24 Comments

  1. Lizzou

     /  November 30, 2011

    I JUST read this over on Goldberg’s blog and thought “I bet Emily will have something to say about this!” (I post with the Horde, used to be Sylvanfemme) I’m not even remotely Jewish, but this infuriated me. It reminds of me when people question my American identity and/or patriotism because I live in France. Or when my Louisiana cousins treat me as an other because I grew up in the North. Or when my California family treats me like a retard cause I’m from the Southeast. I realize my examples are not quite the same thing, but it reminds me that people just seem to always need to be in a herd, and therefore, somehow “more” than you.

    • In terms of place, there are basically three poles in the Jewish world – Israeli Jews, American Jews, and Everyone Else. Israeli + American Jews makes up something like 80-90% of the entire Jewish population of the world, so there is an inevitable co-dependent relationship that has grown up between us. The two bulwarks of Judaism stand on opposite sides of the same fucking divide that has rifted us since we put pen to paper and established our silly little religion, the tension between secular assimilation (and potential destruction as a distinct people) and maintaining cultural distance (and risk being thought of as a shadowy cabal of weird religious zealots). It’s nothing new, really, but the more the Israeli government pushes down one side of that road, the more our two groups drift apart.

      • Whenever someone calls for “unity,” I like to remind them that we haven’t been united as a people since the Golden Calf.

        • All things being equal, it’s a relatively clean fracture, with all of the sub-fractures (Reform, Conservative, etc.) being proxy wars for that primary fracture. There is this danger, alluded to by dmf below, that the simple fact of a Jewish state will preclude it from doing anything but move, inevitably and irrevocably, towards down the path that it’s already sort of trending down. I still believe in Israel or, more accurately, I believe in Israelis, but when I see how Orthodox religiosity is bit-by-bit working its way into the government, I get very nervous about its long-term future. But, I mean, it’s not like “being worried about Israel’s long-term future” is some new phenomenon.

  2. As a regular reader but infrequent commenter here, I wondered what you would think about those ads. I suppose it makes sense that a gov’t that denies recognition to the Judaism practiced by most observant American Jews would worry about secularization. I mean, if Reform and Conservative Judaism, and even some bits of Modern Orthodoxy, are seen as not authentically Jewish, then most American Jews are not religious and therefore secular. I guess.

  3. Also a little piece of my brain is wondering whether the “American Jews are icky and secular!” theme is actually a cover for “your American Jewish spouse might want you to support J Street instead of AIPAC!” but I’ve probably been hanging out with too many conspiracy theorists.

  4. dmf

     /  November 30, 2011

    was never sure how one could have a Jewish state and a modern/Americanized democracy at the same time, something had to give.
    http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/146997/

  5. You could at least give Netanyahu credit for performing a miracle: he brought you and Jeffrey together on a matter of Israeli politics.

    • Amachaya! (as my people says. It literally means “My people lives!”, but it’s used like “Do you believe in miracles?!”) (We’re weird).

      Also, too: Totes.

      (Though, seriously, I think that a big part of why I argue with him so vociferously in my head is because he and I often do agree — and then we really, really don’t. It’s those folks what cause the most unrest, as I’m sure you well know). (If I may mix my references to comedy routines).

  6. rec

     /  November 30, 2011

    The thing I find most fascinating about this series of ads, is that it doesn’t even try to target the Israelis living abroad. It actually targets their parents (or anyone else who would want them to move back, but really, their parents).

    It’s some kind of meta passive-aggressive by proxy move. You’re trying to guilt the parents into pressuring their kids to move back. And the actual line is “They will always be Israeli – their kids won’t/their partners won’t always know what it means. Help them return”. So you’re reassuring the parents that they did a good job raising their kids, who will always be Israeli, but they need to make sure the kids do the right thing too, by “helping” them realize the error of their ways and nudging them back home.

    And while there’s an implied notion that the kids can’t grow up Jewish in America, I think this is much more about Israeli exceptionalism than it is about American Jewry. It’s not so much “contempt for American Jews” as Jeffrey Goldberg puts it, as it is contempt for anything that is not Israeli. Nuance and subtlety included.

  7. And here I always thought I was Jew enough. But whatever. If they want to de-Jew me, I’m not interested in putting up a fight. They can remove more Jews from the world than … well, it goes without saying who holds the land speed record in Jew removal … I bet they don’t even think about that. I bet they think they’re improving the breed.

  8. David Litvak

     /  November 30, 2011

    Emily, I love every single word of every single paragraph of this post. So, so much.

    I was born in the United States to an American-born Reform Jew and a Soviet-born Reform Jew of Orthodox origin. I’ve been to Israel once in my life, on Birthright during the Gaza invasion in 2008-09, and absolutely loved it. Moreover, I knew that whatever else happened in my life, however much I loved the United States, that Israel could take me in and give me a home. That whatever else, it was a haven for Jews and for democracy and was a second home for those of us in the Diaspora.

    It would appear Israel has decided to do everything in its power to prove me wrong.

  9. dmf

     /  December 1, 2011

    • It’s funny how many people are asking similar questions lately, and how entirely deaf to it Israel is proving itself to be.

      Funny, depressing. Take your pick!

  10. nm

     /  December 2, 2011

    Heh. Netanyahu has called the ad campaign off. He says didn’t know people would feel insulted by it. Not knowing that may be an indication of the problem.

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if the American Jewish community got this upset about other things that Israel is doing that fly in the face of our shared values…?

      #agirlcandream

      • nm

         /  December 5, 2011

        Yes. I tell myself that this could be a turning point, that having spoken out on this issue, we could start speaking out on the role of the religious parties, the occupation, the settlements…. But then I laugh at myself.

  11. ExpatJK

     /  December 3, 2011

    I love this post so much. AND I have been inspired to join J Street, which I didn’t know existed until your blog – thanks Emily! Guess I’m no longer a Jew anymore, but I guess in Israeli government eyes our family has been a lost cause since my grandfather’s experience in the yeshiva convinced him of the wonders of Reform Judaism

    • Whoot J Street!

      I honestly think that the reason they get so much push back is because they represent the actual majority of American Jews (not all, by a long shot, but most) – hence, the anger and fear in other quarters….

  12. Re: Whole article…

    And so say we all!

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