Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Two solitudes?

Ha'aretz is running a feature about a new NY-based organization meant to encourage ties between Israelis living in the States and American Jews.
I've always seen the separation of Israelis living in the Diaspora from the 'mainstream' Jewish community, which has been the case in every city I've lived in, as tragic (I particularly recall being shocked by an article about the Jews of Amsterdam in which the Israelis in the city were actually counted seperately to 'the Jews'). I blame it primarily on secular Israelis' hostility to religion and therefore a complete disinterest in most of the institutions which form the core of Diaspora life, such as the synagogue and the Jewish dayschool. Ultimately, I worry that without becoming more involved in those institutions, Israeli communities in the Diaspora will end up assimilating and disappearing.
In short, any effort to thaw the relationship between the two groups is extremely positive. What's interesting here, however, is that the effort at the top seems to be coming exclusively from the Israeli side (is the article accurate on this count? Hard to tell from here) and that they see the one factor which can connect both groups as... Israel. One of the founders even explains,
"The idea is to create a new generation of Americans and Israelis with strong ties to Israel, precisely now when the bond has become eroded and American Jews see Israel as an aggressor. We are trying to cement those ties, if not through aliyah then at least by activities that promote it."
There's nothing wrong with this, but it will be interesting to see if this experiment, in the long term, will result in the Israelis strengthening their ties with the 'mainstream' community institutions as well, either through the deliberate efforts of the American Jews who are involved, or because it evolves naturally.
Shame, incidentally, Ha'aretz didn't bother interviewing any Americans for the article....

No comments: