Global, Israel, Politics

Israel as a Cornerstone of American Jewish Identity: Good for the Jews?

JPost has an article about the panel I participated in last Thursday. I’m very glad to see this conversation finally opening up in the Jewish press.

The largest annual gathering of Jewish leaders, the UJC’s General Assembly, is meeting in Los Angeles this week, in large part, to discuss the relationship between American Jews and Israel. But some leaders who spoke at a recent panel in New York say the mainstream conversation about Israel in the US still falls short.
Many Jews in America still approach the subject of Israel with trepidation, said Rabbi Andy Bachman, founder of Brooklyn Jews, an association of Jews who engage in social action as well as religious learning, at last week’s panel, entitled “How Young Jewish Activists are Changing the World.”
[…] Looking over the schedule of events at this year’s GA meeting, Bachman balked at a session on “Israel the Brand,” which addressed the ways in which Israel is being presented in the media.
“How are you going to brand your way out of a war?” Bachman said. “It’s so absurd. There’s no branding that can cover over a terrible situation.”
Panelists at the New York event explained that one of the causes for the increased withdrawal on the part of young American Jews with respect to Israel is the simplified and one-sided approach they have been fed since childhood.

Full story.

6 thoughts on “Israel as a Cornerstone of American Jewish Identity: Good for the Jews?

  1. Perhaps I am an optimist but I see a big shift in the mainstreams willingness to own up to the conflict and make change. I find the Inter-agency task force on Arab Israelis very encouraging. It includes many powerful and important institutions of Jewish social justice converging to address a topic that is at the heart of the conflict. Furthermore, I am glad that the influence from America is coming from the Jewish community institutions that are involved with Israel and tikkun olam and not from US leaders.

  2. I disagree with the criticism of Brand Israel. At the same time, I agree that a simplified approach to Israel and Jewish identity = Israel is bad for the Jews and, I should add, bad for Israel.

  3. Zionism is a dangerous base for Jewish identity.
    Jewish identity should be presented in reference to our service to Hashem through the holy Torah. No matter what minchag or interpretation, I think this NEEDS to be the case. The whole “Oh No we’re all about dissappear better have unwavering political support for the state of Israel” formula to forming a Jewish community totally undercuts who we are. It should be “we have a mission, and we can do it, and that mission is found in our struggle to better understand and fulfill the will of Hashem through Torah”. Cause that’s who we’ve been, who we are, and who we always will be. From the “secular” Jew who works hard to feed and clothe the homeless in their community to the “fundamentalist” who teaches their fellow Jew how to put on tefillin.
    Religious/social action (same thing), not Zionist politics, should be the focus of our organizations.

  4. In studying Chanukah with my students this year ( at a reform shul no less) I realized that it is the Reform and “reconstructionist” movements that are like the Helenistic Jews. Taking away all our traditions, and replacing them with Liberal political , feel good soical action things. They have taken away Kashrut, Mikvah, Shabbat on Saturday, preservation of life, and reverance for Torah. Forget is a joke to them.
    My goal as their teacher is to preserve our traditions and Torah. Hashem has put me in this place to do this, I am sure of it.

  5. As one who attends a (very reverential) Torah service every Saturday at a Reform shul, where I can take classes on Talmud, I find BT’s conflation of Reform and the Helenistic Jews more than just a little baffling.

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