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The name "United Jewish Communities" [UJC] may be an oxymoron. Either there is one united Jewish community, or there are a lot of communities and then they are not united, no? They might be federated. Perhaps, after their General Assembly [GA] meeting in Israel, they will all be united against us Israelis. It seems, according to the Jerusalem Post, that Israelis and American Jews do not see things the same way at all.The relation betweenDiaspora Jews and Israeli Jews is quite like that of an old couple who both love each other and can't stand each other. They can't be together without fighting, and can't live without each other.

The first complaint of the meeting leaders, is that while the meetings get good coverage in English language Israeli media, they are hardly covered at all in the Hebrew press. Actually, I found about a dozen articles in the Hebrew press about the General Assembly of the UJC (Ihud haKehilot HaYehudiyot) though most of them reported speeches made by Israeli politicians about Israeli issues.

The second complaint seems to have to do with mutual disenchantment (to put it mildly) between American and Israeli Jews. As I have a fresh bottle of kerosene here, I am ready and willing to throw it on the fire, without bias toward either side, thought it seems they hardly need my help.

For example, consider these tactful and constructive remarks:

'The media here seems to be too boorish and closed-minded...nobody in a position of responsibility knows the truth about American Jewry. They're stuck with these primitive, half-baked excuses for commentary.'


[American Jews] 'see Israel itself as a corrupt country with an unstable government where every group looks out for itself. Israel is not a light unto the nations.'

First and foremost, Israelis could learn from Americans about religious education and pluralism, GA participants said.

'Israelis speak Hebrew, but many live lives devoid of Judaism. Just closing your schools on Shavuot is not the totality of Judaism,' said Rabbi Jerome Epstein..."

Such finesse! Such wisdom! Such tolerance! Judging from the above, maybe it is better that nobody here knows the truth about American Jewry. At one and the same time, they lecture us about tolerance, and also explain to us why we are not Jews unless we do exactly what they do. Only they are Jews! Of course we are a corrupt country. And where do they think Mr. Talansky comes from? There is a saying about pots and kettles that might be appropriate here.

Perhaps a benevolent providence arranged that these perceptive, intelligent and diplomatic remarks should not be reported too widely in the Hebrew press. It is better if they remain untranslated for the natives.

...[the GA] is one big kiss-up to rich people. American Jews are ... obsessed with money; there's something annoying about them.

As usual, we Israelis gave as good, or as bad, as we got. Israel reserves the right to defend itself from attack at all times. IDF doctrine is that we must take the war to the enemy - the best defense is to be offensive. Consider this sharp insight:

Ma'ariv Diaspora affairs reporter Eli Berdenstein admitted he did not know a great deal about American Jewry, but in any case rejected the idea that US Jews who claim they are "Jews by choice" are authentically Jewish.

. Let's get Epstein, the American rabbi, in the same room with Berdenstein, the Israeli. They can point at each other and yell, "Not Jewish! Not Jewish!"

I saved the best for last.

Danny Ababa, Diaspora reporter for Israel's largest daily, Yediot Aharonot, told The Jerusalem Post that "this whole business [the GA] is one big kiss-up to rich people. American Jews are not authentic; they're obsessed with money; there's something annoying about them."

There's something annoying about certain Israelis too, no? Do we hear the ancient cry, "Money! All you people ever think about is money!"

If it were not so sad, it would be funny, as all such lovers' quarrels are. Danny Ababa is the ultimate success story of Zionism. We wanted to create the "New Jew," a normal fellow just like all others, and we succeeded. Naturally, a certain number of these new Jews, like Danny, are somewhat anti-Semitic, right? What else can you expect?

Yes, that's right Danny Ababa, charities have to think about money. That is what they do. Some of the money gets to you - to us. Don't you like the nice money?

Someone had a wise suggestion, quoted in the article about the UJC:

[A] participant from New England ... wondered whether "the GA should include sessions where Israelis talk about how they can start solving social problems in their own communities."

We are supposed to have a forum like that already. It's called the Knesset. Still, we can take a hint. Perhaps it is really time that we stopped taking all that nice money, and took care of our own affairs. We will have to cut back on some things. Do we really need armies of Yeshiva students? Do we really have to spend huge sums on political campaigns? Can't Mr. Olmert and Mr. Netanyahu do without their expensive suits and fat seegars? If shirt sleeves were good enough for Ben Gurion, they should be good enough for Bibi. Mr Barak will need to live in an NIS 2 million apartment instead of one that is worth NIS 20 million. He can donate the difference to Sderot. Ben Gurion lived in a much simpler house and so did Mr Begin. Mr Talansky and all the Mr Talansky clones can stop sending their brown envelopes of cash to whomever they have been sending them lately, and give their money to Hebrew education in the USA, instead of financing "Only Bibi is Good for the Jews" stickers and the like. We Israelis will have to stop living beyond our means like 19th century upper class students dependent on their parents. Then we won't resent those who give the money, as all dependents do, and then they won't feel they can tell us who is a Jew and who is not a Jew and how to run our lives.

In the English language Israeli press at least, some of the reports indicate that American Jews may need us as much as we need them, or more. The CEO of Taglit is reported as saying that Assimilation is a bigger threat to Jewish people than anti-Semitism. Taglit's cure is bringing young people to Israel. Yes Rabbi Epstein, we know that there is more to being Jewish than speaking Hebrew and closing stores on Shavuot. Nonetheless, apparently we have an essential ingredient in the totality of Jewishness that is missing in the Diaspora. Perhaps we are doing something right after all, and perhaps we have a different reality here than you do in America, and have adapted Judaism to that reality, so that we have a place in Judaism for atheists and even for Jews who do not close their stores on Shavuot at all.

Rabbi Epstein, we are certain that you have a great deal to teach us about Judaism. Some day, perhaps you will find it in your heart to make your home here, and to give us all the benefit of your wisdom. Until then, both sides need to practice a bit more of that part of the totality of Judaism that is called "Derekh Eretz" - civility. as well as the part about not doing to your friend that which is hateful to you. Everybody needs to learn that there is more to being Jewish than badmouthing other Jews and passing judgment on who is a Jew.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000627.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 3 Comments

"I wonder if the longed for peace will not bring instead internecine fighting between the religious and the secular here in Israel."

I wouldn't worry about that. First, there is not going to be peace. Secondly, even if there is peace it will be antagonistic enough not to feel like peace. And even if not, the conflict between religious and secular is not nearly as great.

Micha, Saturday, November 22nd

Excellent riposte, Ami. As to Karmafishīs comment, I wonder if the longed for peace will not bring instead internecine fighting between the religious and the secular here in Israel.

opensoc, Saturday, November 22nd

The American Jewish community, of which I am one member, is exceedingly diverse. Included in it are people of various degrees of religiousness, as well as plenty of entirely secular Jews (such as myself) who still self-identify as Jewish.

I'm very sorry to read about the tension between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews. My suspicion is that the great majority of American Jews are not involved in any such tensions and care a great deal about the well-being of Israel.

What we all want, for the most part, is peace in the region and an economically viable state thriving peacefully alongside Israel.

Karmafish, Saturday, November 22nd

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