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...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →