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Alienation From Israel Hitting Liberal Seminaries
Rabbinical students, in generational divide, seen disenchanted with Jewish state; time to rethink year-in-Israel study?
Mon, 05/02/2011 - 20:00
Editor And Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

A second-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary says her year-in-Israel experience, as part of her academic training, has been “enriching and incredibly painful” in terms of what she sees of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

“The Israel I see does not seem to reflect so many of the Jewish values that my family and community raised me with,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Jewish Week.

The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she is part of a group of American rabbinical students in Israel who meet every other week “to share our struggles and hopes and dreams for Israel.” She added that “it was through this group that I ended up” at a “birthday party in Ramallah” for a fellow student at a bar featuring anti-Israel slogans in Arabic.

The birthday incident was cited in a recent Jerusalem Post opinion piece by educator Daniel Gordis as an example of the disturbing level of discontent with the Jewish state among a number of Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbinical students spending a year in Israel.

While officials of major rabbinical seminaries are publicly downplaying reports of anti-government actions and sentiments among their students in Israel, saying they have been exaggerated, they privately admit that the issue is real, and of deep concern. And the highly critical views among some students is causing at least several American Jewish leaders in the liberal movements to question the value of the year-in-Israel programs in their current form.

“The central objective of the program is to build a Zionist mindset,” said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (Reform) in Manhattan. “Otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity.”

He said if a significant number of students are disenchanted with Israel, the programs may be “deeply flawed” and should be reviewed.

‘A Raw Nerve’

Several troubling incidents of distancing from the Zionist cause first surfaced in an April 1 essay in the Jerusalem Post by Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Describing “a new battleground emerging” among liberal American rabbinical students in Israel, he cited such examples as a student seeking to buy a tallit on the condition that it not be made in Israel; a discussion among students where one said that the anniversary of Israeli independence should be marked as a day of mourning; and the students who celebrated a peer’s birthday at a bar in Ramallah with anti-Israel slogans on the walls.

Gordis noted that liberal rabbinical students who profess strong support for Israel are often treated like “pariahs” by their fellow students.

In an interview this week, Gordis said his piece was based on extensive conversations with rabbinical students in Israel for the year and that the level and tone of follow-up calls and correspondence from officials of their respective schools underscored that he had “touched a raw nerve.”

He said the complaints were that he was hurting fundraising efforts back home, according to one official, and spreading lashon hara, according to another.

“I don’t buy it,” Gordis said of the criticism, noting that he was careful not to quantify the extent of student attitudes highly critical of Israel, but was highlighting a “troubling but undeniable shift in loyalties” among “bright, decent, thoughtful and deeply Jewishly committed” young people who will be future leaders of American Jewish life.

The Gordis essay prompted a number of published replies in the Jerusalem Post, as well as blogs and internal discussions among students and administrators.

“I remain convinced that, if anything, this enormous response and defensiveness shows that I was correct,” he said.

Putting liberal rabbinical students “exclusively in classes in Jerusalem for a year rather than using Israeli society as a setting for complex and nuanced exploration is an enormous missed opportunity,” according to Gordis.

The key to the year in Israel should be experiential, he asserted, calling on the seminaries to expose students to the full breadth of Israeli life, including the programs of the Ayalim Association, where post-army secular Zionists are helping to develop communities in the Negev and Galilee, and serious beit midrash Torah study between post-army secular and religious Israelis.

But seminary officials point out that they already run extensive seminars and site visits for their students in Israel.

What tends to happen, though, the administrators say, is that some of the future rabbis on their own time are inclined to seek out and participate in a range of programs that open them up to encounters and dialogue with Palestinians. And the students’ liberal leanings, universalist nature and sympathy for the underdog sometimes combine to find them viewing Israeli policy, particularly regarding the settlements and West Bank occupation (not to mention the Orthodox monopoly on conversion, marriage, divorce and male prayer at the Western Wall), as oppressive and immoral.

