January 19, 2019

How to Reinvigorate Zionism

“Beware, woe-is-me worriers mourning an Israel-Diaspora rupture – good news! Last week 1,100 people gathered in Palo Alto – yes, in California – to talk Zionism. The idea – spearheaded by the Oshman Family JCC’s Zach Bodner and Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute – was to launch a “Z3” movement reaffirming Jewish peoplehood and redefining Zionism today.

“Z3” organizes Zionist history as I do in The Zionist Ideas. Until 1948, the Pioneers imagined Israel. Then the Builders built from 1948 through 1998. I call “Z3s” – the third generation – “Torchbearers.” Heirs to an amazing heritage, we, like runners in the Olympic relay, keep it going, growing, glowing.

Thankfully, the Z3 Conference didn’t degenerate into the III, the Israel Indignation Industry, where liberals lament Israel’s sins, while conservatives bemoan the world’s hatred.

Still, we disagreed. In the opening panel, the moderator, Doron Krakow, heading the national JCC – Jewish Community Center – movement, got three of us debating. Former justice minister Yossi Beilin trashed Israel’s rabbinate before hundreds of non-Orthodox American Jews. Although I share his contempt, throwing such rhetorical red meat to the crowd risked validating those American Jews who use the phrase “Israel-Diaspora relations” as code for “why Israel sucks – and how that justifies our kids intermarrying.” Scapegoating Israel obscures American Jewry’s real challenge: in abandoning Judaism en masse, American Jews abandon Israel, too.”

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