Some major shifts in Jewish life happen in dramatic fashion, others less so.
In recent days details are slowly emerging about a major initiative being undertaken by the government of Israel, in consultation with American Jewish leaders, to invest more than $1 billion over the next two decades to strengthen Jewish identity among young people in the diaspora between the ages of 12 and 35.
The head of the Museum of the Jewish People -- once the Museum of the Diaspora -- talks about the name change and his goals.
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Dan Tadmor left a distinguished career in Israeli media — 20 years as an editor and manager at the daily Yedioth Achronot, followed by several years as a television executive — to become the CEO a year ago of Beit Hatfutsot, formerly known as the Museum of the Diaspora and now the Museum of the Jewish People. During a recent visit to New York he sat down at the offices of The Jewish Week to discuss the significance of the name change, reflecting the reinvented institution and what about the position enticed him to leave journalism. This is an edited transcript.
Bronx Democrat Eliot Engel, who represents Rabbi Avi Weiss and his Riverdale congregation in Congress, expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by the rabbi.
Once again, Israel is being attacked. But this time around, after having been to Israel, I know what kind of danger they are in.
It is striking. If Israel was proportionate in size to all the attention it gets from the U.N. and the world press, Israel would be at least as big as Russia. But alas, it is smaller than England, and its borders much less defensible. And there's no Israeli Channel to buffer surrounding hostile governments. There is no way around it: Israel is a mighty small chunk of land.
If you are reading this, you are probably Jewish, and there's a good chance you live outside of Israel. But maybe you didn't know that Jewish life exists where you are, and that is sometimes even interesting, and important to understand.
After all, the Israeli media says it didn't grasp this, until now.
Israelis who leave their native country to settle in the diaspora have long been known as yordim, those who go down. It is a disparaging term, and one in contrast to those diaspora Jews who make aliyah, or ascend, to live in Israel.
The two concepts – going up to or down from Israel -- are anchored in a moral equation that harks back to classical Zionism, which negated the diaspora and insisted that Jewish survival depends on the imperative of aliyah.
Will evidence of Israeli indifference to American Jews’ lives never cease to surface? The latest is the publication of a book entitled “Shtetl, Beigel, Beisbol: Al matsavam ha-nora veha-nifla shel yehuda Amerikah” or “Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball: On the Dreadful, Wonderful State of American Jews” by Shmuel Rosner, an Israeli journalist for Ha’aretz.
The crisis in Israel over the so-called Rotem Bill regarding conversion practices and who should control them has been averted, at least for now. The bill was not brought to the floor for a vote because its sponsor realized he was short of the votes needed for passage.
Only the truly naïve about how these things work believe that this is the end of the story. Like a retrovirus, this issue of “who is a Jew” will surely rear its ugly head again in the not too distant future.