American Jews and Israel: A Relationship in Transition

April 19, 2015

The conference was conceived six months ago amid much discussion and hand-wringing over the future relationship between American Jews and Israel, specifically concerning young, liberal Jews and whether they would evince the same support and solidarity for Israel as did their parents. The occupation, the failure of the peace process, the role of Orthodoxy in Israel and other issues are some of the many causes of a burgeoning discontent between American Jewry and Israel. This conference will explore whether that relationship is really in a state of transition. It will also probe the distinction between attachment to and criticism of Israel, and explore detailed items such as the influence of intermarriage and the rise of Orthodoxy within American Jewry upon the relationship.

These and other issues have become even more acute since the conference planners began their work. Open disagreements between Obama and Netanyahu might well be the forerunner to a situation where American and Israeli strategic interests are not automatically aligned. Time has truly come for examination of where the relationship stands now and where it is headed. The timeliness of the discussion is evidenced by the remarkable response the Taub Center received when it announced the program for the conference – almost two times as many RSVPs as could normally be accommodated. The topic of the conference has clearly touched a nerve.

Session 1: American Jews and Israel – Trends and New Directions

                        Dov Waxman, Northeastern Univ.

                        Theodore Sasson, Brandeis Univ.

                        Steven M. Cohen, HUC-JIR

                        Moderator: Mijal Bitton, NYU

PDF of Session 1 Summary HERE

Session 2: Israel Experience and Israel Education

                        Shaul Kelner, Vanderbilt University

                        Yona Shem-Tov, Encounter

                        Bethamie Horowitz, NYU

                        Moderator: Lisa Grant, HUC-JIR

PDF of Session 2 Summary HERE

Session 3: Ties and Tensions: American Jewish Leadership and Israel

               Joy Levitt, JCC of Manhattan

               John Ruskay, Exec. VP Emeritus, UJA-Federation, NYC

               David Ellenson, HUC-JIR

               Moderator: Amir Shaviv, JDC

PDF of Session 3 Summary HERE

Ambassadors Panel Discussion: The View from Washington and Jerusalem

                Itamar Rabinovich, Dan Kurtzer

                Moderated by JJ Goldberg, The Forward

PDF of Panel Discussion Summary HERE