American Jewry’s Comfort Level: American Jewry – Present and Future by Manfred Gerstenfeld

The condition and comfort level of Jews are influenced to a great extent by society at large. Hence, to assess the future of American Jewry attention must also be given to potentially major changes in the social, political, and economic environment in the United States. With this comes the question of the future of America’s status—including that of the continued relevance of its military might, Pax Americana, and the defense of democracy—in the world. Indeed, how the current administration and the following ones will modify the United States’ role as the single superpower is yet to emerge. One of the most immediate questions is whether the future withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan will be viewed as defeats. Even if such an analysis of the future can only be superficial, it can be helpful.

Two major events of the last decade in the United States have greatly affected the world at large. At the turn of the century, few, if any, would have predicted that the United States would soon be hit by a terrorist attack of major magnitude. The events of September 11, 2001, led the United States—jointly with lesser allies—into two wars in Asia. Furthermore, a major economic crisis started in 2008 whose full consequences are not yet known.

The Larger Picture

 When looking at the American scene from abroad, both mega-events appear as part of a larger picture, framed by the reemergence of major totalitarian forces in the Islamic world. Most such forces had faded away many centuries ago. In recent decades, however, they have mutated into new variants, of which the worldview promoted by Al Qaeda is one.

The functioning of the Western economic system is another source of potential great unrest. “Vulnerability” and “uncertainty” may become important code words of the coming decades. The 2008 crisis began in the United States and metastasized from there. The reverse could happen in the future. It is doubtful whether the checks and balances of the extensive European monetary system are adequate to deal with major problems that may arise. At present some international bankers already say that neither the dollar nor the euro are safe investment vehicles.

It is important to remember that there had been warning signs for both mega-events in the United States. It was widely known that the “subprime mortgage” market in the country was unsound. Intelligence services had indications about the activities of Al Qaeda. If regulations had been followed, most of the middle- class Saudi terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 would not have been allowed into the country.1

Abraham D. Sofaer, a former legal adviser to the State Department testified: “The fact is that, well before September 11, 2001, the intelligence community and the ‘Terrorism Czar’ and everyone to whom they reported all knew that additional attacks by Al Qaeda were being planned and would certainly be attempted. Nonetheless, they failed to do before September 11 what was done immediately thereafter.”2

The problems of nations not wanting to deal with future threats are often structural. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said: “It was impossible to tell the American people that the Taliban represented a danger. When I mentioned this in my speeches as early as 1996, people looked at me as if I was discussing a conflict on Mars. I said to audiences: ‘You don’t know where Afghanistan is or who the Taliban are, but eventually your grandchildren will pay the price if we fail to act.’”3

All this emphasizes that, even when some major signs of the future can be read, action will not necessarily be taken to prevent disasters from happening. The possible realization of Iran’s nuclear plans may provide additional proof of this.

The Nature of Postmodern Society

The complex nature of postmodern society needs to be understood as well. It can only be defined in relation to what it has gradually replaced—modernity. Its major characteristics include the multitude and fragmentation of issues that come to attention in a disorderly fashion.

In such a culture, defining common priorities becomes increasingly difficult. The same is true for the maintenance of common values by large parts of society. In a postmodern world, multiple identities, secularism, fundamentalism, and the breakdown of authority can all flourish simultaneously. How postmodernity’s characteristics will influence American society, whose values include multiculturalism and pluralism, is largely unpredictable.

Individualism leads to the breakdown of responsibility. Being nonjudgmental can be shamelessly presented as a merit rather than a deficiency. It may mean that concern for the perpetrator and for the victim are equivalent narratives.

Alan Mittleman suggests that a key issue in contemporary society is the loss of faith in institutions, especially those of government, but including other traditional institutional loci as well. He observes: “There is a hollowing-out of faith in long-established American myths, such as progress, upward mobility, and so on. There is a concomitant loss of social or public hope. None of these malign phenomena precisely map onto ‘individualism.’”4 Indeed it may well be that the next generation of Americans will not do better economically than that of its parents.

The combination of some of these factors leads to increased polarization, which further intensifies the disintegration of society and is affecting the American Jewish community as well. David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee said: “Younger American Jews do not reflect their parents’ attitudes so much as the overall apathy or cynicism toward society.”5 Yet at the same time new institutions, initiated by members of the younger generation, are flourishing.

When trying to forecast where the United States may be ten years from now, one must assess, as much as possible, trends regarding a large number of issues. This should be done by asking multiple questions. Some are unanswerable; others can be answered with a high probability. Examples of the first are: when will the next economic crisis occur? Where and from what will it originate, and how major will it be? What will be its main consequences? Another possibly related question: will oil continue to flow to the West without interruption?

