Chief Rabbi to Arutz Sheva:
'American Jewry is dwindling'

Amidst uproar over Tzipi Hotovely's comments on 'American Jews,' Israeli Chief Rabbi suggests looking at demographic data of American Jewry.

Eliran Aharon ,

Rabbi David Lau
Rabbi David Lau
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, was careful not to respond to the storm caused by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely's remarks, but suggested looking at official figures on American Jewry and drawing conclusions accordingly.

In an interview with i24 on Wednesday, Hotovely said she has used her position to try to bring American Jews closer to Israel, and hopes that more Jews from North America immigrate to the Jewish state.

Hotovely added, however, that there is growing tension between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, stemming from, she claimed, a lack of understanding regarding the complexities of the geopolitical situation.

“The other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region,” she said. “Most [American] Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having [sic] quite comfortable lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel deals with on a daily basis.

“This is the reason for the distancing between US Jews and Israel. American Jews contribute a great deal to Israel, but they cannot condition their connection to Israel on the government's policies. We need to remember that the past few years have seen stormy discussions about Judaism and identity. These arguments are a healthy part of democracy.”

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Rabbi David Lau said that, in 1945, American Jewry numbered six million Jews: "There was no Holocaust there, thank God, there were no terrible wars that took many Jewish lives, and there was not substantial immigration to Israel. Today, American Jewry numbers less: Five million Jews, including 700,000 Israelis.”

"This means," explained the Chief Rabbi, "that American Jewry, instead of naturally increasing, is diminishing."

According to the Pew Institute, about 50 percent of American Jews are secular - "not Reform, not Conservative, and not Orthodox, but secular. So to automatically generalize and say that 90 percent of them are Reform is simply untrue,” he said.

He suggested "looking the facts in the eye - to see the growth of the Orthodox community which, by the way, I would be happy to see grow up here in Israel and not there. You have to look at the data and open your eyes.”

"American Jewry, you have a real problem in the current reality and you have to find the correct way of responding to it, because the answers given so far seem to diminish, rather than increase, the number of Jews," the Chief Rabbi added.