2016 Annual Assessment

Annual Assessment 2016

Dr. Shlomo Fischer

Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Susanne Cohen-Weisz, Rémi Daniel, Chaya Ekstein, Dan Feferman, Avi Gil, Inbal Hakman, Michael Herzog, Simon Luxemburg, David Landes, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, Uzi Rebhun, Shmuel Rosner, John Ruskay, Noah Slepkov, Shalom Solomon Wald, Einat Wilf

Barry Geltman
Rami Tal

2016 Annual Assessment

The following table briefly describes developments in 2015-16 that contributed to strengthening weakening of bonds between Jewish communities in the world – with an emphasis on Israel-Diaspora bonds.   Growing fears of anti-Semitism (anti-Israel and anti-Semitic trends appear to be converging) strengthen the sense of shared destiny, and dependability on global Jewish unity.

Developments Strengthening Bonds Developments Weakening Bonds
1 Growing fears of anti-Semitism (anti-Israel and anti-Semitic trends appear to be converging) strengthen the sense of shared destiny, and dependability on global Jewish unity. Anti-Semitic incidents on campuses and elsewhere make public identification with Israel/ Jewish causes less appealing.
2 Continued Israeli initiatives to bolster Israel-Diaspora relations (Diaspora Affairs Ministry, GOI Kotel decision etc.) Israeli policies on many issues still not in line with views of Diaspora communities (mainly in North America) – and vice versa: Diaspora political and cultural sentiments not in line with those of the Israeli public.
3 Growing instability in the Middle East somewhat reduces the level of criticism of Israel’s inability to advance a peace agreement to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. Continued criticism aimed at Israel, and clashes between the GOI and other countries’ governments, especially on Israel-Palestine, makes Israel less appealing to young liberal Jews.
4 Continued Israeli excellence in different fields (notably hi-tech) contributes to its positive image among Jews. Demographic, political, and cultural trends in Israel (highlighted in the 2016 Pew report on Israel) seem alien to many Diaspora Jews.
5 Certain demographic trends in the American Jewish community, among them, the strengthening of the Orthodox community (which has strong ties to Israel), and increasing organization of the large Israeli expat community in America. Israel as a political football in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections forces Jewish voters to “take sides” “for or against” things Israel represents. This on the heels of a fierce debate last year over the nuclear agreement with Iran, which made Israel a divisive issue within the U.S. Jewish community.

Jewish bonds in 2015-16 did not dramatically change from the previous year. Long-term trends recognized in previous years are still in place in the Jewish world and in Israel. In the last year there was a growing worry about the future of Jewish communities because of the rise of anti-Semitic sentiments in several places – a double-edged sword when it comes to Jewish bonds. On one hand it causes some Jews to lower their “Jewish profile.” On the other hand, it evinces a sense of a shared Jewish destiny and the dependability of Jewish communities to come to each other’s aid. A similar double-edged sword can be found in the way Jews respond to the BDS movement. As the American Jewish community increasingly polarizes, not all developments can be analyzed in binary terms of increasing or decreasing solidarity. BDS fosters a degree of in-group solidarity for some Jews and alienation for others.

Another phenomenon worth noting is the confusing message that Israel sends to Diaspora communities: it pushes plans and funding aimed at strengthening Israel-Diaspora bonds, yet it doesn’t always execute these plans coherently and efficiently. A notable example is the GOI Kotel expansion plan to include an area for non-Orthodox practice, which was approved by the cabinet but halted because of political handwringing.

As a result, JPPI has kept the Bonds gauge unchanged from last year, slightly above Maintaining.”