The Israeli Diaspora as a Catalyst for Jewish Peoplehood: Executive Summary
An Emerging Opportunity within the Changing Relationship between Israel and the Jewish world
The changing paradigm in Israel and Jewish world relations
This report offers a conceptual framework for understanding the place and potential role of the Israeli Diaspora within the changing paradigm between Israel and the Jewish world.
While the 'old relationship' between Israel and world Jewry was based upon an unwritten covenant grounded in classical Zionism, the emerging paradigm is shaped by partnership and mutuality, with the notion of Jewish Peoplehood taking center stage. This changing dynamic presents an opportunity for the Jewish people.
The changing nature of the Israeli Diaspora
The Israeli Diaspora as a distinct entity with its own unique added value to the Jewish people has yet to realize its potential within the 'new paradigm'.
Classical Zionism was based on the negation of the Diaspora and a strong moral and ideological call for the imperative of aliyah. Hence, within this framework, the traditional view of the Israeli Diaspora was characterized by the following working assumptions and patterns of behavior:
Local Jewish community viewed Israeli immigrants as 'outsiders' – A lack of clear policy together with ideological and cultural factors resulted in an inability and unwillingness to engage Israelis in organized Jewish life;
Israeli immigrants generally felt alienated from local Jewish communal life – Many new Israeli immigrants and even 'veteran' Israeli families see themselves as culturally different from local Jewish families, and find little or no areas of overlap;
Israelis tend to be a collection of individuals with little communal DNA - Israeli immigrants tend to spend time in their informal social circles, and generally do not see value in investing in or establishing formal communal institutions;
There is little sense of 'culture of involvement' among Israelis – Israelis tend to be accustomed to a weak Israeli philanthropic culture as well as a self-perception as aid recipients rather than providers;
Israelis have little or no connection to Jewish life – A distinction between Jewish and Israelis identities makes it difficult for Israelis in North America to relate to an organized and active Jewish life;
First generation Israelis view Hebrew as the most important component of childhood education – The ability to communicate, read, and write in Hebrew is seen as a guarantee that their children's 'Israeliness' will be preserved;
Those who left Israel were viewed as a liability to aliyah.
This mindset is beginning to erode in light of a series of recent trends. Our research identified the following emerging trends both within and outside of the Israeli community itself:
From aliyah/yerida to ‘life of fluid movement' - The dichotomous relationship between aliyah and yerida is changing: an increasing number of Israelis are choosing to build a life in more than one Jewish community;
Local Jewish communities are beginning to engage Israelis - In recent years, Jewish institutions such as Federations, Jewish day schools and Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have begun to invest resources in reaching out to the Israelis within their community;
Israelis are increasingly seeking to be part of the community - Recent years have seen a surge in the involvement of Israelis in organized Jewish life including in synagogues, Jewish day schools and even membership on the board of local JCCs;
Israelis are beginning to self-organize as a community - Local Israeli community organizations have begun to blossom in recent years, showing a thirst for a vibrant Israeli life;
Israelis are beginning to develop a culture of giving - More Israeli immigrants are beginning to see value and assume responsibility towards their community, as expressed in investment of both time and resources;
Israelis are realizing that 'Israeliness' is not enough - In the absence of a strong form of connection to Jewish culture and heritage, many Israelis are beginning to realize that the Israeli national ‘container’ may not be enough to ensure a resilient Jewish-Israeli identity;
Jewish education is offering one possible answer to receding Israeli identity - Many first generation Israeli parents are beginning to understand that Hebrew-language instruction is only one component of maintaining a Jewish-Israeli identity;
From an aliyah liability to an asset for the state of Israel - While in the past, Israeli immigrants were perceived as a liability to aliyah, today we are seeing signs of interest that go beyond attempts to bring them back to Israel.
These nascent trends are at varied stages of their emergence, and naturally their manifestation differs from community to community.