Israelis don’t want US Jews meddling in Israeli political and religious issues

A new study has concluded that most Israelis value US Jewry but not their positions on internal state issues.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A recently published study on Israeli Jews’ attitude toward their American counterparts shows that most of those who live in the Jewish state do not consider their co-religionists’ position on Israeli policies even nearly as important as their own.

This is true in areas of religion and state and even more so on the political front, regarding the conflict with the Palestinians and Israeli security.

On religious matters that have raised the ire of many liberal American Jews over the past few years, such as conversion, prayer space at the Western Wall and the status of Reform and Conservative Jews, about 55% of Israelis “reject giving much heed to the views of US Jewish leaders.” The report also noted that among those who do lean towards listening to their American counterparts, only about 15% are “greatly” in favor of taking their opinions into consideration.

When it comes to the way Israel’s government handles the sensitive issue of relations with the Palestinians, there is a firm two-thirds majority that says American Jewish leaders’ opinions should not be taken into account.

However, three quarters of Israeli Jews value American Jewry. In that context, the same percentage also feels that both communities share a common destiny to at least some extent. A whopping 93% believe that Jews in the United States and Israel should be responsible for each other’s welfare, with 81% agreeing that American Jews’ support is essential for the security of the country.

In addition, Israelis are quite enthusiastic about strengthening their co-religionists’ bonds with the Jewish state. Nine out of 10 favor the Birthright program, which brings young Jews who had never visited Israel on a free 10-day trip that introduces them to the country. However, when asked if the government should pay for young Israelis to experience American Jewish life, only 63% agreed it would be a good idea.

The UJA Federation of New York commissioned the study, titled “Together and Apart: Israeli Jews’ Views on their Relationship to American Jews and Religious Pluralism” in late 2017. Its chief researcher is American-Israeli Steven M. Cohen, a well-known scholar of Jewish communal issues in both Israel and the US who has written a dozen books and is research professor of Jewish Social Policy at New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

The study’s stated purpose was to “help American Jewish leadership better understand the perspectives of Israeli Jews that are important to both Jewries.” The researchers, via an online questionnaire, surveyed 2,050 Israeli Jews 18 years of age and older across the political spectrum with diverse levels of education and religious observance.