‘Engaged Confusion’

In mid-March, Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, told a colloquium sponsored by the American Jewish Committee on the distancing of American Jews from Israel that he estimated that about 20 percent of Reform rabbinical students who spend their first year of study in Jerusalem come back feeling “hostile” toward the Jewish state, and another 10 percent return “indifferent.”

While noting with pride that the Reform movement is the only one to require each of its future rabbis to spend a year in Israel, Rabbi Ellenson noted that young American Jews tend to feel “mystified, at best, and alienated, at worst” in learning of and grappling with some of Israel’s religious and political policies up close.

After the Gordis essay appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Ellenson sent out a lengthy letter to the HUC-JIR community noting that his colleague and friend had “focused on several extreme examples of anti-Israel sentiment among rabbinical students attending non-Orthodox seminaries” and that he himself felt “the overwhelming majority” of these students did not share such views. He went on to note how much more complex Israeli society has become over the last four decades, and that “a time of unity and solidarity” has been replaced by “a broad array of views and by the sense of an increasing strain on the Israel-diaspora relationship.”

Rabbi Ellenson described the mood among students as “a kind of engaged confusion, born of an honest attempt to grapple with the complexities of their relationship with Israel, the land and the people.”

In an interview on Monday, Rabbi Ellenson said he regretted having used the word “hostile” in his talk at the AJC. He said it would be more accurate to say that after a year in Israel, many HUC students feel “both attached to and critical of Israel.”

He has been meeting this week with rabbinic students about to be ordained, one of whom told him her rabbinate will be about her love for Torah, not about Israel, which she finds problematic. And he said another rabbinic student who is pro-AIPAC, the Jewish lobby, said she felt very much out of place among her peers.

The rabbi said he worries most about “indifference” among students, stressing HUC-JIR’s commitment to affirm among its students “the centrality of Jewish peoplehood on their path to Jewish leadership.”

Our communal challenge, he said, is to be able “to have a conversation where one can show commitment and love for Israel and at the same time be able to engage critically.” And he is not at all certain we have reached that level of candor and commitment.

Peter Beinart Syndrome

The issue may just be heating up. Daniel Gordis is working on a 4,500-word piece for Commentary that will expand on his concerns; establishment officials are worried about what it will say and the fact that it will further highlight and prolong their discomfort with this issue.

Stepping back, it seems that the Peter Beinart Syndrome — the concern, expressed a year ago in The New York Review of Books that young American Jews are choosing liberal values over Zionist ones — has reached our liberal rabbinic seminaries.

That shouldn’t be surprising. Our future liberal denomination rabbis are prime examples of the current generational clash over values, history and emotional attachment to Israel. On the one side are young people, raised as liberals and humanitarians, who have grown up seeing Israel through the prism of intifadas, harsh and inconclusive wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and increasing international isolation. On the other side are their elders who recall the courageous, even miraculous, early successes of the Jewish State and who are not afraid to call themselves nationalists when it comes to Israel.

Daniel Gordis spoke of a recent conversation he had with some of the rabbinical students he worries about. When one asked him his vision for future coexistence in Israel, “I had to say I gave up on that a long time ago,” he recalled, adding that when he and his family made aliyah more than a dozen years ago, he did believe in Arabs and Jews living peacefully together.

But after the suicide bombs and the rocket attacks, “I don’t believe that anymore.” Israelis want a divorce from the Arabs, not a marriage, he said, knowing that he must have sounded “hardened, calloused and cynical now” to his young audience.

But he believes that while these future rabbis, and many of their peers, want Israel to live up to its ideals, he and his generation want Israel to survive.
“We were taught that Jews come first,” he says.

The fact that Israelis have real enemies — people who seek their national and personal destruction — may be unpleasant for young people to contemplate, but it’s a fact of life.

At the same time, it’s not helpful to lecture or chastise our youth, particularly those who are expressing their idealism and Jewish commitment by choosing to serve the community as spiritual leaders.

What’s called for is a full and open discussion about this troubling divide. That means being able to acknowledging worrisome Israeli government actions without feeling disloyal, and recognizing the importance of inculcating young people with a sense of Jewish peoplehood and collective responsibility from the earliest age.

