Israel To Ex-Pats: Come Home Before Your Kids Start Celebrating Xmas
11/30/2011 - 16:48

Hat tip to Jeffrey Goldberg and The Jewish Channel for bringing to our attention a series of scare-tactic commercials the Israeli government's Ministry of Absorption is running to encourage Israeli Jews in the U.S. to return home — before it’s too late.

By too late, I mean before they start dating clueless Americans (Jewish or otherwise) who don’t “understand” Israeli holidays like Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance, and before they start having children who call them “Daddy” instead of “Abba” and talk about Christmas instead of Chanukah.

To my delight, Goldberg, who can always be relied upon for an astute analysis but has not previously, to the best of my knowledge, had much to say about intermarriage, noted in his discussion of the Israeli government’s $790,000 ad campaign, that while his views are “complicated,” intermarriage “can also be understood as an opportunity.”


Here’s more of what he has to say:

I don't think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads. I understand the impulse behind them: Israel wants as many of its citizens as possible to live in Israel. This is not an abnormal desire. But the way it is expressed, in wholly negative terms, is somewhat appalling. How about, "Hey, come back to Israel, because our unemployment rate is half that of the U.S.'s"? Or, "It's always sunny in Israel"? Or, "Hey, Shmulik, your mother misses you"?


These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America. How else are we supposed to understand the "Christmas" ad? Obviously, assimilation and intermarriage are issues in America in ways they aren't in Israel. Israel has other problems of course, such as the fact that many of its rabbis act like Iranian mullahs. (I'm not even going to try to unpack my complicated beliefs about intermarriage and assimilation and life in the Diaspora here; that's for a book. But let me just say that intermarriage can also be understood as an opportunity.)

The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don't mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.


I hope some American Jews put together a parody version highlighting the dangers of Americans making aliyah and producing bizarre offspring who call them “Ima,” cut in lines, and are ignorant about July 4 and Thanksgiving. (You could do two versions of this: the secular Israeli child who hates all things religious and the Orthodox Israeli child who hates all things secular). Bear in mind, I say this lovingly, as an Israphile who has lived in Israel and even hosted an Israel birthday party for my daughter (who occasionally, of her own volition, calls me "ima").

Another video waiting for some enterprising parody-maker: an ad encouraging Arab Israelis who’ve settled elsewhere to come home? (I won’t even get into the Palestinian “right of return” minefield here, but that might be an amusing parody as well.)

Also, while we’re sort of on the topic of Jews and Christmas (one of the Israeli commercials feature a tot who, when menorah-lighting Saba [Zayde] and Savta [Bubbe] ask via Skype what holiday it is, yells out “Christmas!”): I’ll be talking about the so-called December Dilemma this Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Come see me! The free event includes free food!

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You can't argue the facts - American Jews assimilate and Israelis who come here assimilate even faster. The numbers speak louder than the unfortunate video ads that met an early demise thanks to Goldberg and his gang of Pro-Assimilators. Kol HaKavod and I hope your son isn't one of the ones who has to explain to his children why his parents celebrate that strange, archaic holiday with the candelabra.

Hey Julie: How about another parody describing an intermarried "journalist" who tries writing cogent pieces defending intermarriage (read: herself) for a jewish publication while giving us glimpses into her daily life which clearly show that the Jewish identity she strives to give her children is superficial (at best), ineffectual, and is doomed to failure? As a side job, she takes jibes at attempts at strengthening Jewish/ Israeli identity which urge ex-pats to return to their roots?
Oh...that's not a parody but describes you. Cut it out, already, and write about what you know best... Jewish education!! (sic)

Mom of "Jewish" campers,
Anyone can see I was obviously using sarcasm. By the way there are many Jews who are against intermarriage so you might have me confused with someone else. I put quotation marks around Jewish campers because if you're not Jewish then neither are your children.
I'm correct in my assessment of IFF. They are pro-intermarriage, anti-Torah, anti-Orthodox, and anti-semitic in their attitudes toward Jewish women.
There website is a shonda. They advertise rent-a-Rabbis who would marry two hamas members for the right amount of money. They also censor anyone with an oppossing view of their radical reconstructionist version of what they call "Judaism."
I don't cast gentile women as villians but they are not capapble of raising Jewish children. Only JEWISH WOMEN CAN GIVE BIRTH TO AND RAISE JEWISH CHILDREN!

the ad campaign is right on target, and american jews who are offended are completly missing the point - that israelis are uniquely susceptible to assimilation - even more so than american jews. Secular israelis who move to the US assimilate at much quicker rates than american jews because they lack the religious infra-structure and identity that american jews (of any affiliation) have. Secular israelis growing up in israel define themselves more as israelis than as jews - and once they leave israel and lose that identity do not have a jewish identity to fall back on

The ONLY place to properly live as a Jew is in the Land of Israel. All the mitzvot were meant to be kept in the Land of Israel. The main theme of the entire Torah is the Centrality of the Land of Israel.

