The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) Releases 2022 Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People, Indicators of Jewish Safety and Well-being in Decline
• Diaspora communities (with the assistance of Israel) should prioritize significant Jewish education projects – financially, socially, and institutionally
• Philanthropy in Israel, by both individuals and institutions, should be encouraged, emphasizing the Jewish value of giving as is customary in Diaspora communities worldwide
• A comprehensive social and political response must be formulated to an expected increase in the number of Israelis who belong to the Jewish majority population but are not recognized as Jews
• Continued rapid growth of the ultra-Orthodox community requires intra- and extra-sectoral attention to the socioeconomic ramifications of this trend
• Dialogue with Jews who support the Democratic Party must be deepened
Jewish People Policy Institute’s Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People is published this year during turbulent times for world Jewry.
A war raging in Europe that threatens global stability and the current world order and is affecting the lives and movement of Ukrainian and Russian Jews. Israel-Diaspora relations are in a crisis; and continued rapid growth of ultra-Orthodox communities are just some of the major issues examined in JPPI’s just released Annual Assessment.
The 124-page report written by JPPI expert analysts and brimming with graphs and charts illustrating trends by the numbers, undertakes to determine whether the past year’s developments have affected Israel and the Jewish world positively or negatively. This year, the arrows point negatively on virtually all matters pertaining to the safety and well-being of world Jewry.
The report delves into geopolitical uncertainty that has intensified in the last year, with implications for Israel and the Jewish people, the need for Israel to strengthen dialogue with the Jewish community in the United States, most of whom support the Democratic Party which is trending leftward with serious implications for American policy toward Israel and the rise of antisemitism worldwide.
The Assessment, which includes policy recommendations, has been presented to the Government of Israel and shared with Jewish communal leaders worldwide.
JPPI President, Prof. Yedidia Stern said that the report emphasizes the crisis in Israel-Diaspora relations: “The core beliefs and emotional ties that ‘made us one’ are dramatically weakening while the those on the margins are growing, ideologically and identity-wise within Israel and outside it.”
According to the report, distancing from Israel is becoming such a significant issue among college-aged Jews; Zionism is a very problematic word in some of the elite universities in the United States. In their Judaism there is little religious or national currency, mostly just a cultural connection. Only a third of the young Jews, under 30, say that it is very important that their grandchildren be Jews. The overall result is threefold: a reduction and dilution of the share of non-religious Jewish identity in the Diaspora; a reduction of the pro-Israel resolve among the elite of the next generation of Jews; and increased polarization among American Jews – political, religious, cultural.
Prof. Stern noted the responsibility of the State of Israel to deal with these crucial strategic issues. “We have a constitutional obligation – Article 6 of the Nation-State Law says: The state will work in the Diaspora to preserve the connection between the state and the Jewish people, and the state will work to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Diaspora Jewry.”
Israel has national institutions and the Jewish Agency to deal with these issues – and a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and a president who make them their highest priority, “The State of Israel still does not have a strategic plan of action to fulfil its responsibilities under the law for the preservation of Jewish identity in the Diaspora and for the preservation of the bonds of connection and belonging between the two parts of the people,” notes Stern.
JPPI recommends that Diaspora communities, with the assistance of Israel, prioritize significant Jewish education projects – financially, socially, and institutionally.
Increased Israeli Philanthropy
Regarding funding, it is noted that the great success of Israel’s high-tech sector has created a class of wealthy Israelis whose numbers have increased significantly. Data on individual and corporate philanthropy in Israel point to low contribution levels compared to other Western countries, and especially with Jews abroad, who are leaders in the philanthropic sphere. Although Israeli philanthropy is trending upward to a degree, it is still far from the desirable levels. The flourishing of high-tech constitutes an opportunity for Israelis to step up their support of the development of Israeli society. Increased philanthropy will make it possible to strengthen efforts in the educational, cultural, and social welfare spheres; it will promote mutual responsibility on the part of different groups in Israeli society and it will embody a unifying Jewish value for Israel and the Diaspora.
JPPI recommends that philanthropy in Israel, by both individuals and institutions, should be encouraged, emphasizing the Jewish value of giving as is customary in Diaspora communities worldwide.