Wrestling with Israel is nothing new; indeed the biblical Jacob became “Israel” only after struggling with an angel all night. The key is to do so with respect and humility, and in the name of Heaven.


More from Gary Rosenblatt:
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Ammiel Hirsch, Daniel Gordis, David Ellenson, Hebrew Union College, Israel, Peter Beinart

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David Ellenson has it right when he alludes to a lack of identification with Jewish peoplehood as the underlying issue. How would one of the 30% of students identified as "problematic" react to two hypothetical news stories. Each would feature (G-d forbid) the tragic death of a child in a car accident in Israel. One would recount the death of a Jewish child and the other an Arab. Any person of sensitivity would be saddened by both, but a person who identifies with the Jewish people should be more saddened by the death of the Jew. This would be a justifiable, indeed praiseworthy response. It doesn't imply any lack of humanity or sense of racial superiority, but a legitimate expression of your closeness to another member of your group. It would be just as justifiable and praiseworthy for an Arab to greater sympathy and loss for the death of the Arab child.

It's my feeling, having worked with many people in the Reform Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, that most of them would be more troubled by the death of a Jew -- but they would feel uncomfortable with the feeling. They might even feel guilty about it.

This reflects an unresolved and rather unsophisticated conflict between universalism and particularism. The Jewish state is an expression of Jewish particularism par excellence. Yet students who have a liberal mindset are unfamiliar with liberal nationalism weather expressed by Garabaldi or Jabotinsky. Some are unable to develop a synthases and feel a need to chose between the two.

Of course some (like Your Apikorus Rav Student) are open about their desire to save Israel from itself. This betrays a fundamentally illiberal distrust of democratic institutions and the decisions of the Israeli electorate, but then, that's been the oft disparaged attitude of "white liberals" in other contexts as well.

How can one resign from the Jewish religion? Would baptism in a Christian church do it? Even if I don't believe in it? That's how reading these comments makes me feel. I am not a kid; I am over 60.

As A Reform Rabbinical Student, the most distressing part of this article is the reporter's terrible math. He presents as a fact that 30% of students have less than blind support for Israel and her policies and yet this is a scourge across the seminary. This aside from anecdotal evidence being taken as fact and conjecture presented as truth.

This is yet another canard being used to drum up a controversy trying to paint the liberal Jewish world as Jewishly inauthentic.

My classmates and I love Israel, but apparently, anything less than blind support and 100% loyalty labels us Anti-Zionist and less-than-Jewish.

I wonder if every American Rabbinical student has 100% support for America.

On the one hand, I agree with the vitriol dismissing non-Orthodox rabbinical students from study in Israel. Those circling the nationalist wagons are the ideological progeny from a long line of clubby exclusivist, “Jerusalem-or-die” activists.

As a rabbinical student contemplating study at the CY this coming Fall semester, I believe I am regarded with a disdain by the Orthodox establishment, equivalent with the dismissal of the Samaritans by the kohanim during the construction of bayit sheni. In other words, if I am content with my liturgical tradition, my approach to Talmud torah [yeah, I know, Samaritans didn’t have rabbis, ok, ok], then maybe I should just stay away from the kotel.

There is a charming myth of Jewish unity. It is a myth with very little basis in the historical record. Squelching sectarian intra-Jewish friction is in the interest of the Israeli government.

“What, Israel? Jews arguing over religion with other Jews?! Here? Nah, who told you that!?! We’re all one big happy family over here! Come, spend your dollars! “

Israel’s governing maxim—well intended as it probably is—reflects an avowed desire to walk the delicate line of democracy, without too much theocracy. The real question in our lifetime will be ‘how long can they keep it up?’ Well, it may be up to us silly American rabbinical students. Otherwise we might have to send in American troops to break up fights between Jews. Poo poo poo

Oh that Obama! He’s so evil.

We now return to our regularly scheduled Diaspora.

