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Assessing the Failed Strategy of Making Israel a Surrogate Religion for American Jews

Allan C. Brownfeld
Fall 2003

Divided We Stand: American Jews, Israel, and the Peace Process  
by Ofira Seliktar
272 Pages,  


In recent years, American Jews have been told repeatedly that the state of Israel is “central” to their identity. Even the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents Reform Judaism, recently adopted “Ten Principles for Reform Judaism” which included the declaration, “We encourage Reform Jews to make aliyah, immigration to Israel.”  

The fact is that the notion that Israel, rather than God, is central to Judaism and Jewish identity is a rather recent idea, and was adopted by Jewish organizational leaders as a strategy to keep American Jews within the fold.  

In a thoughtful book, Divided We Stand: American Jews, Israel, and The Peace Process, Professor Ofira Seliktar of Gratz College reports that after the 1967 war, “Making Israel the focus of Jewish identity was a logical choice for a community in search of new self-definition. The spontaneous, emotional and almost universal response of American Jews left no doubt that the ethnic-tribal sentiments written off in the fifties were very much alive. Scholars have noted that, in recalling the war effort, individual Jews and Jewish publications would often use the term ‘we’ as in ‘how splendidly ‘we’ have fought’ or ‘how many Arabs did we kill.’ A rabbi described his congregation overtaken by vicarious heroism: ‘I, the shoe salesman, killed an Arab. I, the heart specialist, captured the tank.’ As Kurt Levin, a leading social psychologist postulated, such a proprietary use of the term ‘we’ denoted interdependence of fate, a key ingredient in ethnic identity.”  

New “Civil Religion”  

Dr. Seliktar argues that, “The ‘reethnization’ of the community around Israel had a number of advantages. Most importantly, Israel became the lynchpin of the evolving ‘civil religion’ of American Jews, It became the center of Jewish aspirations and an extraordinary resource for revitalized Jewish consciousness, By working for Israel, Jews would reestablish the ethnic-communal bonds that had worn thin in the process of assimilation. So much so that for large segments of American Jewry the Jewish state replaced the synagogue and the Torah as the symbol of Judaism. Irving Greenberg contended that the most widely observed mitzvah was a contribution to the UJA (United Jewish Appeal) and Israel bonds. Some sociologists argued that nonsupport for Israel was judged to be a more severe form of deviance than intermarriage ... The Jerusalem program adopted by the World Zionist Organization in 1968 reaffirmed the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. Among others, the program aimed at preserving Jewish identity through fostering Hebrew education and other contacts with Israel. To this end, there was an increase in the number of Hebrew classes offered by synagogues and Jewish centers, and trips to Israel became a popular form of ‘pilgrimage’... Albert Chernin, the longtime executive of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), declared that in the field of communal relations, ‘our first priority is Israel,’ a stunning admission that ‘the political effort to shore up Israel superseded all other concerns.’”  

Insuring “Continuity”  

As a strategy of insuring Jewish “continuity,” making Israel “central” to Jewish life has been a dramatic failure, According to a nationwide survey released in October, 2002, the number of Americans who identify themselves as Jews fell by 5 percent from 1990 to 2000, the first statistically significant decline in the U.S. Jewish population since 1800, There has been much talk of a “demographic crisis.” A report issued in May, 2003, indicated that intermarriage rates in the American Jewish community point to a time when there will be more intermarried households than “in-married” households.  

The notion of making Israel “central” to American Jewish life was embraced almost without debate by the leading American Jewish organizations, although a number of prominent individuals rejected the idea from the outset.  

Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a respected scholar, was among the first to warn that pro-Israelism could not solve the identity crisis of the community. He declared that the United States was a much better place for Jews than Israel and pointed out the “irony of religious passions being lavished by mainly secular people upon a state, which, like all other states, is a contingent and this-worldly fact.”  

Worship of Israel  

Daniel J. Elazar coined the term “Israelotry” to denote his contention that American Jews turned to worshiping Israel rather than the God of Israel. Immanuel Jacobovits, the chief rabbi of Britain, bemoaned that, for many Jews, Israel became a “vicarious haven of their residual Jewishness, conveniently replacing the personal discipline of Jewish life,” Rabbi Eugene Borowitz said that “we cannot function as Jews by trying to live a vicarious Israeli experience on American soil.” David Clayman, a high-ranking American Jewish Congress official, noted that “fundraising was the key. You worshiped at the altar of Israel by contributing. Jewish observance was raising money, not going to the synagogue.”  

