A fateful self-reflection: The Israel and American Jewry relationship

Israel is a strong nation that can help and support the Jewish communities overseas. Opinion.

Shira Ruderman ,

U.S. and Israeli flags
U.S. and Israeli flags
Flash 90

At the center of Yom Kippur stand self-reflection and repentance. This year, as we look inward, we must reflect on another level - the relationship between Israel and the world Jewry

On the eve of Yom Kippur, we are witnessing a shared crisis for the two largest groups of the Jewish people - Israel and the United States. Both sides of this moral and strategic relationship will need to examine their actions in order to learn from them and move forward towards the new year when they are determined to strengthen the relationship between them. The partnership of the new year must be mutual. We need to create a change in the nature of the communication between us. The current challenges prove that we have a fateful partnership.

The State of Israel is committed to being the nation state of the Jewish people and it is indeed working to strengthen the bond, but there are still large gaps in the actions being taken. We must work together to increase the scope of activity, but also to better focus it on strategic areas so that it addresses the needs that arise from the field. Despite the challenges Israel is experiencing under the auspices of the Corona crisis, it is not a weakened state, but a strong nation that can help and support the Jewish communities overseas. It is important that we start the new year with a real work plan.

Many Jewish community institutions in the United States face significant challenges, as many of them are forced to close their gates, cut budgets, and lay off workers. Many organizations are experiencing economic crises and it is difficult to predict how they will recover from them. It is possible that the community, which has always mobilized itself in favor of Israel, will now be forced to invest a considerable part of its resources in strengthening its foundations. Therefore, especially now, it will need support and a deep connection with Israel.

For years, Israel has received very generous donations from American Jews. Strengthening the partnership, from which both parties will benefit, will be an adequate return on investment. Sharing knowledge, promoting dialogue, and deepening familiarity do not require large financial resources, but rather strategic forward thinking and precision of the existing efforts. Particularly in times of crisis, strategic philanthropy of collaborations will grow a partnership of long-term ties between Israel and the Jewish world.

As the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel can not afford to ignore the changes taking place in the Jewish community in the United States. To strengthen the relationship, it must continue to work for those communities, even long after they have been stabilized. Establishing a joint emergency forum and adapting it to the new routine we are learning to live with will help fight together against the challenges that affect the lives of the entire Jewish people. Sharing digital educational content, developed on both sides, in the fields of Zionism, Jewish history and Jewish studies, will strengthen the shared identity and significantly upgrade the "remote learning" experience prevalent today.

At the time when we make judgment favorably or unfavorably, keep in mind that the relationship between the two sides is strong. The connection of American Jews to Israel is very powerful. A survey we conducted among thousands of Jews in the United States found that 80% defined themselves as pro-Israel (even though they would sometimes express criticism) and 67% of respondents indicated a strong emotional connection to Israel. Disagreements and criticism usually relate to disapproval over one government policy or another or to political matters rather than a serious crisis in the relationship. It is very important that we deal with the disputes between us, but no less important that we also know how to navigate the discourse to what unites us, such as: culture, economy, technology, entrepreneurship, and sports. All of these are important issues on the basis of which the connection between Israel and American Jewry can be strengthened.

In the midst of such meaningful days, we must realize that the connection between the State of Israel and the Jewish people is strategic and affects all areas of our lives. For years, the discourse regarding the relationship between Israel and the Jewish community in the United States has been conducted within the same sound box. The challenges facing each of them, as well as the disagreements between us and the growing gap between the generations, require us to diversify the discourse and make the dialogue accessible to new audiences. We must create a connection and commitment to the relationship among the general public as well. Conducting the discourse in the public space will increase attention to the issues at hand, diversify the voices heard in it, help connect new audiences and encourage innovation in solving the challenges.

On Yom Kippur we must look inward and examine our actions in the past year and immediately afterwards we must grasp the magnitude of the moment and the immense importance of this significant relationship, look ahead and act resolutely to strengthen the bond between Israel and the American Jewish community.

The writer is the CEO of the Ruderman Family Foundation, dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish Community.



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