What not a single comment here even notices is the programs to which these kids are falling prey (and I don't mean their schools). Mr. Rosenblatt mentions that "the administrators say, is that some of the future rabbis on their own time are inclined to seek out and participate in a range of programs that open them up to encounters and dialogue with Palestinians." He makes two errors here. First, these programs SEEK OUT these young liberal Jewish leaders and prey on their notions of human rights, justice, and other factors that the right jettisons in regards to Arabs. Second, these programs are not about dialogue; they are one sided, propagandized efforts. These kids are not brought by an Israeli Jewish settler to meet his Palestinian neighbor; they are brought to well off middle class Palestinians in Bethlehem and other areas, made to hear stories about the Mishmeret G’veul at their worst, and not allowed to argue.

Were they able to reach into the Orthodox community, these programs would undermine the loyalty to Israel of their young leadership as well. But the women and men who run programs like "Encounter" and other groups focus their efforts on young liberal Jews who are unwilling to talk about Arabs as sub-human.
On top of that, all their lives these kids have been given a simple, supportive and idealistic view of the State of Israel. These young adults have yet to learn that the world is a complex place and that one can love the state of Israel and be a critic of her many flaws (nobody calls the guys on Channel 10 News traitors). First shown Israel's problems in depth not by their schools or home communities but by those who favor the death of the State, these kids come back home thinking everything they loved about Israel was a lie and that the Palestinians are innocent victims. If the liberal Seminaries want to endure, they have to stop these groups from recruiting from among their ranks. Otherwise, the students will eventually stop coming to Israel.

Since these American Jewish Reform and Conservative Rabbis are so American i would expect to see a large contingent as Chaplains in the U.S. Military.There is a shortage of Jewish Chaplains in the military.I did meet an Orthodox Chaplain in Iraq.In Afghanistan for the first time in my life i meet a Conservative Female Chaplain i was taken aback at first but came to respect her.Although a woman Chaplain and from the Conservative stream of Judaism i found her to be a pleasant surprise.This Female Conservative Rabbi was extremely pro Israel as well as being a patriotic American.
These left wing anti Israel Rabbis are nothing but pampered kids waiting to spread their left wing views and getting well paying Jobs in some affluent Temple.

Wow, I just put my flag outside my house in the Judean Hills to commemorate Yom HaZikaron and celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut. I am an unabashedly Zionist, Orthodox Rabbi living and teaching in Israel; yet I can understand where these rabbinical students (and in general the liberal movements) are coming from.

We have a serious problem of alienating anyone who doesn't agree with the bankrupt Chief Rabbanate and Right Wing Orthodox (Chardal/Charedi) line -- this is true on marriage, conversion, and funding. I cry over this Chilul HaShem and the outgrowth of this position.

Lord Jacobovitz, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom has famously said that a rabbi can choose between power or influence. In Israel, too many rabbis have chosen power and hence are losing influence (and the Torah is losing as a result.)

It is time to reevaluate the role of the rabbanate and introduce true seperation of "synagogue" and state.

Then we can have a honest debate about the issues.

We should all become talmidei Aharon -- ohavei shalom, rodfei shalom, ohavei ha briyot -- and thus mekarvam le'Torah.

this kind of article is immensely frustrating.
the response to the phenomenon of educated rabbinical students becoming disenchanted with israel is that there must be something wrong with their program. that makes no sense. perhaps the problem is that the state of israel is just not living up to the standards jewish leaders have been told from infancy that it holds. the problem is that these students do not need to be "re-educated" by "better" programs but rather that the data they encounter in their lived experiences in israel leads them to a certain conclusion.
i wonder how much time these outraged zionists have spent in the holy land. have they lived there for an extended period of time? have they witnessed first hand the rifts that run deep in israeli society? have they spent time in the west bank?
rosenblatt's characterization of the beinart syndrome (as well as beinart's own analysis) is deeply flawed. the conflict is not between liberalism and zionism, but rather liberal zionism and a version of zionism that becomes less and less democratic each day. these students believe in israel; but not the israel that they live in. they believe in a better israel, an israel that does, actually, represent their values.
in addition, i do not think it is an accident that these students come from movements which are disenfranchised in the israeli society, in which their conversions are not accepted, their women are disrespected, and their torah is unheeded.
in summary, instead of castigating these young critics, perhaps it is better to hear what they have to say and turn inward, in mature critique, instead of lashing out, blaming these students for experiencing and reacting to what you are afraid of accepting.

