Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

American Jews and Israel Have Never Been Closer

January 25, 2013 12:56 am 0 comments

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Wayne McLean.

Despite occasional media warnings of a “distancing” between American Jews and Israel, there is nothing like actually visiting the Jewish state to feel the close connections between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.

And what better time to come and experience that bond than right after national elections in both countries and as Israel’s 65th anniversary fast approaches? With all the hype we have been hearing about an Arab Spring that would magically transform the Middle East, Israel remains the region’s sole American-style democracy, where universal suffrage, the strength of civil society and peaceful transfers of power empower citizens to choose their government at the ballot box.

I am here with a large delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) board members.

For more than a century, AJC, whose main mission is global advocacy, has fought for the rights and security of Jews around the world. Since 1948, we have sought to help Israel by energetically arguing its case in the halls of power, diplomatic chancelleries and the mass media.

Over 50 years ago, AJC was the first American Jewish organization to open a permanent office in the Jewish state.

Through our innovative Project Interchange program, more than six thousand influential non-Jews from the US, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America have visited Israel for week-long educational seminars, enabling these leaders to see for themselves the challenges the country faces and the accomplishments it has achieved.

Our itinerary this week reflects our priority concerns.

On the existential threat that an Iran with nuclear weapons capability would pose not only to Israel, but to regional and global security, we are meeting with President Shimon Peres, top government officials, Iran experts and foreign ambassadors posted to Israel. Their perspectives on this key issue will help us immeasurably in our ongoing advocacy with the Obama administration, Congress, and other governments, as we continue to urge additional tightening of sanctions and political isolation against Teheran.

We are meeting with Israeli and Palestinian opinion leaders on how it might be possible to reenergize prospects for peace. To be sure, AJC is not a group of starry-eyed optimists.

Though we have long favored a negotiated two-state solution, we are well aware that Palestinian recalcitrance has been the longtime barrier to negotiations – whether in the form of Hamas rejectionism and violence, or Fatah’s refusal to talk face-to-face and its resorting instead to unilateral action at the UN.

In solidarity with the people of southern Israel, we are visiting Sderot, which experienced the brunt of the rocket attacks from Gaza that necessitated Israel’s recent Operation Pillar of Defense. Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon received a large AJC gift to strengthen its emergency facilities that were strained to capacity during the fighting.

We also are exploring, on this trip, as always, Israel’s intergroup challenge. Israel has long faced the daunting and complex task of integrating Jews, Christians and Muslims, not to speak of a plethora of ethnic groups, into a common citizenship.

And within the Jewish people itself, the problems posed by different definitions of Jewish identity plague both our communities, but are especially acute in Israel with issues surrounding, for instance, the chief rabbinate and personal status questions, access to the Western Wall, and funding for religious institutions. Thus, meeting with representatives of the various streams of Judaism in Israel is an essential component of our visit.

After all, the global Jewish people are, and must remain, one. Any rupture in Jewish solidarity, whether in Israel, the US or elsewhere, affects us all as a people and, yes, potentially undermines Israel’s national security.

Above all, we are here to emphasize the link between two extraordinarily successful Jewish communities. It is surely no accident that they thrive in two of the world’s greatest democracies.

Robert Elman is president of the American Jewish Committee. This column originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    A Jewish human rights organization expressed concern on Wednesday over a new song by a popular US rapper that includes lyrics promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and cites a Holocaust denier, The Algemeiner has learned. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was responding to Tuesday’s release of B.o.B’s “Flatline,” the lyrics of which include: “But before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving; Stalin was way worse than Hitler, That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a Kippa.” Irving is a historian who has questioned […]

    Read more →