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2010 Annual Assessment

  1. The Economic dimension of Jewish life: Diaspora Communities and Israel
    1. American and European economies still adversely affected by the financial crisis. Both in need of structural and regulatory reform; both experience a real decline in the value of their currency. As a result of these developments, America might be poorer vis-a-vis other countries.
    2. Israel emerged relatively unscathed with very high growth (7.8 % annual growth rate in the fourth quarter) and record low unemployment. Substantial natural gas reserves discovered off the coast of Haifa, auguring important revenue stream with potential long-term energy, economic, financial, ecological and geo-political Implications, though fully developing these reserves is several years off. Recognition of Israel’s economic achievements by accession to the OECD.
    3. Despite these strengths, Israeli ability for effective collective government action is impaired as can be seen by poor educational performance by Israeli students on international tests, prolonged strikes by public servants and the Carmel fire.

    Policy Directions

    Israel, both the Israeli government and private individuals, needs to contribute more financially, and in certain areas replace Diaspora funds, in regard to projects designed to enhance the well-being and strength of the Jewish people such as Birthright, and Jewish education.
    Israel should consider which steps are necessary to restructure its institutions of governance to better strengthen the capacity to undertake effective collective action, to translate national priorities into action and to undertake complex public sector challenges that cut across ministerial portfolios.
    It needs to establish a systematic strategic perspective to guide both short-and long-term domestic policy actions. 

  2. Jewish Identity and Israel Attachment Among Younger Jews
    1. For a signigicant segment of young Jews, Israel is not the single most important pillar of their Jewish lives. Fewer young Jews are willing to identify Israel as occupying the most central place in their Jewish landscape.
    2. For many younger American Jews the concept of ethnic peoplehood, the world divided into “us” and “them,” is not salient. Younger Jewish leaders are interested in Judaism as a way of providing meaningfulness in life. They respond to Jewish culture and Jewish activities, but not to the idea that there are distinct differences between Jews and non-Jews. They are unresponsive to activities to “protect” Jews since they don’t feel vulnerable, discriminated against or different.

    Policy Directions

    Travel to Israel programs such as Masa and Birthright should be amplified for young Jews living in the diaspora. Travel to Israel programs should be organized around a variety of perspectives and orientations, and not reflect just one approach.
    Israel travel programs ought to be extended to European Jewish youth. Programs deepening attachment to Israel should be set up for European Jewish youth and children visiting Israel with their parents.
    Within the framework of Israel education for young Jews, one should amplify cultural and social factors including language, literature, food, film, friends, touring Israel and the like.
    In contrast to this, educators should exercise caution in dealing with policy issues and when discussing Israel’s vulnerability, topics which are controversial among young Jews.
    Jewish mainstream spokespersons should avoid labeling Jewish critics of Israel as “self-hating Jews” in order not to alienate them from the larger Jewish community.
    Hasbara for young Jews in the Diaspora should be the same as that which is targeted to the general public. Israel and the Jewish leadership should not create special hasbara programs for young Jews which are based upon the assumption that their Jewish identity makes them automatically pro-Israel. Wherever possible, in hasbara aimed at the general public, non-Jewish, pro-Israel groups should play a leading role, in hasbara aimed at the general pulic.
    The Jewish organizations are committed to a special effort to open their ranks to young people and to encourage them to assume key roles in the life of the community. The state of Israel, on its part, must utilize its resources in order to enhance the investment in the future of the younger generations, in education and extending joint frameworks shared by Israel and the Diaspora.
    It is crucial to listen and respond honestly to young people who ask critical questions about Israel’s and its policies. Such questions should be answered with reliable information and balanced judgments.
    Severely critical points of view should be allowed to be heard in Jewish frameworks such as Hillel chapters and other Jewish organizations, together with other opinions which are more positive to Israel and Israeli policies. Disenfranchising such severely critical voices will only increase their alienation.
    At the same time, advocates of the destruction of Israel and those who wish to use BDS against the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state should be singled out.

Endnotes

  1. The geopolitical Plane section and the section on the economic dimension of Jewish life reflect developments over the past year. The section on Jewish identity and Israel attachment reflects trends over a longer period of a number of years. The developments in that section reflect the special chapter on de-legitimization and Israel attachment among younger Jews.
  2. “Unrest Spreads Some Violently in Middle East,” New York Times, Feb. 17, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/
    middleeast/17protest.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
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