This is no surprise and certainly nothing new. Many of our Reform and Conservative Rabbis have been, shall we say, sympathetic with the Palestinians as a result of their one-sided training and experiences in Israel. A Reform Rabbi I know talks of his experiences meeting Palestinians, listening to them tell of their plight while enjoying their gracious hospitality in modest dwellings. He does not seem to give any thought to the idea that what he was told might not be altogether true, or that what he learned from his Palestinian friends may be less driven by fact than by a desire to see Israel destroyed. Nor does he speak of experiences traveling around Israel to meet different types of Jews. Or of experiences meeting people who have lived through terror or rockets in their cities. Or of lessons about the hatred promulgated in Palestinian schools. It's all about the nice Palestinian people whose land was stolen by those awful terrible settlers.

Hence we have Rabbi Rick Jacobs ready to take the helm of the URJ from an already weak Reform leadership that struggles to muster statements supportive of Israel.

A few thoughts about the article;

a) JTS should bring discipinary actions against the students who decided to take a joy ride to Ramallah to celebrate a birthday. They either have to be expelled, suspended or made to repeat the year.

b) When I was a volunteer English teacher in Kiryat Shmona with the Sherut La'am program I knew many of the rabbinical students from Hebrew Union College living in Jerusalem. They were spoiled rich brats living off American dollars in the richest section of Jerusalem. They had no contact with the average Israeli and in their classrooms if you close your eyes you could have imagined yourself in midtown Manhattan.

c) The programs should be revised to make the year in Israel a year of service. They should be serving as teachers in poor areas, helping charity organizations, and most important be receiving military training just like those Israelis who serve with Yeshiva Hesder programs which is a combination of army training and Torah studies. That program should not be located in the middle of the richest area of Jerusalem but in a development town in the middle of the Galil or Negev.

d) If JTS doesn't want to impose discipline on those students who were stupid enough to take a joy ride to Ramallah then they should release their names so that future synagogues and Jewish institutions know exactly what they did. After all they have a right to know what type of idiots they are hiring.

After reading your article Gary, I wept alittle. After all if you can't trust your future rabbis who can you trust?

"And the students’ liberal leanings, universalist nature and sympathy for the underdog sometimes combine..." Any Jew who cannot see the geography of tiny, democratic Israel surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Sunni and Shiite Moslems, undermined by the traitors within of the Jewish people (including themseles), cannot be a Torah-true rabbi. Oh, sorry, I forgot, probably for these students, the Torah is little more than something to be studied as one might review a literary text, nothing to do with God.

As for the Reform clown that noted that only the Reform require their future rabbis to spend a year in Israel, please, all those who will become rabbis for Othodox (whether Ashkenazic old line, ultras, chassids, Modern, or varieties of Sephardic) are born to Jewish studies, and typically spend years in Israel, many never to return except with their family to visit family in the Western Hemisphere. There is no need for a "requirement." And how many extra credits do those Reform and Conservative students earn for palling around in Ramallah with out-and-out Jew haters!?

A Rabbi or future Rabbi should see himself as a "Klei Kodosh" ( holy vessel) for the Jewish Community-loyalty and fealty to the community he is part of, and subsidized by for the Israeli experience,his Mishpocha that nurtured his "yiddishkeit, and a sense of Yiras Shomayim for whom he represents. This has vanished from these individuals, many of whom should by halacha not be involved in the first place. The new tallis, which they envelop themselves with, is the taliis of ego and personal expression.
this entire trend within the Liberal seminaries is not a crisis , nor a surprise-but rather is an extension of themselves and their movements. It is reflective of a world view and ideology that appropriates the words, symbols , and concerns of normative Judaism, but is hardly normative. They are no different in their loyalties than their new proposed leaders. The solution is not programatic, nor organizational. It only requires a return to Torah Judaism. How many Yeshiva students celebrated their birthday in Ramallah?

