Daniel Gordis has written a brilliantly concise book about Israeli and American Jews that attempts to explain how the division has become a wedge issue. There is a beautifully written sequence surrounding the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Daniel remembers being in synagogue and the transistor radio that was supposed to be used for the latest baseball update became a lifeline to the onset of the war.
Scary stuff when you hear orthodox rabbis make statements that reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers, wicked sons, or that they are destroying Judaism. Shocking to hear that weddings and conversions done by non-orthodox rabbis are not recognized by the state!
The schism between American Jews and Israeli is not about what Israel does but who Israel is. Is it really the center of world Jewry? In 1960 the Israeli Knesset found the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann and wanted to try him in Israel. American Jews were outraged—they wanted him tried in an International tribune. Why should Israel speak for all Jews?
There was an unfounded theory by Zionists that Jews in America were in exile. That they should be returning to Israel despite all the freedoms and opportunity that America offered.
I was shocked about General Patton being antisemitic. That surely wasn’t addressed in the Oscar winning film in the 1970’s.
Gordis proposes various solutions to heal the wounds between American Jews and Israelis. Some of the proposals are standard. Comparing the riff to divorce and that a temporary separation might work. Of course, trying to understand the other side is always a good fall back plan.
So we are left with a somewhat unbeat ending to a difficult and complex issue.