An example of a question about the future that can be answered with little uncertainty is: will society be more or less complex ten years from now? With technology and communications developing in so many directions, it is highly probable that complexity will increase even further. One can ask, moreover, whether a greater or smaller percentage of people will be able to cope with the challenges of such an environment. The answer is that the more complex society becomes, the more likely it is that fewer people will be able to cope. In such a social order there will probably be even greater tendencies toward fragmentation, that is, disintegration. In such a society the borders of the politically correct will also be increasingly challenged and taboos increasingly broken.

The Future of Jihadism

 In a world whose main elements are becoming opaque for an increasing number of people, is Muslim jihadism going to disappear, or at least greatly weaken? That seems unlikely both in view of the fanatically ideological commitment of its promoters and because people are inclined to look in an amorphous world for something they perceive as more certain.

The Muslim world is permeated with a clear-cut recipe for an apocalyptic totalitarian future. This does not contradict the possibility that even more Muslims will reject extremism. Some surveys show declining public support for suicide bombings among many Muslim populations. A 2009 Pew study, however, also found that more than 20 percent of Muslims in Indonesia, Jordan, and Egypt have confidence in Osama bin Laden doing “the right thing in world affairs.” Among Nigerian Muslims this percentage was over 50 percent.6 When President Barack Obama said in his Cairo speech of June 2009 that the extremists were a “small but potent minority,”7 he was clearly understating the problem.

The Pew study and other data indicate that there are many more current adherents of extremist Islam than the number of Nazis at the time Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. They are far from a majority in the Muslim world. The same, however, is true of the committed moderate and secular Muslims on the other side of the ideological spectrum. These are also less well organized. A large, presently uncommitted center will usually side with the likely winner.

Is the world thus moving toward a large-scale clash of cultures? There seems little place for this in a postmodern reality. Far more possible is that there will be many clashes of segments of cultures. The main ones are likely to be between parts of Muslim and parts of Western culture. Tensions with China and Russia may further complicate matters, fostering additional disorder. The United States will also be influenced by these developments. In such an environment preventing a gradual disintegration of society may become more important than working for a better world.

What can those who are in positions of responsibility do to cope with these challenges? The answers seem to be varied, and include greater flexibility in thought and action. Requirements include the acquisition of multiple skills, continuous monitoring of change, and developing as many safeguards against risks as possible.

A Classic Approach

Hereafter, a more classic analysis will be made of a necessarily limited and selective number of issues concerning American Jewish society’s present, as well as its future prospects and challenges.

“Jewish continuity” became a key subject in the American Jewish public discourse following the publication of the 1990 United Jewish Communities (UJC) National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS).8 This study provided a wealth of data about the community and caused disquiet among its leaders, partly because of the high percentage of interfaith marriages. The 2000–2001 NJPS further strengthened these feelings. At present there are no plans for an additional NJPS. Jewish continuity has many disparate aspects, among which are issues such as Jewish identity, education, marriage, aging, gender relations, the strengthening of communities, leadership, mobility, attitudes toward Israel, philanthropy, outreach, government  relations, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism,  building  alliances, interfaith relations, and many others. In a postmodern society, fragmentation of views on these issues is likely to increase further.

In each of these areas the Jewish community faces major challenges. A cost-effective way to identify and analyze them is by asking qualified individuals to assess some of their main aspects. The essays and interviews in this book are aimed at stimulating public discussion about the future of American Jewry.

The Importance of Numbers

In the discussion about the Jewish community’s continuity, great importance is ascribed to the number of Jews who identify as such. This has led to an increased interest in Jewish demography.

A 2008 publication by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) estimates the Jewish population in the United States at 5,275,000. This represents the middle range between two large national surveys conducted in 2000 and 2001, the above-mentioned NJPS and the American Jewish Identity Survey (AJIS).

Despite the fact that they are dated, these surveys still provide the best estimates of the size of the American Jewish population. Both pointed to effective Jewish population reduction since the early 1990s. The causes for this negative trend are later and less frequent marriages, low fertility, continuing increases in out-marriage rates, an aging population, and declining numbers of Jewish immigrants from other countries.9

Various other figures have been mentioned, which depend largely on how one defines “who is a Jew.” Ira M. Sheskin, who heads the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami, has a somewhat different opinion on the number of Jews: “It is likely that somewhere between 5.2 million and 6.4 million Jews live in the United States, with the most probable range being 6.0–6.4 million.”

He remarks that the variance in numbers derives from methodological difficulties in estimating Jewish populations as well as different definitions of Jewish identity. The main one is that while Orthodox and Conservative Jews recognize only matrilineal descent, the Reform and Reconstructionist movements accept patrilineal descent as well.10

Sheskin comments: “Whether the American Jewish population is increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same is not totally clear, though it will almost certainly decrease in the future.” He explains that the “current and changing size of the American Jewish community has political, economic, and psychological impacts.” Sheskin’s main conclusion is that “it appears that this Jewish community will maintain numbers large enough that it will continue to significantly influence events both in the United States and the Jewish world internationally.”11 It may well be, however, that the definition of who is a Jew will become so elastic that figures will be almost meaningless.

