and the haters of the world.
    It takes even more when the bias, hysteria, and vilification is coming from your own brethren.
    But we will prevail.

  11. Incorrect– you are still contradicting the findings of the study without any proof beyond “common sense”.
    Common sense has held a lot of things to be true which turned out not to be, like maggots not hatching from eggs, and darker skinned people being less intelligent than lighter skinned people.
    I think you need to commission another study of the subject and show us different numbers, or make a good argument for design flaws in this one.
    Otherwise, what you’re saying amounts to putting your fingers in your ears and walking around saying “lalalala, I can’t hear you” anytime you hear something you disagree with.

  12. clearly, the mainstream media is doing an impeccable job defaming the jewish state and destroying the public’s opinion of israel, including the opinions of secular jewish kids who consume that same media.
    oh, except that it’s not.
    in 2006, a gallup poll found that 68% of americans had a favorable view of israel. that same year, a pew survey found that 45% of americans had a favorable view of israel, compared to 8% who had a favorable view of the palestinian authority.
    obviously, the jew-hating media, which the palestinians routinely accuse of being “zionist-controlled” and biased towards israel, is having a tremendous effect.

  13. Israel has become a heavy weight, a duty and responsibility instead of a job and source of pride. Can’t wait to see what happens when the link is severed. Israel may sink, and Judaism may flourish…. not sure that’s a bad thing.

  14. in 2006, a gallup poll found that 68% of americans had a favorable view of israel. that same year, a pew survey found that 45% of americans had a favorable view of israel, compared to 8% who had a favorable view of the palestinian authority.
    You’re quoting numbers in a vacuum. What were those numbers in 2000, at the start of the present intifada? If those numbers have been trending down, that’s cause for concern, but you can’t spot a trend in a single data point.

  15. Apeman-
    thanks for the close reading and insightful comments. and, I will say that I agree with much of what you’re concluding. postmodernism, ethnic syncretism, hybridity, fluidity, and the rest are the name of the game, and certainly I agree that the question I’m asking (in this study as elsewhere) is not: “how can Jewish professionals absorb or erase these changes” but actually, what can Jewish people and organizations do to help produce meaningful Jewish experiences that suit Jews whose identities are post-, hybrid, etc. etc.
    We (Steven and myself, the authors) dont’ ask how to restore the old connection. We do say that if you want the old connection, it looks this particular way, but really, we’re reporting data that is (by my account) far more illustrative of changes in American Jewish identities than anything else. And the implicit challenge for institutions is what to do to meet them (or, as the case may be, not). And we say as much on the bottom of page 21 of the full report.
    BTW, and in the spirit of clarity: I’m not a policymaker (would that I were). I suppose, I fall somewhere between advisor and researcher. the report was written with the policymakers in mind.

  16. Firstly, kol hakavod to Ari for putting together this study and for posting about it on Jewschool and furthering this conversation.
    One major problem with the study is that when looking at what things make Jews feel more connected to Israel, such as Birthright, the study doesnt ask if American Jews would feel more connected to Israel if it wasnt involved in a deadly conflict with the Palestinians, if it wasnt occupying Palestinian land, committing human rights abuses, and doing all the things that Mobius mentions above.
    Next time include this question in the study:
    If Israel ended its occupation of Palestinian land, allowed for the creation of a viable Palestinian state, and lived in true peace and security with all its Arab neighbors, would you feel a stronger connection to Israel?
    My guess is that (post-modern detachment aside), it would show a positive increase in connectedness. In which case, the policy response is clear. Stop trying to “sell” a connection to Israel through rose-colored Birthright trips that everyone can see right through. Instead, get busy advocating for a real peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and the rest of Israel’s Arab neighbors. Then all the lefties would stop bitching about Israeli policies, the right-wingers would stop bashing all Palestinians, and Israel might get to be the nation Birthright tries to sell people that it is.

  17. Israel certainly isn’t perfect, but until the PA ceases to be corrupt there’s no hope for them. They’ve got a choice between shit or shit.

  18. KRG, I disagree, mostly.
    I think my question should be asked precisely because its not the folks who are passionate positively or negatively about Israel that are feeling alienated (at least according to this study’s definition), but rather those who lie in the middle and feel overwhelmed, confused, and disconnected as a result of all the insanity that encompasses any debate or discussion about Israel, which is mostly, if not entirely, a result of the ongoing conflict.
    Of course, asking a question like I posed might not generate an overwhelmingly positive answer because its so hard to imagine a world in which Israel was more like New Zealand than Bosnia.
    Yet, I have to imagine that “Birthright New Zealand” or “pro-New Zealand advocacy” would go over better than Birthright Bosnia in the minds of most young Jews.

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