Sunday, May 23, 2010

Save Liberal Democracy in Israel!

What if [American Jewish college] students had been told that their generation faces a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth?
An excerpt from the very necessary essay posted in full below.

I rarely post writings from elsewhere to this site. Mostly because the purpose of this public journal is to share my own reflections and not advertise positions or people I agree with. Nevertheless when I read something (an all too rare phenomenon with my limited time) that speaks to the very path I have chosen and the decisions I wrestle with every day, then I am obligated to share it with you. If you have not yet read the following, I urge you to. Not because you need to agree. But because you need to, as the author says, "watch," to pay attention to reality.

I agree wholeheartedly with Beinart's message that my generation faces a moral imperative to strengthen liberal democracy in Israel. Beinart strikes a false note, however, in arguing that the disinterest of American Jewish college students in Israel is due to the failure of the American Jewish leadership to foster a more liberal Zionism. The reality is that American Jewish students increasingly have little interest in Israel becaue they have increasingly little interest in their Judaism.

Orthodox Jews are not supporters of Israel because they sympathize with a conservative political ethos. They identify with Israel because a Jewish community in the land of Israel is a key tenet of their religious identity. Young Jews do not have to subscribe to orthodox Judaism to care about the Jewish state. But they do need to care and to understand what their Judaism means to them. Lack of support for Israel, sky-rocketing intermarriage, a dearth of young leadership in communal organizations. Each challenge stems from the same crisis within the American Jewish community.

The message is simple: if you do not value your Judaism, you have no reason to care for Jewish values. Beinart errs in identifying the failure to foster liberal Zionism as the key failure of the American Jewish establishment. The overwhelming threat the community faces is the desertion of the next generation, a generation that like the fourth son at the Passover Seder does not even know to ask about his lost heritage.

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment

By Peter Beinart (from NY Review of Books)

In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community that I have ever seen.
Article continues here.

No comments:

Post a Comment