Retaining as many Jews as possible for the Jewish collective is even more crucial because the overall U.S. population is likely to increase substantially in the coming decades. The percentage of Jews in the total population is thus inevitably bound to decline. This has multiple consequences, and influences the discussion on many subjects of concern to American Jewry. The desire to preserve Jews for the Jewish community has led to an increased emphasis on Jewish education, both formal and informal, as well as manifold entrepreneurial outreach activities.

As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to forecast how the dynamic social and economic environment in the United States will evolve. Several major matters concerning the future of the Jewish community are dependent on developments in American society at large. One example among many: the economic crisis and specific aspects of it, such as the fallout from the Madoff affair, have shown how some individual projects may be greatly affected if the wealth of certain philanthropists interested in them is harmed. This random impact is not related to the specific activities for the Jewish community. It might be described in management terms as prioritizing by accident.

Regional Dispersion and Mobility

New York, California, Florida, and New Jersey together account for close to two- thirds of American Jewry. Four more states, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland, contain another 15 percent.

A 2009 study on the impact of the geographic mobility of the Jewish community found that Jews continue to exhibit high levels of residential mobility, especially in growing Jewish communities in the South and West…. More recent movers are much younger than non-movers, less likely to be married, more likely to be college graduates (but with lower income) and slightly less likely to have a Jewish denominational identity…. Mobility reduces all Jewish Federation related perceptions and behaviors, including familiarity with the local Federation and giving to the Federation at any level. In general, the strongest adverse effects of mobility are in the domain of philanthropy, particularly with respect to local Jewish Federations.12

The mobility of Jews has many other aspects, of which only some can be addressed here. Steven Windmueller, dean of the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, has studied the Jewish population of the West Coast. He points out that “different types of Western Jewish communities have emerged, reflecting unique economic and social factors. Western Jews have taken on many of the attributes associated with their region. They are struggling with the core issues of low affiliation, high intermarriage, and limited financial participation.”

Windmueller also notes that West Coast communities are experiencing significant growth. For instance, a demographic study of San Diego found that only one in ten respondents was born in San Diego County, while one in four was born in California. The majority of Jewish adults in San Diego had lived there for less than ten years. Nineteen percent of the respondents were born outside the United States.

“The West,” he points out, has always been receptive to immigrants. Los Angeles and other parts of the West have become new population centers for Iranian, South African and Latin American Jews. Significant numbers of Israeli and Russian Jews have also found the West to be welcoming. In earlier times Sephardic Jews settled in Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. Today, Los Angeles is home to one of the largest Israeli communities outside of Israel.13

Mobility in general affects Jewish institutional life. Those who have relocated may not identify with the institutions of their new residence, while having severed ties with those in the location they came from. In a few cases, however, households maintain strong relationships with other communities. For example, many elderly Jewish retirees in Florida continue to maintain synagogue memberships and to donate to federations in other states.14

Small Communities

 Living in a small Jewish community is a factor in enhancing mobility. The most committed Jews living in such areas often have problems in accessing adequate services such as Jewish schooling for their children, kosher meat and other foods, and so on. In particular for Orthodox Jews, this has led to a decline of Jews living in small communities as they relocate to larger cities.

Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Weinreb, then executive vice-president of the Orthodox Union (OU) said “Orthodox Jews are increasingly concentrating in New York, Baltimore, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles.… There comes a point at which an Orthodox synagogue or community is no longer viable. With twenty to thirty Orthodox families one can maintain a synagogue service, but not a kosher butcher or baker.”

He explains that the OU is making a major effort to reverse or slow that trend. Living in a small town at a lesser cost holds many benefits for young Orthodox families who are starting out in life and need job opportunities and housing. For instance, in Milwaukee, the city’s University of Wisconsin campus is within walking distance of the synagogue. The city also has three training hospitals and various hi-tech companies are located there. It is easier to find employment there than in New York.

We asked ourselves how we can help such people. One of our approaches involves a program that subsidizes a couple moving to such a town to the extent that they can make the down payment on a house. We are now developing another program that asks young people to move to a far-flung community for three to five years as part of their service to the Jewish world. In this way we want to encourage young doctors, lawyers, computer specialists, and scientists so that they can satisfy their nascent careers, live in an interesting place, and also serve the Jewish people. Thereafter they may stay or may move to a larger city. Synagogue members in small communities often have the ability to assist newcomers in finding employment. They can also be helpful in integrating them into the community and giving them active roles in synagogues.15 Weinreb adds:

The disappearance of the smaller communities is for many reasons not good for the Jews. One reason is that in terms of voter patterns and influencing the federal government and Congress, coming only from the big cities does not make a good impression. We have missions that go to Washington. If these includerepresentativesfromstatessuchas Maine, Kansas, and Iowa, wepresent ourselves very differently, even if they come from small communities.16

