It is no secret that over the years, the relationship between American Jewry and the State of Israel has had its ups and downs. In recent years, it has had more downs than ups. Today, it’s at a point where many American Jews who care about Israel feel that it alienates them, doesn’t accept them as Jews, and certainly not as Jews with equal rights.
Moreover, many American Jews reject the association of Judaism with the State of Israel altogether, or that they have any special affiliation to the Jewish state because they are Jews. Just recently, Business Insider published a story about Jewish Americans fiercely condemning President Trump for statements they regard as “textbook antisemitism.”
According to the paper, “During an annual White House conference call to honor the upcoming High Holidays … Trump told American Jewish leaders, ‘We really appreciate you, we love your country also and thank you very much.’” To get the point across, one Jewish leader said, “It’s really important that we separate out American Jews and Israel — we are not one and the same. It’s antisemitic to suggest that we are.” Another leader stressed, “Trump seems unable to grasp the simple fact that Jewish Americans are Americans, period.”
Evidently, the chasm between parts of American Jewry and the State of Israel is so wide that there is complete estrangement. But while these American Jews see no connection between them and Israel, they do identify as Jews and feel connected to Judaism.
Naturally, I would like to see all Jews united around the world. But realistically speaking, this is currently impossible. And in truth, I don’t think it’s a tragedy we cannot overcome. The important point to keep in mind is not the connection of Jews to the State of Israel, but the connection of Jews to fellow Jews. As I will explain below, if American Jewry achieves this, they will be welcome anywhere and everywhere, and it would eliminate antisemitism.
Although most Jews would like to think of themselves as the same as everyone, they aren’t the same as everyone and no one treats them as such. However uncomfortable this makes us feel, Jews are different, and virtually everyone but Jews admits it.
Therefore, there is no point declaring that “Jewish Americans are Americans, period.” The truth is that to a great many Americans, Jewish Americans are first of all Jews, and then, perhaps, Americans. And since Jews are singled out anyhow, it is in their best interest to know how they can be singled out for praise rather than for condemnation.
Here is where the Jewish vocation comes into play. Jews coined the terms “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend.” Jews were tasked with being “a light unto nations,” to rise above their egoism and learn to love each other despite each one’s faults. They were singled out to serve as a role model society based on love rather than on hate and selfishness.