Religion & Beliefs

This Just In: Not All Young Jews Want to Make Aliyah

I just finished reading an article at Jpost about ‘The Conference on the Future of the Jewish People’ that took place in Jerusalem this week. Apparently the conference was opened with a speech about how “Young Jews don't identify with … Read More

By / July 13, 2007

I just finished reading an article at Jpost about ‘The Conference on the Future of the Jewish People’ that took place in Jerusalem this week. Apparently the conference was opened with a speech about how “Young Jews don't identify with Jewish peoplehood and have no real sense of collective identity.” The woman who made that speech is getting her PhD at Brandeis, where, apparently, there aren’t any young Jews with a sense of peoplehood or collective identity. First of all, peoplehood is not a word. Second of all, what the fuck? Oh but wait, it gets worse:

Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the attendees of his vision of the Jewish world's future. He noted that not all Diaspora Jews intended to make aliya, and that Jewish identity within the State of Israel also needed to be strengthened.

Full Story Great Scot! Not ALL Jews want to make aliyah? Why on earth not? I mean, okay, Israel does have a government that the World Bank calls “inefficient, with high levels of corruption and a low rate of law enforcement.” And yes, the highest religious authorities in Israel sometimes turn out to be into bribery and kidnapping. And yeah, there are riots breaking out in the ultra-Orthodox communities of Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph and Bet because police removed signs requesting that all women in the area conform to certain standards of modest dress. And fine, yes, simply having a bank account in Israel is a huge pain in the ass, but really, it’s hard to understand why every diaspora Jew isn’t clamoring to get on a Nefesh b’Nefesh plane. And that’s not even considering the security situation/Palestinian conflict. I love Israel. I really do. I’m a hardcore Zionist, I care deeply about “Jewish peoplehood” and I’m about as involved in the Jewish community as a person can be, but I’m totally uninterested in making aliyah anytime soon. There are, I guess, a lot of reasons for this, but mainly what prevents me from seriously considering life in Israel is the frustrating fact that in Israel, no matter where you go, you’re either a religious fanatic, or a complete heathen. It seems like the whole country is constantly positioning itself against whatever/whoever else happens to be present, and while I enjoy a contrary stance, it can be distracting and depressing to constantly have to identify oneself as not this, and not that. Whenever I’m in Israel, I feel like walking down the street in Jerusalem is just inviting the public to judge me, and inevitably everyone who walks by is either haredi, or secular enough that my covered shoulders indicate to them that I’m one of those obnoxious and weak religious people. And though I admit that there is a tangible spiritual intensity to being in Israel, I’m not sure it’s always a helpful or good thing. It makes people so much more combative and angry and convinced that God is absolutely on their side. More and more young people are seeking out spirituality in their lives, and I’m confident that lots of them are looking into Judaism. They may not have a sense of “peoplehood” because they’ve been alienated by the non-religious community their whole lives. Maybe they’re “half-Jewish,” or maybe the only synagogue they ever went to was huge and impersonal and decorated in avocado and brown in 1976. And maybe they don’t want to move to Israel because their family and friends live in Wisconsin, and Israel’s political leader has an even lower approval rating that America’s political leader. I’m not sure we need to despair for those young people. There are a lot of problems to solve in the Jewish community, but a lack of “peoplehood” and a lack of unanimous desire to move to Israel are not even in my top ten.