The issue of vanishing communities is not only of concern to the Orthodox. Larry Blumberg, a philanthropist from the town of Dothan, Alabama, has offered families up to $50,000 if they would be willing to relocate to Dothan and become active members of Temple Emanuel, a Reform synagogue. The condition is that they must stay for at least five years. Blumberg says he wants to find young people who would come to the religious schools and help create a family-like atmosphere in the temple. The historian Stuart Rockoff says the number of Jews in the Southeast has increased in recent decades. However, dozens of small-town synagogues have closed as younger Jews leave for the bigger cities.17

Jewish Identity

Before analyzing how to strengthen Jewish identity, the term has to be defined. Sociologist Steven M. Cohen posits that there is no accurate word for the complex of Jewish belief, behavior, and belonging. He says that, purely for lack of a better term, the word identity is used for this purpose.

Cohen remarks that over the past several decades Jews in the United States have “reshaped their Jewish identities in line with geographic dispersion, cultural changes and generational shifts. Of special note is that Jews have fewer Jewish spouses, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and formal ties to other Jews. They feel less attached to both Jewish peoplehood and Israel, which results in a decline in Jewish collective identity.”

He observes that for many, being Jewish no longer entails a set of obligations. Cohen comments that, for most American Jews, Judaism is an aesthetic understanding and being Jewish has increasingly become a matter of individual choice. Therefore, the essential challenge confronting American Jewry today is to develop policies for bridging the gap between the Judaic mission and the Jewish marketplace.18

Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion notes that nowadays many Jews who intermarry “want to remain in the community and identify as Jews. The Reform movement would not have decided to accept patrilineal descent if there were not so many intermarried Jews who still want to be part of the Jewish community.” He suggests that only the future will tell whether this approach will succeed.19

The Construction of Identity

Ellenson comments: “From a social-science viewpoint, there are at least three ways in which identity is constructed. On the first level, it is a matter of how one views oneself. Second, how is one viewed by one’s community? Third, how is one viewed by the outside world?”

He adds:

In pre-modern times there would have been virtually no dissonance for Jews between the three spheres. After all, the community’s political structure alone was a legal authority that could determine such status. In the modern period, where no such authority exists in much of the world and cultural identities are multiple, there can be a great many disparities. For instance, somebody who has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother may see himself as Jewish. Reform, Reconstructionist, and most secular Jews would view him as Jewish. Orthodox and certain Conservative Jews, however, would not consider this person as having a lawful Jewish status. If his name is Benjamin Cohen, most non-Jews would see him as Jewish as well. This illustrates how complex and layered is the issue of Jewish identity in the modern world.

Part of the challenge for Judaism in the modern world is that people have myriad identities. People also have hybrid identities.… This further underlines how difficult it is to create a collective Jewish identity. People insist that they have multiple identities and that the way they define themselves is legitimate. Jewish religious leadership of any denomination may define identity and determine Jewish status (i.e., who is “sufficiently Jewish” to marry another person defined by these leaders as possessing such status) in one way. However, this may not be “enforceable” and sociopolitical reality may allow identity to be established in other ways.

Ellenson observes: “As if that were not enough, identities are also fluid. Many children with only one Jewish parent, who have never been raised as Jews, suddenly discover that they are Jewish and define themselves as Jews. They may then go on a ‘birthright’ trip to Israel. There are many more individual examples of returning to the Jewish community.”20

Talk-show host Michael Medved opines: “For most American Jews, the core of their Jewish identity isn’t solidarity with Israel; it’s rejection of Christianity.… Jewish voters don’t embrace candidates based on their support for the State of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity—especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded ‘Christian Right.’”21

Identity in the Public Square

One important indicator of the comfort level of Jews in a society is whether they want to be identified as such in the public square. A few years ago Rabbi Norman Lamm, then president of Yeshiva University said:

We have learned not to be shy about our Jewish identity. This sense of pride in our religion and our way of presenting it before the public without shoving it in their faces emerged by virtue of the example of the black community, which started to say “black is beautiful,” and to be proud of their identity.

Today’s Modern Orthodox Jewish generation enjoys a profound education that is both religious and general. In New York hospitals one sees many doctors wearing skullcaps. Jewish lawyers and other professionals often also wear skullcaps in their offices and on the streets. This phenomenon did not exist thirty years ago.22

This contrasts with West European countries where many Jews avoid wearing kippot (skullcaps) or Stars of David in public, though they used to do so. One sometimes sees mezuzot (cases with biblical texts on parchment) inside the homes rather than on the entrance doorpost. Some Jewish organizations there avoid displaying their name outside their buildings. In other words, members of certain cultural groups have intimidated many Jews enough to prevent them from exercising the full options of Jewish culture. Currently such phenomena are infrequent in the United States.

