Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner Newsletter
June 2010
Dear Friends,

Events during the past few months have placed Israel at the center of public debate. In June, Peter Beinart argued in the New York Review of Books that Zionism and liberalism are increasingly at odds, in part because American pro-Israel groups are excessively tolerant of right-wing tendencies in Israel. Some Israel advocates contend (see, for example, this exchange between the ADL's Abraham H. Foxman and Beinart) that Beinart misreads the situation. Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe also argued in Tablet Magazine that Beinart misread the survey data from which he drew his conclusions. (Discussion of Beinart's position will certainly continue; Beinart himself will speak at a BJPA event on October 5th.)

The Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner ( contains a wealth of resources useful for exploring and tracking American Jews' attitudes toward Israel.

Over the years, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has published numerous studies of American Jewish opinions on Israel, including its recent 2010 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Last year, AJC's "Ripples From the Matzav" presented conclusions from 150 interviews with Jews in over 20 American communities, discussing how events in Israel affected their lives. Seeking to measure the impact of specific events, AJC also undertook surveys in order to ascertain American Jewish opinions on Israel following the Gulf War, in the wake of the Israel-PLO accord, and in the aftermath of the Rabin assassination. In 1989, I wrote an article for the AJC ("Are American and Israeli Jews Drifting Apart?") discussing trends in levels of interest, enthusiasm and philanthropy amongst American Jews on behalf of Israel.

My work under various auspices has dealt frequently with this topic, including "Are Reform Jews Abandoning Israel?" in 1988, "Israel in the Jewish Identity of American Jews" in 1991, "Are American and Israeli Jews Drifting Apart?" in 1992, a reconsideration of the same question in 1996, "Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation From Israel" with Ari Y. Kelman in 2007, and "Israel  Off Their Minds: The Diminished Place of Israel in the Political Thinking of Young Jews" with Sam Abrams in 2008.

Concerns about American Jewish disconnection with Israel, especially amongst the young, are not new. In 1974, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life published "Changing Student Attitudes Toward Israel."  Historian Jonathan D. Sarna suggested in 1996 ("A Projection of America as it Ought to Be: Zion in the Mind's Eye of American Jews" ) that from the beginnings of American Zionist activity, American Jews thought of Eretz Yisrael as "an idealized dream world."

Gil Troy argued in 2003 that hasbara (advocacy-oriented communication) has failed to win over American Jewish college students to the cause of Israel advocacy. Republican pollster Frank Luntz conducted focus group research on Israel messaging with young Jewish subjects in 2003. He reported that young Jews reject anything that sounds like propaganda or groupthink.

Not everyone agrees that American Jewish disengagement from Israel is necessarily occurring at all. For example, Charles Kadushin, Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe challenged the "distancing hypothesis," claiming that the data do not suggest as simple a case as others conclude. These authors also argued in the Jerusalem Post that survey data reveals a surprising resilience in American Jewry's connection to Israel. Nor are the definitions of disconnection and disengagement matters of uniform agreement. The pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, J Street has conducted its own research (their 2010 National Survey of American Jews) claiming that a most American Jews support many J Street positions.

As news of the attitudes and actions of American Jews toward Zionism and the Israeli-Arab conflict evolve, the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner will continue to gather emerging relevant documentation for your use.

With best wishes,
Prof. Steven M. Cohen
Director, Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner

Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities

In a new report just released by NYU Wagner's RCLA and BJPA, Dr. David Elcott finds that most Jewish Baby Boomers see retirement as a time for work and service, not rest.

But he argues that organizations serving ethnic or religious communities are unprepared to tap this potentially huge influx of talent and experience. Based on a nationwide survey of 34 metropolitan Jewish communities conducted in July 2009, the survey elicited attitudes of more than 6,500 individual Baby Boomer respondents about their future plans for public service and civic engagement.

In addition to analyzing the survey data, Elcott offers recommendations on how the Jewish community can find substantial pathways that will engage Baby Boomers in communal institutional life.

To read the full report, click HERE


Ten more issues of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service

Two recent issues of Sh'ma Magazine

Twelve Masters Theses by students in the
HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service

And much, much, more.

Click HERE for our latest additions.

Click HERE for our new publications.

Bookshelf & Bibliography

The bookshelf allows users to keep a personalized list of BJPA articles to make it easier to return to items of interest. The bibliography function allows users to generate multiple lists of citations, organize them, and share them with others.

Simply register for a account to access these tools. 

Love, Hate & the Jewish State 3.0: What's Jewish about a Jewish State?

Thursday, June 24 at 7:00 pm
The JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th Street
Cost: $10

Register here.

Do your social justice values impact the way that you relate to Israel as the Jewish state? 
Join us for the third in a series of highly interactive, non-persuasive, open discussions with a diverse group of people in their 20s and 30s.  The program will be followed by a reception.
Hosted by Joel Chasnoff, Comedian and Author of The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah.

This event is brought to you by the New Israel Fund and Makom and is co-sponsored by BJPA and a growing list of other organizations.

Follow BJPA on Twitter and become our fan on Facebook!

BJPA is funded by the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation and the Charles H. Revson Foundation.