Cite: Sasson, American Jews’ Changing Relationship to Israel

Sasson, Theodore. "Mass Mobilization to Direct Engagement: American Jews’ Changing Relationship to Israel." Israel Studies 15,2 (2010): 173-195.

 

URL: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/israel_studies/summary/v015/15.2.sasson.html

 

Abstract

The practices of American Jews relative to Israel seem increasingly to break with patterns established during the second half of the 20th century. Lobbying by American Jewish organizations on the political left and right increasingly competes with the consensus-oriented efforts of organizations such as AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO). Direct giving to Israeli civil society organizations has replaced the federations’ annual campaigns as the primary vehicle for diaspora philanthropy. The number of American Jewish teens and young adults visiting Israel has surged, but most are going with private tour companies under the auspices of Birthright Israel rather than programs of the North American denominations. Aliyah is up, but managed by Nefesh b’Nefesh, a private not-for-profit organization, rather than the Jewish Agency for Israel. In short, how American Jews relate to Israel is very much in flux.

This study argues that the mass mobilization model that organized American Jewish practices relative to Israel since the founding of state has declined, and a new direct engagement model has emerged alongside it. Increasingly American Jews relate to Israel directly, by advocating their own political views, funding favored causes, visiting frequently or living there part time, consuming Israeli news and entertainment, and expressing a distinctively "realistic" rather than idealistic orientation toward the Jewish state. Their new homeland practices have given rise to (and been encouraged by) a new set of organizations that operate privately, beyond the orbit of the semi-public agencies of the established American Jewish polity.

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