Multiple Modes of Jewish Engagement

Another important issue for the future of American Jewry is the relationship between generations. The American Jewish community is subject to the cultural patterns, fashions, and trends of society at large. As noted, postmodernism has brought with it a fragmentation of society and a desire for greater individualism, and this also finds major expressions among Jews.

Within the  Jewish community these include multiple modes of Jewish engagement. There are many signs of a new vitality and social entrepreneurship. For instance, the Slingshot Fund was founded by Jews in their twenties and thirties and is “designed to highlight, encourage and provide support for a subset of the undercapitalized organizations.”23 Cohen notes that a large amount of American Jewish life is led by people in their twenties and thirties outside the traditional Jewish societal structure.

He observes: “Perhaps most exciting is the work of many of the younger generation—Jews in their twenties and thirties—who are involved in self-initiated acts of Jewish communal creation.” As an example Cohen mentions independent minyanim (prayer groups) and rabbi-led emergent spiritual communities. “About eighty of these have sprung up all over the United States, several of them outside the major Jewish centers…. These minyanim and rabbi-led communities keep costs very low. They may get a Torah scroll donated and rent a church on a Shabbat morning.”24

Cohen emphasizes that affiliation with a particular movement is becoming less relevant for a large part of the younger generation of Jews. Noncoercive options are the new norms for this generation. They define as optional formally monolithic standards of Jewish participation such as in-marriage and support for Israel.25


When analyzing the future of the Jewish community, rates of intermarriage are important. But this alone is too crude a measure for a detailed assessment. Not surprisingly, more in-married than intermarried Jews consider being Jewish important. However, the differences are not as dramatic as one might have expected. This has been pointed out by Sylvia Barack Fishman and Daniel Parmer of Brandeis University.26

Barack Fishman comments that parents, when saying to their children “I don’t want you to date a non-Jew. I only want you to date a Jew,” must be prepared to add, “It matters to be Jewish because….” She observes: “Many American Jewish parents, however, say that they have no desire to cast off their own Jewishness, but do not know why it matters to them. And because they are uncomfortable or confused about articulating it, they often do not.”27 Much of this analysis of the intermarried and their parents supports Cohen’s earlier- mentioned observation that for many American Jews Judaism is an aesthetic understanding.

Cohen says:

The in-marriage norm is so critical that it has true value. I believe the in- marriage norm affects the size of intermarriage, even if it is not a total obstacle. We have some evidence that when people say “my parents were against it,” there are lower rates of intermarriage. In my work, I saw the connection between being worried about the State of Israel, and concerned about one’s relationship to intermarriage.28

Ellenson mentions how touchy it is to express preference for in-marriage in the Reform movement. He relates that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, stated that it is desirable for a born Jew to marry another Jew, or to have the non-Jewish partner convert to Judaism. A third alternative is for the intermarried couple to decide to raise their children as Jews. When Yoffie made this statement at the movement’s biennial convention in 2005, it sparked much controversy.29

Sociologist Rela Mintz Geffen, a former president of Baltimore Hebrew University, says one of the myths surrounding intermarriage is that grandparents will be the ones to teach the grandchildren about being Jewish and thus function as transmitters of the Jewish heritage. This is rarely true because, in such a sensitive situation, grandparents are reluctant to fulfill this role even if they are knowledgeable about Judaism.30

Gender Issues

 The historian Hasia Diner writes:

Of all the transformations launched by the student movements of the 1960s, none had as revolutionary an impact onAmerican Judaism as Jewish feminism. Jewish feminism made possible the admission of women into rabbinical and cantorial school, the emergence of women as lay leaders in their synagogues, and the transformation of the liturgy in reflecting the era’s regnant idea that women had an equal share in the history and destiny of the Jewish people.31

She also mentions that Jewish women “have created new rituals and crafted new texts to express their sense of themselves as Jews and as women.”32

Barack Fishman and Parmer found that among the non-Orthodox denominations women have become increasingly prominent, while men are being marginalized. This is a major departure from the historical norm where men were the leaders in Jewish affairs, including public religious functions as well as rituals. This remains so in the Orthodox settings.

This development has many implications. One is that, among many non-Orthodox Jews, men and boys attach less value to Jewish activities and friends as well as to in-marriage. Barack Fishman and Parmer maintain that research and policy planning may change the situation.33

Mintz Geffen mentions that women have risen to public leadership of the Jewish community more in the ritual sphere and lay leadership than in the professional domain. She expects more women to reach the top positions in lay leadership as these rotate frequently. Mintz Geffen concludes that the enfranchisement of Jewish women has enriched Jewish life and that gender is no longer the central issue in the American Jewish discourse.34

In 2008, however, an important professional position was filled by a woman: Rabbi Julie Schoenfeld was chosen as the executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Conservative movement’s rabbinical association.35

Michael Berenbaum, executive editor of the new edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica mentions that the changed position of women is reflected by the fact that the authors of this edition have greatly increased the coverage of them.

