asher63 (asher63) wrote,

JRB: 'The Israeli century.'

Usually when I reference the Jewish Review of Books here at LJ, it's to share an article by my good friend Professor Michael Weingrad, who is a frequent contributor.

This time, though, it's for an article called The Jewsraeli Century by Yossi Shain and Michal Schwartz. The article cites a study of Israeli identity by Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs, which concludes that 'What distinguishes these Jews from all who came previously is their complete “mixing of Jewishness and Israeliness.”'

This new Jewish type, the Jewsraeli, is a patriotic nationalist for whom fighting for Israel and its safety (“at any cost”) is the ultimate Jewish creed: “The Israeli Jew practices Judaism like no previous Jew.” Israeli Judaism is “an amalgamation of tradition and nationality. In many cases it is very hard—maybe impossible—to determine where the Jew ends and the Israeli begins, or where the Israeli ends and the Jew begins.”

Such Israeli Jews are, of course, very different from their American and European cousins whose national identities have been more or less distinct from their religious ones since the Enlightenment and Emancipation.

While Jewish identity within Israel seems to be solidifying (in contrast to earlier generations of Israelis where the rift between religious and secular Zionist communities was stark), diaspora Jewish identity - especially in America - appears to be moving in opposite directions. The liberal Jewish world is caught in an increasingly anti-Israel (and anti-Jewish) environment in the political left. 'If they distance themselves from Israel, they wither as Jews, and if they take on or defend the Israeli point of view, they lose their status as liberals.'

'The Jewish center of gravity—demographic, cultural, religious, political, and even economic—is in Jerusalem, not New York', declare Shain and Schwartz, and to some extent I agree. Demographics are going to continue to take a heavy toll on the liberal American Jewish population. Intermarriage and low birth rates portend a grim future for this community. (By contrast, even secular Israeli Jews - unlike their American counterparts - enjoy a high birth rate.)

One thing Shain and Schwartz don't discuss - except for an occasional aside - is the future of orthodox (or haredi) communities in the diaspora. Religious Jewish communities maintain a high birth rate and a strong sense of identity, and there is every indication that their numbers and influence will continue to grow. Also worth watching is the growing interest in conversion and in rediscovering Jewish roots, not only in America but around the world - particularly in Africa. These groups are still small in terms of absolute numbers, but they, too, are likely to grow. So I think the future may hold some very interesting trends for diaspora Jewry as well.
Tags: hebraica, israel

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