When dissenting voices appeared in the Jewish community, the established organizational leadership attempted to crush them. Consider the case of Breira, a group founded in 1973 as the Project of Concern in Israeli-Diaspora Relations. The name, meaning “Alternative” in Hebrew, was chosen to denote an alternative approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Among those active in this group were Balfour Brickner of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi David Wolf Silverman of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Max Ticktin, the associate director of the national B`nai B’rith Hillel Foundation.  

Breira called for the establishing of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories and a comprehensive peace based on territorial concessions. The moral implication of Breira advocacy was a challenge to the mainstream since its focus was no longer only on what happened to Israel but also upon the fate of the Palestinians. The group attracted the attention of major newspapers, leading to headlines that emphasized the willingness of American Jews to publicly criticize Israel. Breira’s work with Israeli peace activists and its meetings with Palestinian representatives created sensational news, with some articles pointing to a Jewish “civil war.” The Israeli government was alarmed and urged the organized American Jewish community to suppress dissent.  

Growing Attacks  

The attacks upon Breira grew. It was denied membership in local Jewish bodies and individual members, many of them Hillel campus rabbis, came under intense pressure to quit the organization in order to save their jobs. The group was forced to disband shortly after its first and only national conference in 1977. In Dr. Seliktar’s view, “Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the Breira affair related to the issue of free discourse. For a community priding itself on individualism and a democratic tradition, the exercise in collective censorship was highly demoralizing. Critics compared it to McCarthyism, witch-hunt or a communal herem, or ‘ostracism,’ where Breira activists were proclaimed by most Jewish professional and communal leaders as ‘heretics’ (if not traitors). One critic reminded his readers that Old Testament prophets spoke out against their fellow Israelites and their leaders, but had never been branded as traitors. Rabbi Borowitz noted that the need to rally around Israel introduced a new ‘sacred cow’,..even mild dissent was seen as sacrilegious ... Stifling criticism became synonymous with boundary maintenance, turning the positions on the peace process into a series of litmus tests for communal membership.”  

At the same time, right-wing groups were forming. Leading the way was the Jewish Defense League founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Bertram Zweibon and Morton Dolinsky. The JDL distributed a book, Battleground: Facts and Fantasy in Palestine, written by Shmuel Katz, the propaganda chief of the Irgun and a close associate of Menachem Begin. Katz contended that the Palestinians were recent arrivals in the land of Israel and did not deserve self-determination,  

Reject Land-for-Peace Formula  

Katz, who became a leader in the Land of Israel Movement, a maximalist Israeli organization, helped to create in 1971 the Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), AFSI’s goal was to persuade American Jews to reject the land-for-peace formula. One of AFSI’s founders, the sociologist Rael Jean Isaac, published a number of attacks upon Breira, Such allegedly “mainstream” groups as AIPAC and NJCRAC distributed its publications, including Katz’s Battleground.  

Ruth Wisse, a professor at Harvard, wrote an article in Commentary denouncing American Friends of Peace Now, drawing a parallel between Nazi and PLO “delegitimation of the Jews” and such leading American Jewish thinkers as Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg and Moment magazine editor Leonard Fein.  

With the rise to power in Israel of Menachem Begin and the war in Lebanon in 1982, the idea of American Jewish “unity” with regard to Israel became almost impossible to maintain. Ofira Seliktar notes that, “In June 1982, the fault line between hawks and doves, which had been threatening to split American Jewry apart for a decade and a half, broke open ... The war had exacerbated the simmering tensions between the tribal-nationalist and the universalist-prophetic wings of the community ... the occupation of Beirut and the Sabra and Shatila massacre made it clear to many American Jews that Israel crossed into the perilous territory of an offensive war. Norman Podhoretz asserted that Israel’s incursion into Lebanon should be compared to the allied troops who invaded France during World War II in order to liberate it from German conquerors ... But the alienation of younger Jews from Israel had implications that went beyond the war in Lebanon, touching, as it was, on the survivalist imperative of the community ... As the demographers and the sociologists argued their case, the role of Israel as a chief agent of Jewish identity came under renewed scrutiny ... After the Beirut massacre Rabbi Alexander Schindler stated that ‘the question for us now is how to take people who have been using Israel as a kind of kidney machine, without which they cannot live, and teach them ... that they have worth as Jews independent of Israel.’”  

