A number of reports this year have noted the persistence and growing severity of antisemitic phenomena in many countries;7 some of the reports have gone so far as to declare the effort to counter antisemitism a “failure”. Attitudes toward Israel are also affected by rising antisemitism, as well as by political polarization, especially in the United States; as a result, young Jews are lowering their Jewish-Zionist profile in an attempt maintain their social status among their non-Jewish friends. At the same time,8 the share of Diaspora Jews who observe Jewish traditions (Passover Seders, kosher homes, and the like) continues to fall. Based on the relevant data, we have moved the needle of the identity gauge in a slightly negative direction this year.
Trends and Recommendations
The Israel government should formulate a strategy with clear and (where possible) measurable objectives for battling antisemitism
Explanation: JPPI reports have been warning for several years of the possibility that the trend of resurgent antisemitism is on the rise and rooted in deep societal currents of varying sources. The return of antisemitism, as unfortunate and distressing as it is, could become a long-term fixture of global discourse, while the ability of Jewish communities and Israel to influence it is limited. Under these circumstances, Israel, as the world’s strongest Jewish organizing force, cannot confine itself to attempts to “fight antisemitism.” Israelis must understand what it will mean to live in an era when antisemitism is a persistent factor in Jewish life, and prepare for that era accordingly, while formulating plans for appropriate explanatory, diplomatic, and security activity. Last year we recommended that the government “entrust the response to antisemitism to a single integrative body with powers and implementation capabilities.” We reaffirm this recommendation, and with greater urgency, in light of data whose meaning is unmistakable.
Action must be taken to promote the unifying presence of Jewish holidays in Israel’s public and private spheres
Explanation: Of all the components of Jewish identity in Israel, the most widely accepted, and the least controversial, are the holidays and festivals.9 Israeli Jews who disagree too strongly on basic components of identity for their differences to be bridged, still feel that the celebration of holidays and festivals gives expression to their Judaism. This finding should motivate institutions and organizations for joint efforts to make Jewish festivals more enjoyably present in Israel’s public and private spheres. When setting such processes in motion, attention should be paid to the kinds of feelings that Jewish-inflected language and terminology elicit in Israelis. In last year’s Annual Assessment (2021), JPPI recommended that “the new government […] encourage measures that foster the development of a non-religious Jewish identity.” This recommendation is further supported by recent research that has identified a much greater willingness of Jews to study “Jewish texts” than to “learn Torah,” despite the fact that, in at least some instances, the practical meanings of these terms are identical.
The conclusion to be drawn from this and other examples is that those who plan holiday activities should use the language of Jewish culture rather than of Jewish religion. This is especially the case when the activities are intended for a secular and traditional non-religious public with reservations, sometimes significant ones, about anything couched in religious language (which has unfavorable associations with the political arena).