Israel and American Youth
By Yaron Yavelberg, Israeli Representative for Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
The word has spread within Israeli society, especially among those connected with Jewish organizations in the U.S., that the younger generation in America is drifting away from their Jewish identity and from their connection to Israel. While this is well supported by research and demographic studies, I have a different point of view.
For more than five years I have been evaluating Israel programs from the Atlanta and St. Louis Federations, and for the past two years have served as their representative in Yokneam and Meggido. After recently visiting both of these American communities, I believe that the establishment of the Jewish state is still a work in progress, and that young American Jews must have a stake in its development.
For older generations, supporting Israel meant taking part in the miracle of the establishment of a free Jewish state in the land of Israel. For younger generations, Israel is a given — a strong and confident nation like any other. I believe both perspectives are inaccurate. Not quite 70 years old, Israel is an infant among national states. It is still struggling for its values, its security, its character. It still requires the involvement of American Jews, not just through philanthropic vehicles, but with knowledge, experience, perspective and nuance.
Israel is more than a place of terror attacks. Arabs and Jews are working together on dozens of social and business projects. When was the last time you heard about this? Ethiopian Jewish women, who were born in an isolated village in Ethiopia, were appointed as judges in Israeli court. Did you know this? Israeli technology and science are breaking the limits of imagination, for all humankind. It is our responsibility, in Federations and other Jewish organizations, to be a bridge to the younger generation. We must connect them with Israel with messages like these.
Last, but not least, we are family. Going back just four generations, we all were from the same places. Diaspora Jews supported Israel from day one, and the people of Israel will never forget that bond. Most Israelis are curious about American Jews, sometimes ignorant, but always willing to deepen the relationship. G-d willing, Israel will always be here for you and your families. Come visit us, engage with us, and write your personal chapter of Israel’s amazing story.