November 19, 2019

Healing the Divide

“In his recently published book, We Stand Divided, Dr. Daniel Gordis made an important contribution to the ongoing discourse about how to heal the split between American Jewry and Israel. While Gordis is insightful in examining the differences between Israeli and American Jews in worldview and political culture, he makes a major oversight. The American Jews he writes about only comprise some 30% of the US community: those who are actively involved in the classical Jewish establishment. These American Jews are members of the Reform and Conservative synagogues and fill the boardrooms of Federations and the alphabet soup of US Jewish groups. While these organizations have made major contributions to Israel and have been the backbone of the US Jewish establishment, the other two-thirds of US Jewry, who stand at opposite pillars of the community, received little scrutiny or concern.

While Gordis points out tiny groups like IfNotNow, whose total membership would be hard-pressed to fill the basketball courts at most JCCs, he ignores the other demographics.

Today, beyond the establishment-affiliated Jews are two other segments of similar size. On one end are what’s dubbed in demography the “nones.” These are Jews who feel a sense of identification but are not actively involved in community life.

On the other end stands the Orthodox community and Chabad. The Orthodox remain highly committed to Israel and are flourishing in the US with a successful educational and communal system. The Orthodox live fully observant lives and are, for the most part, retaining their children in their synagogues.”

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