Show some respect
Jeffrey Goldberg shows “How Israel Can Stop Alienating American Jews”
Jeffrey Goldberg suggests several ideas as to “How Israel Can Stop Alienating American Jews”, including showing respect for diverse Jewish expression and ending ultra-Orthodox discrimination
American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Flickr
About a week ago, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in the Atlantic about a series of advertisements released by the Israeli government meant to convince Israelis living abroad to move back to Israel. One of the ads featured a couple with their small daughter, video chatting with her grandparents in Israel with a hannukiah placed behind them. When they ask her in Hebrew if she knows what day it is, she replies enthusiastically “Christmas!!” The final line to the ad reads: They’ll always be Israelis—their children won’t.
Such ads, accompanied by billboards in Hebrew in many major American cities, have created outrage in the North American Jewish community. The Federations of North America released a statement saying “While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel,” the federation leadership said in a message to its members. “We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.”
The ads were taken down shortly after Goldberg’s original condemnation and the indignation from Jewish American leadership, albeit months after they had already been published. It has been true for decades that Jews in the U.S. have more freedom of religion than Jews in Israel -- in the U.S., after all, the state recognizes the validity of marriages officiated by Reform rabbis.
Goldberg returned to the matter today in Business Week, in an article titled, “How Israel Can Stop Alienating American Jews”. Goldberg lists three possibilities: tame the right wing nature of the government, show respect for the non-Orthodox majority ofWorld Jewry, and end discriminatory practices enforced by ultra-Orthodox political power.
“Second, American Jews, the vast majority of whom are not Orthodox, are also growing uneasy about the concentration of religious power in Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate, which oversees such matters as conversion and divorce. It has been true for decades that Jews in the U.S. have more freedom of religion than Jews in Israel -- in the U.S., after all, the state recognizes the validity of marriages officiated by Reform rabbis.
But now we’re seeing strikingly intolerant applications of ultra-Orthodox practice in Israel. The most offensive manifestation at the moment might be attempts to segregate women on public bus lines that pass through certain Orthodox neighborhoods. On many of these lines women have quite literally been forced to the back of the bus. If this sort of misogyny is tolerated, Israel will lose the support of battalions of American Jewish women (not to mention the current U.S. secretary of state).”
It is once again clear that the will of world Jewry, who has long supported Israel, must be supported in return. Hiddush commends Goldberg’s recommendations; it is a call to action both for Israel’s government to realize that issues of religious freedoms in Israel are needed both to answer the 83% of Israeli Jews who want to see freedom of religion and equality become a reality, as well as to show respect and support for Jewish expression worldwide.