So now the State of Israel is telling the American Jewish Community that they belong in Israel, and you find this offensive? Frankly, I think these ads are long overdue!

Julie Wiener, stop being so Pro - Assimilation, and put Judaism First. The People of Israel belong in the Land of Israel!

At the first Chanukah that my daughter could understand when she was 20 months old, when we started to light candles she called out "box, box!" meaning that she wanted her usual juice box of grape juice that she associated with lighting candles for Shabbat. Incidentally, she was exposed to Christmas at her grandparents home, but always understood it as THEIR holiday, not hers.

By the way, "intermarriage is awesome": I see you have decided to use sarcasm instead of your usual invective. Interfaith Family does not *advocate* intermarriage: rather they advocate not shunning and disparaging interfaith families because that will in fact drive those children (some of whom have Jewish mothers and are thus halachically Jewish) to marry non-Jews---why stay Jewish if you are rejected for who your parents are? So in fact, IFF actually promotes marriage to Jews for children of mixed families. If you actually read what Ed Case (founder of IFF) writes, you would see that he discusses this. IFF also never says that non-Jewish women are better than Jewish women---they merely do not characterize them as villains as you do.

I never agree with anything you write...until now.
It's pretty ironic that a bunch of not-religious Jewish Israelis came up with some ads telling other secular Israelis not to live in America as they might celebrate Christmas. The people writing it don't celebrate Shabbat and probably don't think there's anything wrong with Israeli Jews celebrating Sylvester (Jan 1, the goyish New Year.) How about, "Come back to Israel, we miss you! We'll stop taxing cars through the roof if you come home and stop charging 5% purchase tax on apartments so you can make it here on salaries 1/4 of what they pay you in LA and NY."

Hi, I'm an Israeli who lived abroad for 6 years. If you are all for the brightest people of Israel leaving it then so be it, but if you are all for strengthening Israel you need to understand that this is exactly the type of commercials that bring us back home from our comfortable life abroad. The points made here have nothing to do with Christmas, americans, the jewish community abroad etc', they are only a way to invoke an emotion that truly exists in any Israeli ex-pat. I came back to Israel a year ago and I think personally this campaign is the right thing to do to bring more than 350K bright Irsaelis back to where they belong.

I would like to provide with an Israeli prospective to this campaign and to say that the fact that it is being seen as an attack on Christmas underlines the fact that American Jews and American as a hole don't understand what it is like to be an Israeli, and that's ok. Why should they - they are Americans!

As an Israeli who currently lives abroad I can testify that this campaign is powerful because he describes what most Israelis who live abroad feel! Seeing it as an attack on Christmas is blowing it out of proportion and out of contexts. If you are the target market of this campaign, if u are an Israeli that lives abroad, u will understand exactly what it means. It is not about Christmas, it is about your Israel as our home and where we belong, and where we will always what to come back.

If you are not the target market don't try to make it in to something that it is not!

I hope you will try to understand that perspective as it's an impotent one. The bottom line is that aim of the ministry of foreign affairs is not as describe at your article. If one would just try to understand the other then this kind of criticism would be unnecessary.



Thank you for a really thought-provoking response to these commercials. Having made aliyah over 13 years ago from the US, I watched the commercials from both my American and Israeli perspectives. With my American sensibilities, I would have preferred the messages that you suggested, or one with a message like "the team needs you". However, to me, the Yom Ha-Zikaron commercial was legitimate. There is such a cultural disconnect between what is critically important to Israelis and to American Jewry. Yom Ha-Zikaron and Yom Ha-Atzmaut are essential elements of Israelis' identities, while Yom Ha-Atzmaut might merit a falafel dinner at a JCC in most US communities. That commercial should be sufficient to get Israelis interested in returning, while also letting American Jews know that there is such a disconnect that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.