Challenge of Ultra-Orthodox Growth
In about 15 years the ultra-Orthodox will constitute 25% of world Jewry (doubling themselves every 20 years, while the rest of the Jews double themselves every 300 years). This is a challenge for the ultra-Orthodox themselves as they will have to shed the ethos of a minority community and think seriously about their responsibility to the whole, including the non-ultra-Orthodox. Within the State of Israel, this is one of the two issues prudent public policy – governmental and civic – can influence and change.
JPPI recommends that the continued rapid growth of the ultra-Orthodox community requires intra- and extra-sectoral attention to the socioeconomic ramifications of this trend.
Assessment of Russian and Ukrainian Jewry: Demography and Society
The challenges facing Israel are becoming more complex against the background of great power rivalry, which has intensified in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, the war in Ukraine has caused many Jews to leave both countries at a time when the overall Jewish populations were already declining. This year’s Assessment focuses on these communities and provides an overview of their situation.
JPPI recommends that global Jewish cooperation to provide assistance to the Jews of Ukraine and Russia be expanded and that an effort should be made to retain the immigrants from Ukraine in Israel, along with family members who have been left behind, and to encourage immigration from Russia.
With all the new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia in Israel, the gap between the Orthodox establishment’s demand for conversion according to its system, and the attitude of most Israeli Jews, who believe the conversion process should be eased. Many feel conversion is either: entirely unnecessary (because self-definition is enough); essential but not necessarily via an Orthodox rabbinate; or essential and should be accomplished via an Orthodox beit din (religious court) that adopts lenient halachic tests is growing. This gap has implications on the public’s relations with the conversion establishment which is perceived as imposing the system of the minority on the majority and this gap affects the willingness of Israelis to convert.
JPPI recommends that a comprehensive social and political response must be formulated to an expected increase in the number of Israelis who belong to the Jewish majority population but are not recognized as Jews.
Deepen Dialogue with Democrats
The younger generation of Jews in the United States and the rapid shift to a progressive agenda among the Democratic base is examined.
While 71% of U.S. Jews are Democrats and the vast majority (70%) support Israel, young Democrats are moving away from unquestioning support for the State of Israel, only 48% unequivocally support it.
JPPI recommends that dialogue with Jews affiliated with the Democratic Party must be deepened to harness their support and assistance in advancing Israel’s positions on the Iran nuclear issue and other urgent strategic matters. In addition, the political context (in terms of ideological and right-left polarization) should be ameliorated wherever possible in managing Israel-Diaspora relations.
The challenges of rising antisemitism worldwide and the impact social media has on this trend is part of the analysis contained in this year’s report. Antisemitism is persistent and growing in severity. On both the left and the right, antisemitism continues to erode Jewish security. More than half of the Jews in the United States (53%) report feeling less safe, as Jews, than five years ago. Young Jews are lowering their Jewish profile due to the fear of harm to them or their social status. Efforts thus far to alleviate the crisis of growing antisemitism have largely failed.
JPPI Recommends that Israel entrust the response to antisemitism to a single action-oriented integrative body with implementation capabilities.
Local Culture War in Israel Heats Up
Divisions between Israelis regarding their identity, Israel, Jew, a combination of both, as well as Jewish identity in the Diaspora continue to be played out in the cultural realm. A.B. Yehoshua, a pillar of Israeli culture, passed away this past year and his passing reignited the debate in Israel concerning, who is a Jews, who is an Israeli? Yehoshua’s core argument regarding this issue was that “Israeli identity is the complete Jewish identity.” Yehoshua himself had long understood that his was a minority voice, that Israel, as he understood it, is becoming more Jewish and less Israeli. Yehoshua’s views on the question of Jewish identity in the Israeli era were challenged by Diaspora Jews, who saw them as negating the possibility of a meaningful Jewishness outside of Israel, and by Israeli Jews, who saw them as an attempt to rid Jewish identity of the elements it had accumulated over the long years of exile – in particular, the religious-halachic element. These are foundational questions that underlie the disparate visions fueling the local culture war.
Read the Annual Assessment here