Source of Division  

Instead of a source of “unity,” preoccupation with Israel became a source of division for American Jews. The outbreak of the Intifada shattered any consensus and forced American Jews to engage in the painful process of soul-searching. Emet VeEmunah, the 1988 Conservative movement manifesto, proclaimed that the “litmus test of the character of a democratic Jewish state is the treatment of and attitude to religious ethnic minorities.” Tikkun editor Michael Lerner asserted that, “We did not survive the gas chambers and crematoria so that we could become the oppressors of Gaza.” Tikkun suggested that a prayer for the Palestinian people should be included in the Passover service. Commentator Ze’ev Chafets wrote: “Judaism doesn’t seem to be about anything. It is a holding operation - an effort to wring one more generation of allegiance from people who are no longer sure what being a Jew is all about.”  

Reform leader Albert Vorspan said that American Jews suffered “shame and stress” because of developments in Israel and wanted to disassociate themselves from the “political and moral bankruptcy” of Israeli policies. Gershon Cohen, a former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, described the pretense of the “centrality of the state of Israel in the life of the Jewish people” as an “absurd shibboleth.” Leonard Fein argued that as they “became virtuosos at euphemisms, at excuses and alibis,” many Jews had become alienated not just from Israel, but from Judaism itself. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that, “Israel in the eyes of American Jews has gone in twenty years from substitute religion to a source of religious delegitimation, and from a source of political identity to a source of political confusion.”  

Israel Becomes Marginal  

At a Moment magazine symposium celebrating Israel’s fiftieth birthday, the subject was “Is Israel Still Important to American Jews?” Most of the participants agreed that Israel had become more marginal to the concerns of individual members of the community. A special issue of the Jewish Spectator found that the “gap widens between American Jews and Israel.” The American Jewish Yearbook openly focused on the “disenchantment of U.S. Jews from Israel.” Even Commentary questioned the depth of the relation. Hillel Halkin summed up the tenor of the debate by noting that about 25 years ago Israel was proclaimed central to the “civic religion of American Jews, today that faith is losing its congregation.”  

Recent surveys by the American Jewish Committee show a decline in attachment to Israel. Only 25 percent of American Jews said they felt very close to Israel in a 1998 poll and a 1998 survey carried out by Steven Cohen for the Jewish Community Center Association found that just 9 percent of the sample felt extremely emotionally attached. When asked about closeness to Israelis, only 8 percent felt very close. Just 20 percent felt it was essential for good Jews to support Israel. Cohen emphasized the “limited extent to which Israel figures in the private lives of American Jews.”  

According to Charles S. Liebman, the postmodern “privatized” form of identity was gaining dominance over the ethnic-communal model centered on Israel, Steven Cohen explained that the “self had the right to decide whether, when and how to be Jewish” and that this selection is based not on the halacha or what is good for the Jewish community, but rather on what is “personally meaningful to the self.” As a result, ethnicity has to compete with other identities of American Jews. This privatized Judaism became increasingly less significant in a person’s life, “a matter of choice, a leisure activity. Because “privatized” religious identity put a premium on spirituality, it had less use for Israel, which came to “occupy a smaller and narrower place in the consciousness of American Jews.”  

Ethnicity Loses Appeal  

Cohen and Liebman used the survey results to prove their theory that the ethnically driven “mobilization model” of American Jewish identity which flourished in the 1967-77 period lost its appeal, especially among the baby-boomers and their children. Since 1983, the American Jewish Committee surveys showed a steady decline in the number of those who reported being close to Israel.” Tikkun’s Michael Lerner wrote: “For much of the past 50 years, the real object of worship ... has been Israel and Zionism. Unfortunately, like all false gods, this one has failed to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the Jewish people. If many Jews turn away from Judaism today, Israel has played no small part in that process. Judaism may be one of Israel’s most important casualties.”  

