The Truth About American Jews and Israel
Reporting on the state of American Jewish relations with Israel, Time ran a headline announcing “The Diaspora’s Discontent.” For its part, Newsweek saw fit to inform us that American Jews who “loved Israel blindly” were now “learning to ask hard questions.” The New York Review of Books offered an analysis entitled “The Illusion of Jewish Unity” that limned the growing distance between the established American Jewish organizations and “the reality of Jewish opinion in America” about Israeli policies. These articles were published not in the wake of the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza but two decades ago.
Now, as then, the narrative of American Jewish disaffection continues to dominate public discussions about the relationship between the largest Diaspora Jewish community and the Jewish state. It has become the journalistic cliché of our time to portray American Jews as shifting, in response to this or that event, from uncritical adoration of Israel to profound disenchantment. For the past three decades, this trope has recurred with increasing frequency, particularly when the nationalist Likud party has attained power and whenever Israel has engaged in military action.
About the Author
Jack Wertheimer is professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Among his contributions to COMMENTARY are “Judaism Without Limits” (July 1997), “The Orthodox Moment” (February 1999), and “The Perplexities of Conservative Judaism” (September 2007).