Just one correction, "Ayalim" is not "Zionist", it is a group who doesnt accept arab studnets (they did accept 1 in Ako) by way of accepting only "students who served in the IDF" and we know what that means.

Also, they recieve money to build the viliages in places in the Negev to spite the beduins.

Inspite is not they way to go, as we are all bound to live here in this little teritory. "Veahavta le'reacha kamocha, ani hashem".

"l'reacha" applies to one's *Jewish* neighbor. It certainly doesn't apply to Amalek.

Its a generational thing I believe. Basically these are kids who never had a tough day in their lives. And who certainly never got into a fight because they were Jews. Or who lived in areas that weren't affluent

Another issue that is somewhat related is that one of the "non-Orthodox seminaries," Machon Schechter (the Schechter Institute) is unwilling to admit gay and lesbian Israeli Rabbinical students, nor have they, in past years, been able to make their institution a truly welcoming place for visiting gay/lesbian Rabbinical students from the USA. The result - the American Jewish University pulled all of their students out and sent them elsewhere. Some JTS students left as well or stayed - but with a terrible taste in their mouths. This is not necessarily alienation from Israel but it absolutely caused, causes and will cause a distancing from Israel.

Sadly, this alienation with Israel will not last much longer since the majority of these students' children (those that choose lifestyles where children are a possibility) will, statistically, not grow up Jewish, or as Jews in America. While the Jewish State will thrive despite the agenda of the naive liberal 'Zionists' and the hatred of our enemies, it is with tears that we will see the continued melting away of the American Jewish community into the crucible of American society.

The problem is not Israel nor is it the programs in Israel that the "liberal" denominations sponsor. The problem is that the rabbincal students in these institutions have not, in fact, been inculcated with or taught Jewish values. How can they have been? They have been raised in a society where most of their family and friends equate Jewish values with liberal "humanistic" values rather than the values that arise from our Torah and traditions. This unfortunate miseducation is continued and reinforced in the "liberal" Jewish institutions themselves.

The dividing line between authentic Judaism and the various forms of social action leagues with Jewish trappings has been irrevocably drawn, and the struggle for Jewish continuity is essentially over. Orthodox Judaism -- ie authentic Judaism in essentially the form it has existed for thousands of years -- is growing and thriving, both in the US and in Israel. The "liberal streams" of Judaism are shrinking and their youth is disappearing more raipdly each year. That is fact. These trends will continue and it is too late to do anything to retain the majority of those now nominally affiliated with non-Orthodox Judaism. What we need are just a few brave, honest, Rabbis and leaders of non-Orthodox Judaism who still truly care to stand up and say "we were wrong." We are returning to our roots and want you to come with us. Perhaps then at least a few of our misguided brethren will have a chance of remaining part of the Jewish People.

To the man who claims: "Orthodox Judaism -- ie authentic Judaism in essentially the form it has existed for thousands of years" -- Please study modern Jewish thought, just about any major post-enlightenment figure, or perhaps any of the secular social sciences, so that you can begin to discover the falsehood of your assertion. If that fails, please open up to the prophet Amos and perhaps you'll discover a teaching that is not only both non-Orthodox and authentic, but also instructive about the terms of justice that God wants for the people of Israel.

Dear Gary Rosenblatt:

This is a very interesting and thoughtful article. I look forward to future follow-ups on this particular issue.

To Label Reform Jews "liberal" or "leftist" who worship appears condescending, and even insulting, to some of us. Such references arguably demonstrate bigotry. The debate between Commandment, ritual, belief and the State of Israel should not separate the movements of Judaism. Yet, belief in one G-d and knowledge along with rejection of 'dissimilar Tenets' of other faiths binds all Jews of Faith.

