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American Jews Should Focus Less on Israel and More on Judaism

October 7, 2013 10:10 am 3 comments

TAGLIT-Birthright participants land in Israel. Photo: Birthright Israel.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the greatest Zionist leaders ever, once wrote an essay entitled “Without Patriotism,” which he headed with a quote: “Have pity on me that I cannot love.”

He wrote, “The bitter root of our shame and our suffering… is that we do not give our own people the full love of a patriot. It would be better if we did not love our people at all, if we were unconcerned as to whether it existed or had disappeared, rather than that we should love it halfway, which means to despise it.”

In analyzing the results of the first major survey of American Jews in 10 years, we know now that many amongst us cannot love the Jewish people. There is a very high assimilation rate, and generations born as Jews are rapidly losing their Jewish affiliations. If 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry, two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God, and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year, then many amongst us cannot love the Jewish people. If we claim continuity is important to us, we cannot possibly truly love our people if these numbers are accurate.

We should revisit the question of priorities in our community. Let’s question how important Israel needs to be to the equation of keeping Jews Jewish. The Jewish Agency for Israel recently announced plans to spend $300 million a year on pro-Israel efforts in the United States and other parts of the Diaspora. And if one combines that with the $100 million spent by Birthright, perhaps we could have $400 million that could, and should, be spent on making Jews Jewish (which would of course naturally leave them closer to Israel).

Israel is part of Judaism – but not the only part. How many youngsters who go on Birthright come back and end up marrying outside of our faith anyway? What would the impact be if those funds were spent instead on Jewish education?

A focus on Israel is important for Judaism, but it is not a binder. The new numbers raise a major question for us: If we are losing Jews so rapidly, how many vital Jewish projects will suffer tremendously, including Israel? Israel trips will not make someone feel the desire to practice Judaism. Jewish education and Jewish communities will.

A radical sea-change is required throughout the entire Jewish community’s thought process.

Ronn Torossian owns a PR agency, and is the author of the best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.”

3 Comments

  • They say to cut the head of the PROBLEM IS A SOLUTION.
    ISRAEL is the head of the problem.

    where is the leadership and the UNITY?
    Where is the faith and belief in ONE G-D?
    Where is the strength in ISRAELS HISTORY biblical and modern?
    Where is the knowledge of Israel history taught in schools.
    Where is the ‘self’ respect for of a woman not looking for the perfect sex that the goyeem say israelis are easy.
    Where is the Israeli goverment supporting its own treasures not appeasing the xtian church inside the King David Tomb and other holy areas?
    Where is the Israeli Goverment enforsing the ‘anti missionary laws’
    Where is the Israeli goverment enforcing terrorist
    laws against knesset arabs inciting country wide insurrection and revolutions?
    Where is the Israeli goverment standing up for its self respect and not apologgize to every bullys demands for an apology.
    Where is the police enforcing G-DS LAWS AGAINST SUCH PERVERSIONS OF HOMOSEXUAL PARADES IN THE FACE OF THE ‘ONE’ ONLY G-D OF ALL’?
    Where is the Israel goverment refusing/denying entry to every insane culture that claims to be Jewish and brought rape murder robbery into Israel and nothing more.
    where is …where is… where is… the list goes on and on.
    In 65 years all the perversions of sodom and gemorah are being commintted on HOLY LAND
    AND YOU MR AUTHOR HAVE THE AUDACITY TO SPEAK OF AMERICAN JEWS.
    ASSIMILATION IS FAR GREATER PER CAPITA IN ISRAEL.
    YOU DONT EVEN KNOW WHO IS A JEW ANYMORE BECAUSE OF ‘POLITICAL’ FEAR WORLD FEAR OBAMA FEAR.
    AMERICAN ORTHODOX JEWS IS GROWING B’H’
    We walk the streets ashkanaz and sephardic TOGETHER.
    Israel separates like oil and water.
    WE HAVE ‘ONE G-D’ BUT A BROKEN ISRAEL STATE’.

    Hashem will do ‘HIS” wonders to unite us again and it may be a painful remedy.
    WAR IS ALWAYS PAINFUL AND SOMETIMES THATS WHAT NEEDED TO BRING JEWS TOGETHER AGAIN.

    ISRAEL FEARS EVERYONE EXCEPT THE ‘FEAR OF G-D.

    • Israel is the only solution to the problem of the vanishing Jew due to cultural and biological assimilation.By contrast Israel has seen a highly significant increase in both observant and traditional
      Israeli’s. Polls show how observance and faith have increased in Israel over the past decade.Religious Jewish parties now claim a quarter of the voters with the Zionist religious Bayit Yehudi over 9%.
      For the first time agnostic secular Jews form a minority. Jews marry Jews in Israel,and and largely accept Orthodox norms in the national life.(Polls from the Guttman Israel Democracy foundation)
      Whereas in the USA Reform,Conservative and unaffiliated Jews have become a lost generation.
      Birthright may not be sufficiently orientated to observant Jewish identification,to have the effect it should.But can one expect more from American Jews so far removed from their authentic faith?

      Israel is increasingly united between Sepharadim and the
      Ashkenazim.Very soon there will only be one Chief Rabbi.
      The national culture,while tolerant,favors a Judeocentric national culture. In America it is jingle bells around the fake Chanukkah Bush.

      Yet Dacon is impressed by the Anti Israel Satmar movement ,which has given birth to the Lev Tahor sect which has become the laughing stock of Canada(National Post) which claimed refugee status from Israel,because of their antisocial Talaban-like ways.Even in Canada they chose to live away from other Jews.
      Let us not regard them and Anti Zionist fringe movements as anything to emulate .
      I fear that living in the Galut has caused some American Jews,like Dacon, to expect even secular Israeli’s to measure up to the impossible standards that the bulk of Americans of Jewish origin certainly do not live up to, and about which they could not care less.
      At the very least all Israeli’s keep the Mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel!

  • Rochel Chana Riven

    BS”D

    Yashar koach! Well said. I do think many people enrolled in the various schools for baalei teshuvah, etc., after coming back from Birthright and the trips helped many to marry Jewish but I don’t have the numbers. Either way, your point is important and well taken.

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