The Israel Connection and American Jews

The Israel Connection and American Jews

The Israel Connection and American Jews

The Israel Connection and American Jews

Synopsis

Mittelberg analyzes the effect of the Israel visit/experience upon the ethnic identity of American Jews. For most American Jews, being Jewish carries both religious and ethnic connotations. It is because of this dual context that the Israel visit has a different significance for American Jews when compared to visits of members of other ethnic groups back to their homelands. As Mittelberg argues, the relationship of American Jews to Israel is bound up in the broader concept of peoplehood, a notion that encompasses a shared sense of religion, nationality, language, culture, and history.

Approximately one-third of the American Jewish population has visited Israel. Using a variety of survey data, Mittelberg examines the impact such visits have had on American Jews in terms of their affinity with Israel as well as their bonds to the American Jewish community.

Excerpt

The context for this study is derived from two sources, the biographical and the intellectual. Within this context, I would like to relate to my reasons for writing this book? My decision to write this book is linked to my biography. in 1965 I was offered a scholarship for a year course in Israel called the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad. That year in Israel was critical in redefining the values of my Jewish commitment. I had long since left the Talmud Torah and had gone through a stage of rejection of traditional Orthodoxy, especially as it seemed to the in its archaic manifestations. It was not yet clear to the how being in Israel and being Jewish came together but in that year, in addition to studying Hebrew, I learned how I could be both modern and Jewish at the same time. At that point I think I probably decided that in one form or another I would resolve the tensions between being Jewish and modem in Israel and in kibbutz; the tensions between the religious and the secular, between Israel and the Diaspora, between the particular and the universal, between Yiddish and Hebrew. I returned to Australia after that year, accepted a senior role in the Habonim youth movement, and generally developed in that period a public profile as a Zionist activist within the Jewish community and a radical activist on campus.

On January 6, 1972 my wife Shoshana and I made aliya to Israel. We have three children who were born in Israel on Kibbutz Yizreel. From 1979 to 1980 I served as World General Secretary of Habonim, reimmersing myself in Zionist political life. I went from the more comfortable everyday work world of the kibbutz to accepting responsibility for the Jewish identity of young Jews, primarily those who had not yet come to Israel. Those were heady years in which I had my first insights into the nature of Israeli politics, the politics of the kibbutz movement, and Israeli society in general, primarily through me intensive relationship that I developed with the late Mussa Harif, at that time . . .

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