The evidence of a disconnect between American Jews and Israel is widespread. To young American Jews, “Israel is a distant land ... cloaked in violence and mysterious ways,” writes Jo Ann Mort in The Forward (April 25, 2003). “Unlike those who defend the religious status quo in Israel, unlike those who think that a tougher, more militarized Israel will preserve that nation for future generations of Jews, these kids share a different reality.”  

Mort, co-author of the forthcoming book Our Hearts Invented A Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today’s Israel?, reports that when she was recently asked to give a talk to her Reform synagogue’s bar and bat mitzvah class in Brooklyn, “I came equipped with notes, but as could be expected, when I began my ... talk, my teenage audience was jumping around the room, their cell phones incessantly ringing. They stared at me blankly as I politely asked: ‘How many of you have been to Israel?’ Only two kids raised their hands. When I asked how many wanted to go to Israel, none raised their hands. I asked them why they didn’t want to visit Israel. ‘Too dangerous,’ they responded, or ‘Israel oppresses the Palestinians,’ or just ‘scary.’”  

Women’s Equality  

One student asked if women were equal in Israel. “The timing for this question couldn’t have been worse,” writes Mort, “Israel’s Supreme Court had just ruled against the rights of women to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem ... The rabbi and I explained that Reform Jews were not allowed the same rights in Israel as Reform Jews have in the United States and that he could not legally perform a marriage ceremony in Israel. This totally baffled the young people. Our congregation has a woman rabbi and a woman cantor, both of whom represent the Jewish religion to these kids.”  

Mort notes that, “I have no doubt that had I spoken to a Hebrew school class of 13-year-olds at an Orthodox day school or synagogue, the reception would have been different ... These young people do identify with Israel as it is today, but the majority of young Jews, I believe, are probably closer to the students I visited. The choice facing the American Jewish community is a stark one, encouraging an Israel that shares liberal values or watching an entire generation of young Jews look elsewhere.”  

She concludes that, “A generation of young Jews grows more distant from Israel as Israel grows more distant from them. Public relations campaigns aren’t going to bring more young Jews to Israel, just as these same campaigns won’t solve the problems of contemporary Israel. Only trading in hard political choices will do that.”  

Movement Toward Zionism  

In the case of Reform Judaism, which once rejected the idea of Jewish nationalism and embraced, instead, a universal prophetic Judaism, there was a post-1967 movement toward Zionism - the idea of making Israel “central” to Jewish life - which many now regret. “The Reform movement,” writes Professor Seliktar, was historically reluctant to adopt the ethnopeoplehood definition of Jewish identity and its implied Zionism. However, shocked by the demographic hemorrhage of the assimilationist era and swept by the euphoria of the Six Day War, Reform Jews became hesitant converts to an ethnically based Judaism centered on Israel. But the failure of Israel to bolster Jewish identity and communal growth spurred Reform leaders to resurrect some of their original reservations against identifying Reform Judaism with ethnic nationalism. Speaking in 1997, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the Reform leader, declared that ‘the age of ethnicity is over. Judaism must reach out for the spiritual, the transcendental, the holy.’ Though stopping short of calling Israel a ‘false God,’ as some critics had done, Yoffie urged to fill the vacuum left by ‘Israel worship’ with ‘a serious reflection on God and on mitzvah and on the meaning of life.’”  

Many other rabbis have expressed similar ideas. In 1994, Rabbi Jerome Davidson, senior rabbi of Temple Beth El of Great Neck, N.Y. and past president of the Synagogue Council of America, declared that, “Our definition of American Jewish life can no longer be plugged exclusively or even essentially to Israel and the Holocaust ... Israel ... cannot be a dialysis machine to keep us alive ... The question will not be ‘Who is a Jew?’ but rather ‘Why be a Jew?’ If we can’t help our young families to understand why it is so important for them and children to have this emotional and intellectual connection with Judaism, then we will fail.”  