There are Jews who claim to be agnostic, Christ Believers, or non-believers, but that is their belief. Perhaps, the author, among others, likely agrees that these do not appear to be Jews of Faith. Perhaps, we should see this challenge as the more significant concern and consider how to better approach it. The need to understand and observe Judaism, whether it is Conservative, Orthodox or Reform is significant in Israel. Too many in Israel choose to remain secular in the face of an Orthodoxy that tries to dominate Faith and Observance within Israel.

How can one label another who also disputes what is Commandment and ritual among the evolving 613 as being leftist and unfaithful to Judaism? Do some who comment below Mr. Rosenblatt seemed troubled and not at peace? Do the comments suggest that some think they are somehow holier than other Jews of varying Faith? Perhaps, some should apologize. We are all ignorant compared to Ad*n*i.

Using the word "Orthodox" to describe one movement can also seem like a misnomer to some, as well. Some of the so-called 'frum' may be found to violate the basic tenets of Judaism in my opinion, yet keep kashrut, wear kipot at all times, and be better followers of what others view as ritual. I don't know that this sort of discipline makes these Followers more Jewish.

Some believe that Ad*n*i can be worshipped without keeping kashrut.
Most argue over what is Commandment and what is ritual, even within the so-called Orthodox Movement, itself. There are disputes over the 613 alleged Commandments or rituals. However, we all worship before the Ark, among other similarities which bind Our Faith. Why not renew those ties, yet acknowledge or appreciate our actual differences, not necessarily avoid each other’s houses of worship.

This concern over Commandment versus ritual separates the Reform Movement from the arguably Conservative and Orthodox. Some can infer less than holy motives from the act of labeling those who are Reform or Reconstructionist as leftists.

At least one commenter insists that some Jewish religious belief or opinions are "leftist," yet may have not reasonably investigated due to unrighteous bias. This is unfortunate and seems sacrilegious. There are some in Israel, who are designated by what seem like secular Israeli Officials as keepers of the Faith, yet seem disrespectful, as well.

The manner in which comments present messages of bigotry foster condescension that is arguably sacrilegious. Perhaps, a few of the commentaries do G*d and the Jewish Faith a disservice.

I'm not certain that the rabbinical students' disenchantment with the Jewish State reflects "young American Jews ... choosing liberal values over Zionist ones," as Mr. Rosenblatt asserts. The disenchantment may instead reflect the fact that younger Jews are increasingly serious about Jewish values, aware of the disconnect between those values and certain aspects of Israeli policy and Jewish organizational life, and unwilling to shelve their capacities for critical thought and idealistic pursuit in the name of a rigid conformity enforced by anachronistic upholders of the status quo.

A significant proportion of Jewish young adults have become indifferent to or alienated from the policies of a series of Israeli governments and from a self-appointed American Jewish power structure that refuses to allow the expression of dissenting or critical voices. If we don't begin to take seriously the views and sentiments of a significant portion of today's younger Jewish population -- if we instead focus on silencing entities like J Street -- we risk the permanent and tragic loss of an invaluable segment of our community.

As a person from an extremely poor family of orientation who was raised as a Reform Jew, I formally resigned from the Reform movement in 1997 when it adopted policies that attacked the position of lower-class, working-class, and lower-middle class Jews in the United States, while its national leadership refused to have debates about these issues in their national media and conferences, even though major legal cases, social scientific findings from top universities, and writings of public intellectuals were explicit about Reform's failures in this matter. After leaving Reform Judaism, I first began to attend Conservative and then Modern Orthodox Ashkenazi and Sephardi and Chabad synagogues. Besides its class biases, the Reform movement has become a type of Jewish antinomianism and has replaced real liberalism--the belief in the free expression of ideas--with unreflected political correctness and multiculturalism, an important part of which is anti-Zionism. Historically, anti-Zionism was the official position of the Reform movement until the Holocaust. Notably, the center of American anti-Zionism was San Francisco's Temple Emanu-el, which was the home of the Council for American Judaism, the ideological organ of anti-Zionism in America. I have heard continuing expressions of these sentiments from some members of that congregation and have watched many of the children raised there drift into non-belief, non-observance, or conversion to other belief systems.

