“The New American Zionism” by Theodore Sasson— Un-unified Voices

Sasson, Theodore. “The New American Zionism”, NYU Press, 2013.

Un-unified Voices

Amos Lassen

Theodore Sasson in his “The New American Zionism” shows us that American Jews are shifting their feelings for and support of Israel. It seems that they are moving from a “mobilization” approach, which began with the creation of the State of Israel and relied on centralized organizations to provide that support to an “engagement” approach that is made up by direct and personal relations with the Jewish state.  We see more and more American Jews traveling to Israel, reading news of the culture and politics of the country and now using their philanthropy and lobbying as it fits into their own politics. We especially see that now regarding the Israeli government’s decision on prayer at the Western Wall and conversion policies. While today many American Jews feel that Israel has become more meaningful, they do not have as much ability to impact the policies of the country and the unified voice that once distinguished support for the country is no longer there. The concept of support has certainly changed greatly and has become more personal. This is not necessarily a bad thing or critical as we see that more and more American Jews are supporting the country but they are doing so in their own diverse ways.

Certainly programs such as Birthright as well as other trends in the American Jewish community have something to do with this support. Writer Sasson provides the information we need to make our own decisions and there is no unified answer to any of the questions that we face here. However, we must look at the framework in which ideas and theories come about.

We are given the history of the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel as well as supporting data and then are left to think it all out and see where we fit. Sasson’s analysis of American Jewish public opinions shows that this relationship is ever changing and evolving and we see that at times the relationship is uneasy (like in any other relationship). The present situation is complicated because of its almost constant change. While the recent Pew report shows that today there is

decreased religious affiliation among Jews giving to Israel has increased and we sense more engagement by Americans with Israel. Sasson says that we are not in a critical situation and that recent reports of distancing from the country are erroneous. Rather there is a new pluralism that distinguishes the current relationship between American Jewry and the Jewish state.

American Jewish engagement with Israel is not simply a matter of personal identities and feelings of attachment but an institutionalized collective behavior “has moved the debates from social psychology to sociology”. , shifting the terrain of the debate from social psychology to sociology.”

 

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