A Substitute for Truth and Justice  

Henry Siegman, an ordained rabbi and once a leader in the American Jewish Congress, charges that American Jewish organizations have substituted blind support for Israel for the traditional Jewish search for truth and justice. A refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe, Siegman says that what he went through as a child makes it easier to understand what it is like to be a Palestinian living under the “fear and humiliation” of the Israeli occupation. In his view, “We have lost much in American Jewish organizational life, I was a student and admirer of Rabbi Abraham Heschel. I read his books. We were friends. We marched together in the South during the civil rights movement. He helped me understand the prophetic passion for truth and justice as the keystone to Judaism. This is not, however, an understanding that now animates the American Jewish community. Without that understanding there is little to distinguish the call of Jewish leaders for Jewish unity and solidarity from the demands made by narrow nationalist movements that too often degenerate into xenophobia.”  

Siegman argues that, “American Jewish organizations confuse support for the State of Israel and its people with an uncritical endorsement of the actions of Israeli governments, even when these governments do things that in an American context these Jewish organizations would never tolerate. It was inconceivable that a Jewish leader in America 20 or 30 years ago would be silent if a political party in the Israeli government called for the transfer of Palestinians - in other words, ethnic cleansing. Today, there are at least three such parties, but there has not been a word of criticism from American Jewish organizations.”  

After studying to be ordained as a rabbi, Siegman served with combat troops as a chaplain in Korea, where he earned the bronze star and a purple heart. For 16 years as head of the American Jewish Congress, he advanced the view that social justice was central to Judaism. Now, he laments, many Jews have made the State of Israel into a “surrogate religion.” He notes that, “The support of Israel fills a spiritual vacuum. If you do not support the government of Israel then your Jewishness, not your political judgment is in question ... I do not look to leaders of Jewish organizations, or to the political leaders of Israel, to define for me the meaning of Jewish identity or solidarity, Classical Jewish sources are a far more reliable guide.”  

Looking Beyond Israel  

On the occasion of Israel’s 50th anniversary, USA Today carried this headline in its May 1, 1998 issue: “U.S. Jews Look Beyond Israel.” The Washington Post of April 28 declared: ‘Strong Ties Of ‘48 Have Yielded To Today’s Ambiguity.”  

“For decades,” wrote Daniela Deans in USA Today, “America’s Jews equated Judaism with political and financial support for Israel. Today’s Jews separate religion from Zionist commitment.” Dr. Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, declared: “There’s been an enormous change in the American Jewish community. The Zionist era in American Jewish history is ended.”  

The gap between Israel and American Jews is growing and it is clear that Israel is not “central” to Jewish concerns, wrote Yosef Abramowitz, editor of the magazine, Jewish and Family Life. He declared: “In nearly every dimension of American Jewish life that has been associated with Israel - from advocacy to fund-raising to education - Israel has lost its centrality.” Dr. Sidney Schwartz, president of the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and values, states: “You can no longer fund-raise on the back of Israel. Almost no one is interested. The annual campaigns are being supported by older Jews for whom Israel holds a special place, but not by the next generation of givers.”  

Daniel Cohen, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Dayton, Ohio, declared: “The intifada complicated Israel for a lot of Israel supporters. No longer was it possible to rehearse the same old lines that Israel was always right, Arabs always wrong. All those debating points were simply not enough to carry the argument in public or even in the minds of Israel’s supporters. Many people simply disengaged from Israel.”  

Concerns of American Jews  

In the book The Jew Within: Self, Family and Community In America (Indiana University Press) Steven N. Cohen, associate professor at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Arnold M. Eisen, professor of religious studies at Stanford University, probe beneath the surface to explore the foundations of belief and behavior among moderately affiliated American Jews, largely of the baby boom generation.  

What they discovered is that the organized Jewish community’s concern about intermarriages and focus on Israel and the Holocaust, has little to do with the real concerns and interests of individual American Jews. In fact, the issues which dominate the organizational Jewish agenda have almost no resonance among those who participated in the survey. The authors point out that, “American Jews at century’s end ... have come to view their Jewishness in a very different way than either their parents or they themselves did only two or three decades ago. Today’s Jews, like their peers in other religious traditions, have turned inward in the search for meaning. They have moved away from organizations, institutions and causes that used to anchor identity and shape behavior ... The discovery and construction of Jewish meaning in contemporary America (as of ultimate significance to life more generally) occur primarily in the private sphere, American Jews, we believe, enact and express their decisions about Judaism predominantly in the intimate spaces in which late 20th century American individuals - Jewish or Gentile, religious or secular -are in their own eyes ‘most themselves’ and least the creatures of roles and obligations imposed from the outside.”  

