The Sundering of Israel and American Jewry:
Has the New State Rejected Its Jewish Past?
The whole disturbing complex of spiritual problems which has emerged for world Jewry with the creation of the Jewish state presented itself to me in sharpest focus in a memorable experience during my last long visit to Israel in the summer of 1952. I sat with a dozen Israeli leaders of public opinion—members of the Knesset, journalists, academicians—and listened to long and earnest discussions of one of Israel’s most urgent needs: reinforcements from the Western lands of freedom; and particularly from the foremost of them, the greatest reservoir of Jewish manpower, America.
Here was a bewildering thing: out of five million American Jews not five hundred a year were inspired to throw in their lot with this miracle of the ages, the reborn Jewish state. A trickle of youngsters had joined the pioneers; a handful of businessmen had transferred their activities. There were a few thousand visitors every year, tens of millions of dollars were contributed to the funds, tens of millions invested in the government bonds; countless meetings were held in America, conventions and conferences passed laudatory resolutions—but of a moderately large movement toward Aretz—“the Land”—no sign. And many factors called imperatively for Western immigration. There were needed: the leaven of a voluntary migration as offset to the vast refugee influx; the skills of the West to instruct the instructors of the primitive masses of the East; the moral declaration, to Israel and to the world, that the reborn Jewish state was something more than an assembly of refugees. And, as much as anything else, there was needed a counteraction to the threat of Levantinization—the mass assimilation of the Jewish state to the undisciplined pretentiousness, the systematic unthoroughness, which is woven into the backwardness of the Near East.
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