Recently, Daniel Gordis’ latest publication, We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel, has been translated into Hebrew and published in Israel. Much has happened since it was published, two and a half years ago, but the nadir, as Gordis refers to the rift between American Jews and Israel, has only deepened since. I think that if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that other than organizations whose funding relies on sustaining the ties between Israel and American Jewry, both communities are uninterested in one another. In fact, the most prevalent feelings between the two communities are resentment, condescension, and dislike.
In an interview for the Israeli paper Makor Rishon, Gordis recalled a letter that approximately 100 Reform rabbinical students signed during the “Guardian of the Walls” military campaign (May 10-21, 2021). The letter accused Israel of implementing apartheid against the Palestinians and called on American Jewish communities to hold Israel accountable for the “violent suppression of human rights,” but said nothing of the more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian cities or the fact that Hamas’ charter explicitly calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel. To conclude, says Gordis, “In the May war, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt supported Israel more than the rabbinical students who signed the letter.”
Indeed, I see no connection between the two communities. I understand that for observing Jews, the Jewish holidays and Israel bear significance. Also, if Jews in one country have family in the other country, they will feel connected, especially if they often visit one another. There are also Jews in America who believe that Israel can be a safe haven in case they need to make a run for it, as Jews have always done throughout history when they were persecuted. But as communities, I see no connection between the two.
If American Jews are looking for safe havens from antisemitism, they’d be better off buying some land in Central America, Mexico, or Canada, and lead their lives there. There are already such settlements, such as the Orthodox Jewish town Kiryas Tosh in Quebec, Canada, and there are others.
The majority of American Jews have never been to Israel. They don’t want to come here and they feel no connection to the Jewish state. They did not choose to be Jewish, they were born into it, but they have no interest in Israel. If anything, the fact that there are organizations that try to tighten the connections between the two communities only annoys them. This is why many American Jews say about Israel, “It’s a pity you exist at all. If you didn’t exist, people would forget about us. Now they know that there is the people of Israel and hate us.”
Because there is no connection between the two communities, no effort by any organization will succeed. If there were a connection, we wouldn’t need anything else. If we could awaken love among us, Jews, all the Jews from around the world would want to come here. But because we are disunited, no one wants to come here and no one wants connection with us or with Jews at all.
From the perspective of the Israelis, I think that what we need to do is worry about our own unity, and forget about trying to connect with those who do not want connection. The people who live here, in Israel, should connect among themselves and form such a tight bond that the entire world will look at us and strive to follow our example.
The connection between us does not need organizations, who come with their own interests. It also does not need government offices, who impose their own agendas. All we need is people who want to connect above all their differences. In the end, the ancient motto that we have never implemented but have always preached, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is our only rescue. This is what we need, and the best service we can do to the world is to implement it and set a good example to the world.
To conclude, I’d like to bring the words of Nathan Sternhartz, the prime disciple and scribe of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who concisely packaged the whole idea: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the great rule of the Torah, to include in unity and peace, which are the heart of the vitality, persistence, and correction of the whole of creation, when people of differing views are included together in love, unity, and peace.”