Berenbaum says this was a subject that we felt merited much more attention. One might call it an affirmative action program. It was necessary, however, in order to complete the experience of the Jewish people. The previous essay on the mikveh [ritual bath] dealt with what men—sages and rabbis—had written about it and its halachot [religious laws]. No attention was given to women’s experience of entering the mikveh and what it represented for them. There are entries on techinot [women’s prayers], women’s commentaries, women leaders, and on women’s studies itself.36

A potentially radical change occurred when Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of the Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah announced that he would confer the title of “Rabba” on graduates of his Yeshivat Mahara’t for women. However, after discussion with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), Weiss reversed his decision and wrote a letter to RCA president Rabbi Moshe Kletenik in which he said, “It is not my intention or the intention of Yeshivat Mahara’t to confer the title of ‘Rabba’ upon its graduates.”37


The age structure of the community presents multiple challenges for Jewish institutions. According to Sheskin,

The percentage of Jewish elderly is currently much higher than is the case for all Americans, with 16 percent of Jews being age sixty-five and over compared to 12 percent of all Americans. In addition, the first baby boomers will soon reach age sixty-five, which will further increase the number of Jewish elderly. As life expectancy continues to increase, the percentage of elderly who are age seventy-five and over, and more importantly age eighty- five and over, will see significant increases and lead to increases in the demand for services.

Sheskin comments that planning housing and social services for this population will soon strain Jewish, other private, as well as secular social service agencies. Data on Jews from the 2000–2001 NJPS are not all that useful because planning for services for the elderly must be done on the local level.

As the number of Jewish elderly has increased, many have migrated from the homes they lived in before age sixty-five to other areas, particularly Florida. This means that the age distribution of many northern Jewish communities has not increased significantly while some Jewish communities in retirement states—such as South Palm Beach where 62 percent of Jews are age sixty- five and over—are impacted disproportionately by the aging of American Jewry.38

Mintz Geffen notes that for the first time in history there are many cases of four generations of Jewish families alive simultaneously in the United States. For a long time immigration and thereafter the Shoah destroyed the possibility of an extended family for many Jews who had come to the United States and left part of their families behind.

Mintz Geffen stresses that there is no defined role for grandparents. As one can become a grandparent over five decades, grandparents can be at very different stages of the lifecycle. She includes in issues to be researched: what do Jewish men and women think about grandfathers and grandmothers? What would they like their behavior to be, as compared to what their behavior is? How are grandparents involved, or not, in their grandchildren’s lives?

She adds that the increasing aging of Jews has fostered new trends. Some Jews aged around eighty-five who had earlier moved to the Sun Belt states are returning to their home states. This often brings them close to a younger family member who can help manage their care.

Even when family members do not live close to each other, the improvement in communications changes the nature of relations. Families can be in daily contact despite geographical distance. 39


Synagogue membership is the largest affiliation of American Jewry. According to the 2000–2001 NJPS, at that point 44 percent of Jews were members of a synagogue. However, many more Jews who at present are not members of a synagogue were so or will be during specific periods in the life cycle. In many communities, about 85 percent of American Jews are synagogue members at some point during their adult life.40

The sociologist Chaim I. Waxman analyzes the shift in synagogue memberships among the various denominations. Reform has become the leading denomination in American Jewry. At the turn of the century, of Jewish households belonging to a synagogue, 38.5 percent were Reform, while 35 percent of Jews were Reform. Waxman points out that the Reform movement’s numbers have grown fivefold since 1937.

Conservative Judaism, on the other hand, is seeing a significant decline. Over a decade it has lost two hundred congregations. On its right wing it has lost a relatively small group of traditional members who are now organized in a separate body, the Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ). Marc B. Shapiro of Scranton University says this movement has little future because of developments on the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy that leave little space for it. He sees UTJ becoming part of this wing.41

Orthodoxy is growing. Waxman mentions that, according to the 2000–2001 NJPS data, the percentage of American Jews whose affiliation is Orthodox had risen to 10 percent in 2001, while they represented 21 percent of synagogue members.42

Dana Evan Kaplan, a Reform rabbi, offers his view of the future:

Relations between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews have been steadily deteriorating. The two groups are rapidly moving toward nonrecognition of one another, and this is already leading to the creation of two separate Jewish peoples…. Despite efforts by the United Jewish Communities, private family foundations, and others to keep the entire Jewish community united, nothing substantive has been achieved. An era of dual denominationalism is developing, supplanting the tripartite division of American Judaism that emerged in the early years of the twentieth century.43

Historian Jonathan Sarna gives a more detailed analysis:

American Jews, living in a society that privileges individualism and gives no official recognition to religious group identity, face the challenge of preserving Jewish unity. With so many bitter divisions in Jewish life— between the different religious movements and among them; between Jews of different backgrounds and ideologies; between in-married Jews and inter-married Jews; between matrilineal Jews and patrilineal Jews; between straight Jews and gay Jews; between born Jews and converted Jews; between American Jews and Israeli Jews; between committed Jews and indifferent Jews—some have questioned whether Jews can remain a united people at all in the twenty-first century.44


Important shifts are taking place in all denominations. This leads to soul-searching concerning the future. Ellenson points out that the Reform movement is obliged to address the broad array of Jews whose life is not halachic. He remarks that the success of his movement will be measured by whether it imparts a Jewish future to people in this category.

