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2013-2014 Annual Assessment

The nature of Israel today and what Israel could become in the future affect bonds between it and other Jewish communities. That being said, this relationship resembles the Sherlock Holmes story in which what was remarkable was the dog that didn’t bark. Solidarity with Israel remains a hallmark despite trials and disappointments of one side by the other. Yet, as generations shift and memories of past shared concerns are subjected to new forces, both internal and external, there is concern about whether the fundamentals of the past might become more subject to change. JPPI provided first-hand evidence for continuity as well as change in this dimension with a comprehensive study providing background research to an Israeli government effort.3

Despite the present solidarity, indicators of change are not absent. In the U.S., young Orthodox Jews are closer to Israel than American Jews in general.4 Non-Orthodox Jews with non-Jewish partners or classified as “Jews of no religion”5 have weaker attachment. Both groups are growing. The JPPI report hints that a sense of alienation from Israel is deepening in parts of the Jewish community. While not yet a sweeping phenomenon, there are signs that attitudes toward Israel generate internal division in the community and erode, in particular, the attitudes of the next generation toward Israel.

Most of the world’s Jews desire an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic and assume that this combination is feasible. While Diaspora Jews see a significant religious component in Israel’s identity as part of preserving Israel’s “Jewish” identity, there is serious criticism about the practical implementation of the religion-state relationship. Many Diaspora Jews recognize the constraints Israel faces but do not find this justification for lowering the high values concerning human rights standards expected of Israel. At the same time, many Diaspora Jews express a sense of duty in aiding Israel’s efforts to achieve such standards and relish a prospect of permanent and significant dialogue between communities.

The timeliness of this opportunity is borne out by the results from the JPPI survey. When queried about the changes over the past year on the bonds between Jewish communities and those communities with Israel the plurality of respondents (44%) considered that there had been a small deterioration. Only 20% felt that there had been some degree of improvement. Those who felt there had been a negative trend most often cited Israel government policy and actions on domestic religious affairs, followed by the status of the peace process and conditions beyond the green line. Insight into why these last two should have a bearing on intra-community bonds is provided by the next most common response citing efforts by Israel’s adversaries and external critics to portray Israel in a poor light. The concern is that the aggregation of these trends will have an eroding effect on the solidarity and commonality that continues to be the hallmark of relations between Diaspora communities and Israel. Despite this, the deep interest in ties and dialogue evident in the JPPI report warrants that we register a small improvement in this area.

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