The 2022 Annual Assessment

The Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People

Project Head:
Shmuel Rosner

Gabriel Abensour, Nadia Beider, Dan Feferman, Shlomo Fischer, Shuki Friedman, Avi Gil, Noa Israeli, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, John Ruskay, Adar Schieber, Noah Slepkov, Yedidia Stern, Shalom Salomon Wald, Haim Zicherman

Barry Geltman

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The 2022 Annual Assessment

The easing of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a resumption of travel by Jews, to mutual visits, and to the relaunch of Taglit-Birthright and MASA program activity. The war in Ukraine and the absorption of Jewish refugees, along with aliyah from other countries, including those where antisemitism is on the rise, are reinforcing Israel’s status as a refuge for the Jewish people. The crisis in Ukraine has also fostered cooperation between Israel and Jewish organizations in the Diaspora, on the commonly accepted basis of humanitarian aid to Jews and refugees. In Israel, a large majority of Jews feel attached to all Jews (about 70%), and most see a shared future for all Jews (64%).

At the same time, Israelis continue to have reservations about American Jewry’s attempts to exert influence on Israeli policy, especially in the foreign and defense fields; there are expectation gaps in this regard between the Jewish people’s two largest communities (most young American Jews feel that they have a right to try to influence Israel).

Other data attest to an erosion of attachment to Israel among the younger generation of Diaspora Jews, and to an expanding critical discourse on the meaning of Zionism, and even Zionism’s legitimacy. However, due to the resumption of in-person encounters and the dramatic impact of Jewish refugee absorption in Israel (2022 is witnessing a two-decade high in immigration), we have moved the needle of the community bonds gauge in a positive direction toward “maintaining.”

Trends and Recommendations

The political context (in terms of ideology and right-left differences) should be neutralized wherever possible in managing Israel-Diaspora relations

Explanation: The government and political pendulum is constantly moving, but Israel-Diaspora relations need stability, regardless of the pendulum’s oscillations. Such stability is hard to find, due to a growing tendency among Jews to perceive the issue of attachment to other Jews as yet another standard area of disagreement between right and left. Thus, Jews in Western countries (with an emphasis on the U.S.), but also, and to no lesser degree, Jews in Israel (per JPPI’s Pluralism Index), position themselves on the attachment-to-other-Jews scale based on political self-identification (those who feel “close” to the Diaspora – rightists; those who are “distant” – leftists). This phenomenon has deep roots, some of them touching on essential issues that are not easy to address. However, educational, and explanatory efforts should be made to close this gap as much as possible. Such efforts should be based on a model of inter-community discourse on issues of culture, history, tradition, sustainability, and high-tech, and strive to reduce preoccupation with controversial matters that make it hard to maintain relationships that are constructive and helpful for all Jews (it must be understood and accepted that, even once this reduction has been achieved, Jews will continue to be deeply divided on important fundamental questions).

Global Jewish cooperation to provide assistance to the Jews of Ukraine and Russia should be expanded

Explanation: The crisis precipitated by the war is creating an opportunity for world Jewry to unite around an undisputed goal, and to participate in a joint effort to assist Jews in distress. This effort should be pursued both via formal channels (the Israeli government and the major organizations of world Jewry), and through the encouragement of informal channels (partnership of volunteers, nonprofits, and foundations, but not via the government or the large organizations). Most of the work should focus on the physical rescue of Jews needing such rescue, on promoting aliya to Israel, and on the absorption of olim in Israel and their integration in the fabric of Israeli life. There should be investment not only in the economic aspects of absorption, but also in the socio-educational aspects, to help the olim (immigrants under the Law of Return, not all of whom are halachically Jewish) to integrate in Israel’s majority Jewish culture.