By Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy, Mosaic—
In its recently released survey comparing Jewish opinion in the U.S. and Israel, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) once again confirmed the growing gulf between the world’s two largest Jewish communities. In key areas ranging from politics to public prayer, from prime ministers to presidents, from peoplehood to peace processing, large gaps separate American Jews from their Israeli counterparts. Worried stories in the press followed the report’s release, with one essay ominously concluding: “The End of the Jewish People Is Here.”
And yet, the survey also testified to something else: 66 percent of American Jews and 78 percent of Israelis describe each other as “siblings,” “first cousins,” or “extended family.” What is more, they assert a sense of common destiny: roughly three-quarters of American and Israeli Jews see the success of both communities as vital to Jewish survival.
Here, then, is an up-to-date snapshot of the Jewish people: clashing frequently, arguing intensely, but for the most part unwilling to call it quits. In some ways, of course, this is nothing new. But however familiar it may be historically, it has taken on today an acutely bifurcated character. Thus, to put a complex phenomenon somewhat reductively, just as most Israelis saw Barack Obama’s Iran policy as an existential threat to their survival in the Middle East, most American Jews see Donald Trump’s presidency as an existential threat to their survival as a welcomed minority in a stable, tolerant United States.
What results is an odd form of mirror-imaging. If most American Jews can’t abide Donald Trump and resent his popularity in Israel, many Israelis resent those same American Jews for hating Trump so much they can’t even thank him for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. American Jews grumble: you Israelis insulted our former president, whom we loved; now you love our current president, whom we hate. Israelis return the volley: you American Jews loved your former president who threatened us; now you hate your current president, who protects us. Continue reading….
Natan Sharansky, the international human-rights activist who spent nearly a decade in Soviet prison as a refusenik, has served in ministerial positions in several Israeli governments. He has recently stepped down after nine years as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is the author of Fear No Evil, The Case for Democracy, and Defending Identity.
Gil Troy is Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of nine books on the American presidency and three books on Zionism, including, most recently, The Zionist Ideas.