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American Jews and Israel are Moving Further Apart

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2019

In an article with the headline “American Jews and Israeli Jews Break Up” (New York Times, Jan. 6, 2019), Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of The New York Times, declares: “The events of the past year brought American and Israeli Jews to a breaking point.”  
Mr. Weisman points to the U.S. Embassy in Israel moving to Jerusalem “with the fiery evangelical pastors John Hagee and Robert Jeffress consecrating the ceremony,” and reports that when President Trump visited Pittsburgh after the murder of 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue, members of the Jewish community protested and called upon him to give a national address renouncing white nationalism. The only official to greet the president at the synagogue was Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.  
Then, at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House in December, Weisman writes, “...the president raised eyebrows and age-old insinuations of dual loyalty when he told American Jews at the gathering that his vice-president had great affection for ‘your country,’ Israel.”  
While Israelis, particularly the Netanyahu government, are enthusiastic about the president’s policies, most American Jews, in Weisman’s view, differ sharply: “American Jews... see President Trump as their existential threat, a leader who they believe has stoked nationalist bigotry, stirred anti- Semitism and failed to renounce the violent hatred swirling around his political movement.”  
Many factors, Weisman argues, are driving a wedge between Israel and most American Jews, including Israel’s close ties with authoritarian regimes in Hungary, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines and the lack of religious freedom for non-Orthodox Jews, as well as its occupation of the West Bank and movement away from a two-state solution.  
Beyond this, he writes, “American Jewry has been going its own way for 150 years, a drift that has created something of a new branch of an ancient faith. In a historic stroke with resonance today, American Jewish leaders gathered in Pittsburgh in 1885 to produce what is known as the Pittsburgh Platform, a new ideology for an American Judaism, less focused on a Messianic return to the land of Israel and more on fixing a broken world, the concept of Tikkun Olam. For a faith that for thousands of years was insular and self-contained...this was a radical notion. But to most American Jews, it is now accepted as a tenet of their religion: building a better, more equal, more tolerant world now, where they live.”  
Weisman concludes: “Now, many American Jews, especially young American Jews, would say, Israel is Israel’s problem. We have our own. The Great Schism is upon us.” •

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