Peter Beinart, the New Bad Boy of the American Jewish establishment for his essay on how the younger generation is becoming disenfranchised from Israel, acknowledged in an interview with The Jewish Week the other day that he was, in fact, describing part of a larger concern — namely a decreasing attachment to Judaism in general.
“That’s a fair charge,” said the former editor of The New Republic, who describes himself as a liberal Zionist, and belongs with his family to an Orthodox synagogue in Washington, D.C.
Walking along the route of the Israel Day Parade on Sunday, from 72nd Street down to 59th Street along Fifth Avenue, we were reminded once again, and in dramatic fashion, how the expression of Zionism in American has become increasingly the purview of the Modern Orthodox community.
Jewish groups have always recognized the importance of breaking our nation’s crippling dependence on foreign oil, much of it from unstable and sometimes antagonistic countries in the Middle East. And many regard the protection of our increasingly fragile planet as a reflection of core Jewish values.
For all of the impassioned, if not overheated, debates about Israel, it is worthwhile for us, for whom Zionism means so much, to sometimes step back and connect again to the idea that the return to Zion — in the words of the Psalmist — is not just about the latest headlines but about laughter and song, dreams and joy.
Some Jewish leaders are already dismissing former New Republic editor Peter Beinart’s harsh treatise on American Jewish leadership because of its venue: the New York Review of Books, a high-toned outpost for the Israel-is-always-wrong crowd.
That would be unwise. Even while we disagree with some of Beinart’s analysis, his essay points to critical challenges facing Jewish leaders as our community, like the nation as a whole, becomes more bitterly polarized and as Israel faces growing pressures, both internal and external.