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2017 Annual Assessment

  • Societies that shy away from liberal and cosmopolitan values, tilting instead toward nationalism and the development of their internal identity, could evince hostility toward minorities including the Jewish community.
  • Economic pressures on the middle class (in the U.S. and Europe) could strengthen anti-Semitic outbursts and turn the Jews, who are relatively successful economically, into scapegoats.
  • The preferential treatment Jews have received in Europe since the Holocaust (additional rights, direct access to political leaders, increased economic support) could be threatened.
  • The continued undermining of Israel’s bi-partisan support, and the growing gap between Democrats and Republicans with respect to Israel, could further erode the influence of American pro-Israel organizations (despite this, support for Israel continues to remain one of the few bi-partisan issues).
  • The deepening the divide between parts of the liberal U.S. Jewish community and Israel, which is becoming more right-wing, nationalistic, and religious.
  • A decline in the political power of American Jews, given their lack of unity and the internal Jewish polarization with respect to Israel.
  • A potential decrease in the power of U.S. Jewish organizations – on both the local and national levels – given the general disappointment with the current leadership and systems. Alternatives posed by social media help propel this trend and create space for virtual dialogue communities, which tend to self-isolate.
  • Given the general increased political and social polarization, the potential exists for a similar polarization within the U.S. Jewish community.
  • A widening divide between parts of the American Jewish community and the Jewish organizational leadership that must cooperate with the Trump administration.
  • Most of American Jewry (about 70 percent) has historically been affiliated with the liberal Democratic base and the values of human rights, equality, and opposition to racism and discrimination. This means that most American Jews are firmly on the losing side of the last election cycle. This creates a double dilemma for some Jewish leaders: first, how to oppose Trump and his ideas but maintain the identity of a loyal minority; and second, how to oppose Trump and his ideas without harming the interests of the State of Israel, which sees him as a close friend.
  • The 20-30 percent of U.S. Jews – mostly Orthodox – that supports Trump are offering a new strategy for Jewish American integration into the larger society. For the last 200 years, the model was based on the internalization and affirmation of civic values – pluralism, tolerance, and egalitarianism – while erasing outward cultural markers that had signified the Jewish community (today identified with Orthodox Judaism). The changing characteristics of the new American Christian right and the growing population proportion of the Orthodox change the rules of the game: rather than the civic creed these add a new moral, religious component, which is thicker. Conservative Judeo-Christian morality, which to Orthodox Jews includes such principles as fairness (reward and punishment), loyalty, sanctity, and authority, which are generally less emphasized by liberal America and liberal Jews. (Interestingly, this development has led to potential alliances on specific issues between Jews and Muslims in the U.S.).