Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Who Cares About Israel

Binyamin Rose, Jerusalem

Social scientists who study contemporary Jewry have been engaged in an ongoing and intense battle for the past 30 years over trends in American Jewish attachment to Israel. Most studies show declining connection, especially among young people. Along comes a new study that asserts that trend — if it ever existed — is changing for the better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

israel flagA recent political satire published in an Israeli newspaper featured a mock interview with a journalist trying to coax an encouraging word out of a spokesman for the Israel Water Authority after this winter’s record-setting rainfall. “Shhh,” said the water spokesman. “We never want to leave the impression there is good news about the water supply.”

Reports on Jewish demography often follow the same downbeat pattern. The doomsday scenario is well-known. Assimilation is rampant. Intermarriage is pervasive. Core Jewish organizations are in decline. Young Jews feel more distanced from Israel than ever before.

“The metaphor used is that there’s an iceberg sitting on the table. It is 100 degrees in the room and the ice is melting rapidly,” says Dr. Leonard Saxe, professor of contemporary Jewish history at Brandeis University. Dr. Saxe and Dr. Theodore Sasson, associate professor of international studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, presented a far rosier picture from the findings in their recent study, “Understanding Young Adult Attachment to Israel,” at the Knesset Subcommittee on Relations between Israel and Jewish Communities Abroad, which Mishpacha covered in its entirety.

They conclude that between the 1990s and mid-2000s, attachment to Israel among American Jews increased among all age groups. The percentage of respondents who said they felt no emotional attachment at all to Israel has shrunk by some 50 percent during this period.

“What we are saying is that there is no clear-cut evidence of distancing, and everything that exists suggests that the opposite is occurring,” says Dr. Saxe.

Pointing specifically to the more than 200,000 young adults who have attended a Birthright trip to Israel since the program’s inception in 2000, Dr. Saxe says these youths are changing the attitudes of their generation.

“They have a direct connection with Israelis,” he says. “They know the history and have some deeper understanding of the culture and contemporary issues. It will take us a little longer to document this, but I believe we have a generation that has a relationship to Israel that no previous adult generation has felt.”

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

 

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you