In order to do so, Ellenson says, it will have to provide a meaningful sense of Jewish roots. He explains that Reform is becoming more traditional and that this is in line with a general trend in society, as more people feel the need for boundaries and community.

Ellenson notes that he explains to his students that life is always led according to certain conventions; many rituals work for people, others do not. This leads to a situation where a functional equivalent of tradition must be invented to provide both for communal life and personal meaning. He sees day schools as a crucial element in the ongoing life of the Jewish people. At the moment, however, such schools in the Reform movement are very few and far between.45

Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism is under pressure from both the Left and the Right, being a moderate movement in a polarizing Jewish community. Cohen notes that “as Jewish ethnicity has weakened, with the decline of Jewish marriages, friendships, and neighborhoods, so too has Conservative Judaism.”46

He observes:

Conservative Judaism still occupies a very critical place—ideologically, socially, and philosophically—between Orthodoxy and Reform. The movement offers a model of intensive Jewish living that is both modern and accessible to large numbers of American Jews. It boasts an institutional infrastructure that embraces congregations, day schools, camps, youth movements, Israel-based institutions, publications, and informal networks, to say nothing of its thousands of rabbis, cantors, educators, other professionals, and lay leaders.47

Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), says that Conservative Jewry faces three major challenges. These concern its message, quality control, and structure. The definition of the message has become a priority in part because of the blurring of the boundaries with other movements. He adds that quality control is a prime issue because Conservative Judaism depends on “franchises.” It relies on local organizations—synagogues, camps, day and congregational schools, youth groups, men’s clubs, and sisterhoods—to provide a quality product.

Eisen also notes that Conservative Judaism has structural problems because it only has a loose umbrella body, the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism. He points out that a major restructuring of the movement is underway. Eisen defines ten elements that together characterize Conservative Judaism’s worldview: learning, community, Clal Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood), Zionism, Hebrew, changing the world, mitzvah (commandment), time, space, and God. He mentions that the JTS has initiated a major project to make Conservative Jews more aware of the role of mitzvot.48

Modern Orthodoxy

When discussing Orthodoxy, one has to distinguish between Modern Orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy. Overall for both groups, higher fertility and retaining the loyalty of a large percentage of their children will, as former JTS provost Jack Wertheimer wrote, make them “an ever larger, more visible, and better represented part of the total community.” He noted: “As against the overall average of 1.86 children per Jewish woman, an informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in ‘modern Orthodox’ families to 6.6 in Haredi or ‘ultra- Orthodox’ families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim.”49

Modern Orthodoxy, a moderate movement, is under pressure, mostly from the Right. Lamm says Modern Orthodoxy is a form of Orthodoxy that is open to the outside world. He considers that it is characterized by five principles: its outlook on education, its stance toward Israel, its attitude toward the role of women, a mindset of inclusiveness, and a moderate mode of speaking and reacting.

In defining moderation Lamm says, “We do not always assume that ours is the only opinion that counts. Most of us are willing to engage in dialogue with other Jews. We remain convinced of the rightness of our convictions, but we respect the right of others to disagree. This is far from the Ultra-Orthodox position.”

He regards greater Jewish learning by women as an important ongoing development. Lamm thinks that as the number of women Talmud scholars grows, they will be teaching it and become role models for the next generation of women. They “will not become rabbis, nor is that the aim of the present women scholars.”

He adds: “I think they will serve in a semi-Halachic manner, very similar to the Halachic…consultants in Israel who often act as buffers between the rabbinic authorities and the lay public, especially in areas where women may be reluctant to directly consult a male, as in the family-purity laws.”50

Shapiro suggests that American Modern Orthodoxy consists of at least two rather distinct types, an intellectual and a sociological one. Intellectual Modern Orthodoxy has an ideology of combining the best of Western civilization with a commitment to Jewish law and traditional Jewish values. Sociological Modern Orthodoxy numbers many more people and is mainly a lifestyle choice. He sees it as a commitment to Jewish law combined with the better things in life. In his view Modern Orthodoxy is presently in a potentially more promising phase than it was fifteen or twenty years ago.

