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Israel and US Jews: Affinity or alienation?

Jewish Peoplehood Index Project, to be presented at Herzliya Conference this week, reveals findings regarding relations between world's two largest Jewish communities

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 02.03.09, 08:34 / Israel Jewish Scene

A new study on the affinity and similarity between Israel and US Jews, which will be presented at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, reveals that while both groups highly value one another, they also lack basic knowledge about their fellow community.

 

These findings, which are based on scientific surveys carried out in Israel and the US in the past year, are included in the Jewish Peoplehood Index Project, a research headed by Prof. Yoav Shoham of Stanford University, Nimrod Gur, and Prof. Uzi Arad of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

 

The study revealed that both Israeli and American Jews attribute great importance to their Jewish identity, with replies yielding an average score of 83 (85 among Israelis and 81 among US Jews).

 

Additionally, it found that US Jews perceive Israel as a more important spiritual center for the Jewish people than the US (a score of 81 versus 77), while Israeli Jews tended to agree, and said that Israel was a more important spiritual center than the US (86 versus 61).

 

In terms of mutual respect for one another, respondents in both societies gave an average score of 67. This category, which reflects the sense of pride or disappointment with the other community, showed that US Jews value Israeli Jews more than the latter value them: 70 and 64 respectively.

 

Interviewees were asked to respond to the following statement: "We should relate to Jews married to non-Jews as part of the Jewish People in the same way as we relate to Jews married to Jews." The average score– 64 – showed that both societies were generally tolerant towards the concept of intermarriage, with US Jews being more liberal on the matter than Israelis (69 and 59 respectively).

 

The study also sought to establish the level of knowledge held by each society with regards to the other. Both groups scored poorly, yielding an average score of 39.

 

'Ties vital for Jewish people's future'

The Jewish Peoplehood Index project will be presented Tuesday in a special session initiated by the NADAV Fund, which backs initiatives designed to strengthen Jewish peoplehood, build substantive and pluralistic Jewish identity, and create lasting connections among Jews the world over.

 

The fund's chairman, Mr. Leonid Nevzlin, will chair a session on global Jewish peoplehood at the Herzliya Conference that will focus on the study's findings.

 

The project's initiators said that "strong ties and solidarity between Jewish communities worldwide, especially with Israel, are vital for the future of the Jewish people, but they must be founded on a new treaty.

 

"The old treaty – by which financial, political and moral support is given in exchange for being a source of pride and a safe haven in the case of anti-Semitic violence in the future – is rapidly becoming invalid."

 

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