Written by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute in 2008, this lengthy article looks at how the relationship between Israel and Jewish Diaspora communities has deteriorated as each one becomes stronger and more successful, independent of the other. He calls on both sides to replace misconceptions of the other with more nuanced views, and challenges them to come together in the common goal of creating a model society in Israel, dependent on the unique sensibilities and visions of each community. Although it was written in 2008, this piece is still very relevant and seen as a seminal article on the topic. See a summary below.
- World Jewry in the Eyes of Israel: Quoting a wide range of Zionist leaders, Hartman shows how the “Isra-centric” ideology of Israeli Jews leads to a deep misunderstanding and feelings of superiority over Diaspora Jewry. Israeli Jews primarily see those in the Diaspora as ambassadors for Israel and re-affirmers of the centrality of the Jewish State to contemporary Jewish life, as they expect to see reflected in both financial and political support. Despite threats of assimilation, North American Jewish communities are strong, vibrant and committed to staying put.
- Israel in the Eyes of World Jewry: Many Jews in the Diaspora, on the other hand, see Israel as an “endangered fairy-tale land” of inspirational Jewish tourist experiences and strong, brave, resourceful locals, unwilling to acknowledge the complexity and failures of the place and its people. Paradoxically, they also see Israel as a country constantly fighting for survival, dependent on the financial and political support of Diaspora Jewry. While this narrative places well-meaning philanthropists in the meaningful role of partner and savior, it is inaccurate, unsustainable, and not the basis for a long-term mutual relationship.
- Telling a Different Story: Hartman believes that a healthy dynamic between Israeli and world Jewry depends on each side’s ability to replace the existing narratives with more honest, nuanced realities. Israeli Jewry must expand its own Jewish identity beyond sovereignty and land to include the 3000 years of Jewish tradition that serve as the roots as modern Zionism. They must learn to value the contributions of Diaspora Jewry to contemporary Judaism and the diversity, pluralism and openness of Jewish life around the world. World Jewry, on the other hand, must accept the depth and vitality of Israel, the unique challenges and opportunities of creating a Jewish state, and the rejuvenated role of culture, language and physicality in Jewish identity.
- Israel as Paradigm: Hartman suggestions that the new Israeli narrative should be the challenge and responsibility to create a model society based on the highest standards of Jewish tradition.
- A New Partnership: In order to fulfil the above vision, Israel and world Jewry need to come together as equal, mature partners working together toward a shared goal. Hartman acknowledges that Israeli Jewry is dependent on the vision, expertise and resources of Diaspora Jewry, and must be open to Jewish leaders from the Diaspora taking leadership roles in solving critical problems in the Jewish state.
- Disagreement as a Sign of Love: Noting the unavoidable challenges of such a partnership, Hartman encourages both sides to see criticism and disagreement as signs of commitment to each other and a shared cause, and an opportunity for growth and learning. While encouraging Israelis to approach Diaspora Jewry with humility and openness, Hartman concludes that Jews not living in Israel will never be equal partners, and Israelis will ultimately be the final decision makers on Israeli policies.
Thank you for rating!