As an American Jew whose life was changed by growing up in the Betar Zionist youth movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, I do not believe that Pro-Israel education is enough today for Jews in the Diaspora. Pro-Israel organizations are simply not enough for American Jews. As important as it is for American Jews to support Israel, they must first be Jewish and care about our religion and our people – and then of course support for Israel will come naturally.
Of late, there has been a plethora of media outlets claiming that, as one widely syndicated Associated Press article claimed “Israel is now bitterly dividing Jewish communities.” The article discussed the rejection of J Street into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations, and further discussions about the perceived rancor which is being caused about what it means to support Israel. Chemi Shalev of Ha’aretz claimed in a blaring headline at a so-called “risk of reaching crisis proportions, between staunchly left-wing American Jews and an ever rightward-moving Israel.” And Arnon Mentver, the outgoing CEO of the Joint Distribution Committee Israel, claims that the current young generation of Diaspora Jewry is not interested in donating to Israel, which it perceives as an “occupying nation.”
Ha’aretz, The Associated Press and the JDC couldn’t be more wrong.
The sad reality is that Young American Jews, in overwhelming numbers reject Judaism – and that is the issue which must be solved. How – or why – would anyone care about Israel if they do not care about Judaism? Last year’s Pew study found that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry, 66% of American Jews don’t belong to a synagogue, and 25% don’t believe in God.
There is no sane Jew who can support the sick concept of “BDS”. But without knowing about Jewish history and stories, there’s no education to counter the sickness of Jew-haters.
While there are countless important Israel focused organizations, there needs to be more done to attract American Jews to Judaism. Birthright has done amazing work bringing in largely unaffiliated American Jews – but there must be more efforts to get young Jews to be more Jewish.
How can they care about Jerusalem when they do not know anything about the Torah? How can they care about the holy city of Hevron when they have not heard the stories of our forefathers? Whether it’s Kabbalah, or Jewish history, Shabbat or kosher food, the beauty of our religion must be taught in a much wider manner.
American Jews who know nothing about Judaism think about the “settlements” about as much as they think about Zimbabwe.
J Street, and the foolish BDS supporters are temporary, loud-mouth problems. They are extremists who are well outside of the consensus.
The “settlements” are not the problem – the lack of Jewish education for so many Diaspora Jews is the issue which must be solved. The more young Jews learn about Judaism, the more they will support Israel.
Rabbi Kook rightfully noted that without some roots in Torah, nationalism alone would not endure. That is most certainly the case for the Diaspora Jewish community.
The deputy director of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project said “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.” That issue is way more dangerous for the Jewish people than the misguided J Street & BDS supporters.
Ronn Torossian is a NYC based entrepreneur & Author – who is passionate about the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The author is CEO of 5WPR, 1 of the 25 largest PR Agencies in the US.