Spirituality and Meaning  

Seeking spirituality and meaning in their lives, those participating in this study rejected narrow, particularist readings of Jewish tradition and contemporary events, and rejected the notion of Judaism as an “ethnic” identity rather than a religious tradition: “... these Jews took pains ... to play down particularist loyalties, insisting that Jews are no more obligated to other Jews than to the human family as a whole. They showed signs of far less ethnic commitment than was common a decade or so ago. This pattern is new: all three major pillars on which Jewish identity in the U.S. has rested in recent decades have been completely undermined. The Jews we studied betrayed little interest in or knowledge of the organized Jewish community. They drew universalist lessons from the Holocaust far more than they related to it as a Jewish tragedy with consequences for the survival of the Jewish people; they exhibited far less attachment to the state of Israel than was the case only a few years ago.”  

While Jewish organizations describe religious intermarriage as a threat to “continuity,” a majority in the 2000 American Jewish Committee survey stated that they did not oppose interfaith marriages and 80 percent agreed with the statement that “intermarriage is inevitable in an open society.” A clear majority thought it was racist to oppose interfaith marriages and three-fourths of the sample said that a rabbi should officiate at such marriages.  

Ofira Seliktar notes that, “There was a communal consensus that the old formula for identity building - anti-Semitism, commemoration of the Holocaust and Israel - does not attract the young. In fact, the American Jewish Committee survey had indicated that Israel’s centrality in American Jewish life reached an all-time low. Only 28 percent reported being very close to Israel ... only 3 percent said that support for Israel was the most important part of their Jewish identity. ... Some commentators used these results to talk about ‘de-Israelization of American Jewry,’ and others asserted that the ‘ghost’ of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism was winning the day.”  

Israel a Divisive Force  

Rather than drawing American Jews together, Israel has become a divisive force, argues Seliktar, and while Jewish organizations continue to speak of Israel’s “centrality” to Jewish life, there is no evidence that they speak for anyone but themselves. Israel, she points out, “had been transformed from a symbol of community unity, and indeed, the center of its civic religion, to a topic of deep division and much bitterness. So fundamental has the split become that one observer wondered as to what ‘pro-Israel’ means. Another commentator noted that the image of ‘continued Jewish solidarity, clinging to its traditional posture of invariably supporting the Israeli government ... appears increasingly divorced from reality.” Division, not unity, characterizes contemporary American Jewish life, Seliktar reports: “The built-in pluralism has been enhanced by recent changes in patterns of Jewish funding and philanthropy. Traditional umbrella groups have been increasingly passed over for smaller organizations where donors have greater control over the agenda ... AIPAC, which in the mid-1990s was rated as the second most powerful lobby in America, had seen its membership stagnate and its influence curtailed by internal bickering and open challenge from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and other groups. The Presidents Conference, whose membership has expanded to include many of the specialized advocacy groups, has been virtually paralyzed by the constant clashes between strong peace proponents and groups that oppose the land-for-peace formula ... While it has been tempting for both sides to use American Jews as influence multipliers in domestic politics, the practice has muddled the perception of a national Israeli interest around which the community can rally.”  

Implications for the Future  

The trends analyzed in her book, Seliktar believes, “have some major implications for the future. First, they cast doubt on the ability of American Jewry to function as an extension of Israel’s national security, an assertion made by Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) in January, 2001. Beyond some issues like financial aid and support during a major crisis in Israel, the community is not expected to behave like the cohesive unitary actor that was envisaged in the official NSC document. Second, and most important, the continuous tension over the competing visions of Israel would further diminish Israel’s attractiveness as a symbol of Jewish identity and unity, particularly among the younger generation which has shown signs of growing apathy if not outright alienation, the Birthright program notwithstanding. In what may be the ultimate irony, the struggle over the Jewish state may hurt the identity and demography of the Diaspora.”  

In the end, Seliktar notes, those who opposed Zionism and Jewish nationalism at the beginning as antithetical to the moral and universal Jewish message may have been proven correct. And those who argue that Israel is, somehow, “central” to Judaism will have an increasingly difficult time making their case.  

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