The surest way to avoid indifference to Jewish life
Jack Wertheimer, professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, published an article this week entitled, Which American Jews are most distant from Israel?,that appeared on the eJP website.
The article is part of a trend of inquiry, especially although not exclusively in the U.S., that tries to understand why so many younger Jews feel a diminished connection, if any at all, to the Jewish State. Prof. Wertheimer examines a number of recent surveys of the American Jewish community and draws this very simple conclusion: “[A]mong the rank and file of American Jews, those who are very attached to Israel also are far, far more involved with all aspects of Jewish life than those who claim no attachment to Israel.”
Wertheimer suggests that “two major circumstances” underpin the worrisome phenomenon of alienation from Israel.
“One is the limited Jewish education large numbers of American Jews receive. Surely it is not accidental that Jews who claim the weakest connections to Israel also are more likely to have missed out on immersive Jewish educational experiences…
“Second, and perhaps as a consequence, those who feel least connected to Israel in the aggregate also do not identify strongly with Jewish collective needs. When asked about feeling responsible for helping ‘fellow Jews in need around the world,’ the number who feel a great deal of responsibility drops from 53% for those very attached to Israel to just 8% among those not very attached.”
Distance from Israel, Wertheimer writes, is a symptom of indifference to Jewish life. Instilling in our children a lifelong desire to care for the Jewish people, for Jewish history and for Jewish life at home and abroad, therefore, is the most certain way to also instill in our children a lifelong desire to care for and about the State of Israel.
Prof. Wertheimer’s essay thus bring us back to the very heart of the matter concerning (affordable) Jewish education. But we state the proposition stronger than he did.
In our view, caring for Israel is indeed – not merely “perhaps” – a consequence of Jewish education, namely, “immersive Jewish educational experiences.” But we also add that caring for the State of Israel is not the reason to seek Jewish education for children. Rather, caring to lead a meaningful Jewish life is. And as history teaches us, leading a meaningful Jewish life inherently includes caring for the State of Israel. And that is why GAJE’s mission is to try to help make Jewish education in Ontario truly affordable.
Prof. Wertheimer’s article can be found at:
If you wish to help underwrite GAJE’s lawsuit to achieve fairness and justice in educational funding in Ontario, please click here.
For further information, please contact Israel Mida at email@example.com
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE),
March 4, 2022