There is nothing anti-Israel about wanting to save the this country from destroying itself. The fact that we're being labelled as such only sharpens just how distorted this "conversation" has become. If we didn't love and care deeply for this country we would drop our Zionism in favor of our liberalism, but we're not. We're trying to be one part of the lulav. Before this whole thing exploded we thought maybe some of you would understand that we do love Israel a lot and our actions are from a place of deep concern and you would allow us to have a voice...

...but I suppose now we'll just click our boot-heels together and raise our arms in salute. (sigh)

After living in Israel for over 20 years, I returned to the US for a period of work-related several years. What I found is a disconnect between the Jewish values that I remember before I made Aliyah, and current Jewish values, especially among the non-Orthodox population. When we made Aliyah, we were Jewish Americans, with an emphasis on Jewish. We remember the Holocaust and the birth of Israel, because we lived them both wither directly, or through our parents. Israel had a special place in our hearts, and still does.

Today, what I have witnessed are American Jews, with an emphasis on American. These folks are reminded of the Holocaust, and romanticize Israel. They haven't lived either, and are at least 2-3 generations removed from those experiences. They have been raised to be politically correct rather than critical of reality.

Israel has many problems, and we who live there are deeply troubled by them as we would be when our family has problems and is in danger. WE are Israel. Those visiting Israel, especially from more liberal congregations, view us as THEY. They have never been taught to personalize Israel, been have been impartial observers whose opinions have been molded other liberal friends and the liberal-leaning media. We who live in Israel have it in our very blood and soul. They do not. The problems described in the article are not the result of spending a year in Israel. Rather, it is the result of spending a lifetime in the US. Perhaps the solutions that those willing to find them, can be found in the US and solved before these young people arrive on Israel's shores. Perhaps they should be reminded that although they think of themselves as Americans, our enemies, of which there are no shortage worldwide, view us foremost as Jews. That's why we are in Israel. We are Jewish. We are home.

Without getting into content, a small grammatical correction. In the phrase 'Jewish American,' Jewish is the adjective describing the noun American, which would be more central, and vice versa. So you have it backwards, at least gramatically...

What do you expect? Leftist buffoonery as promulgated by President Obama Worshiping institutions and publications like "The Jewish Week", stay in business by steadfastly supporting proven to fail economic and social policies. Their existence depends on reader ignorance and readers without real world experience. Anyone, educated on historic precedent , with a thorough understand of Political Theory knew from the Democrat Primaries, that Barrack Obama was committed to an ideology which could only harm the nation and the Jewish Condition in America and around the globe.

Yet, as cataclysmic as it was for vast majority of Jews to voted for Obama in 2008; the fact that he now has a record, which measured by any conceivable metric is disastrous and still many Jews support him is nothing less than apocalyptic.


I ask you---can you name one country in modern history where an extreme right wing, nationalist government was ever good for its people in general, let alone its Jewish population. Despite statements to the contrary, Mussolini couldn't even make the trains run on time.

who cares? these people never really learned jewish values...they created their own religion...and its barely judaism

in a generation or less, the majority in israel will be frum...and the so called liberal jews can stay in chutz laaretz

Right you are. These stuudents come from homes where liberalism and not Torah is their religion. They never learned real Jewish values. Rosenblatt is right when he says that the answer is teaching jewish values to people when they are children.

if these youngsters have no clue about the basic facts of Israel, what are they doing pretending to be leaders?

Alienation From Israel Hitting Liberal Seminaries?

Are we feeling a little uncomfortable?

Well, well, well. Perhaps a small reminder is required:

Ki mi-Tzion tetze Tora u-dvar Adonai mi-Yerushalaim.

The rest is self-serving claptrap to rationalize continuation of the American Galut.

And why the rationalization? The specter of clash of loyalties has been brought to the foreground of American discourse by the rise of Obama and what he represents.

The clash is an emerging tragedy to America considering the vision of her founding fathers. But for the the American Jewry it is far more insidious.

We live in interesting times.

(ex Australia, now Shavei Shomron, Israel, anbout 10 km west of Shechem)