Shapiro identifies as a key development the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school in New York, which presently offers a more liberal perspective of Modern Orthodoxy. He considers the rabbis ordained at this institute both an intellectual and halachic challenge to the rabbinical establishment. Shapiro notes that the more traditional opponents of the Chovevei Torah experiment try to prevent these rabbis from obtaining pulpits so as to cause its failure.51

Beyond this approach there are those who move the borderline of Orthodoxy a little bit further, for instance, through more egalitarian services, also known as partnership minyanim.


The sociologist Samuel Heilman has discussed the characteristics of American ultra-Orthodoxy in his book Sliding to the Right. At the time it was published in 2006, there were approximately two hundred thousand haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews in the United States representing about 30 percent of American Orthodox Jewry. Of these, over 140,000 American ultra-Orthodox lived in the New York area, with about 75,000 of them in Brooklyn.

Hasidim account for about 45 percent of the ultra-Orthodox population. The Satmar Hasidim are by far the largest Hasidic group. A major concentration of the Misnagdim (non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox) is in Lakewood, New Jersey, where their leading yeshiva is located.52

The ultra-Orthodox are increasing in numbers thanks to their high fertility rate, which is far above the American average or that of American Jewry. Heilman says that by all objective criteria, nowadays more people in the United States actively pursue the haredi life than has been the case for generations. There is more communal vitality, security, sense of entitlement and being triumphant, more holy books and commentaries published, and there are many more yeshivot filled to overflowing than was ever the case in so-called golden eras of the idealized past abroad.53

Israeli Jews in the United States

A subgroup of Jews in the United States, about whose size and attitudes relatively little research has been done, is Israeli Jews. Sheskin says that a Jewish Agency report at the beginning of the 1980s claimed that as many as five hundred thousand Israelis lived in the United States. It was part of an effort to identify the problem and attract these emigrants back to Israel.

Using 2008 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and having reviewed other studies, Sheskin put the number of Israeli Jews at no more than two hundred thousand and said it could even be as low as one hundred thousand. If one adds various types of “Israel-connected” people, the total is unlikely to be more than three hundred thousand. Much depends on the definition of an “Israeli.” In using

U.S. Census data, one can examine such criteria as place of birth, language (Hebrew?) spoken at home, persons who claim Israeli “ancestry”, and so on. Among the Israeli-born population, 31 percent live in New York State, 21 percent in California, 9 percent in Florida, and 8 percent in New Jersey.

Using data from twenty-one local U.S. Jewish community studies, Sheskin found that Israeli Jews are more Jewishly connected than non-Israeli Jews in the United States. Israelis in New York are generally more Jewishly connected than those in other parts of the country.54

Cohen and Judith Veinstein have researched the numbers, characteristics, and patterns of Jewish engagement of Israeli Jews in greater New York. They also found relatively high levels of Jewish involvement by almost every measure used and say:

This pattern holds up even when we exclude Orthodox respondents from the analysis to “correct” for the large presence of Orthodox Jews among Israelis. Accordingly, Israelis who are non-Orthodox are more Jewishly engaged than New York or American Jews who are non-Orthodox…. There is one exception to this overall pattern: New York (but not the nation) Israelis trail non-Israelis in making donations to their local Jewish federation. In other words, despite their high levels of Jewish involvement, Israelis in New York under-participate in the UJA-Federation campaign.

Cohen and Veinstein comment: “Conventional wisdom holds that Israelis are less Jewishly engaged than other Jews in New York, or the United States for that matter…. As matters turn out, the conventional wisdom about Israelis’ Jewish engagement is wrong.”55


In a shrinking community that views Jewish continuity as a key aim, a multi-pronged approach to outreach is necessary. On the one hand, households with Jewish members must be sustained. On the other hand, one must reach out to others. A prime target here is the non-Jewish partner in mixed marriages.

This leads to some rather unexpected situations. Barack-Fishman and Parmer write: “Many non-Jewish wives of Jews in our interview population complained: ‘I am in the weird position of initiating activities in a religion that I don’t know a whole lot about.’ They remarked that ‘everyone we know who is interfaith—the mother is not Jewish—says the children are primarily being raised Jewish.’”56

The inclusion of many intermarried people in Jewish communal institutions poses new challenges. Wertheimer comments on some of them:

The continuing ripple effects of massive intermarriage have had huge implications for Jewish education, even if little systematic thinking has gone into addressing the needs of children of intermarried parents. Jewish institutions seem to assume that inclusion is the sum total of what is necessary for intermarried families and everything else will work itself out. But as anyone who reads the blogs of young Jewish adults who have been raised this way knows, matters are far more complex.57

The Birthright Israel project plays, thanks to its size, an important role in both strengthening Jewish identity and outreach. Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University says that “We have learned from Birthright Israel that the program has an attitudinal impact irrespective of whether your parents are both Jewish, whether one parent was a convert to Judaism, or whether he or she never converted. The children of intermarried parents also come out of the program with strengthened Jewish identities.”58


Humanitarian aid to weaker communities and people nowadays attracts significant numbers of mainly younger Jews who participate in either non-Jewish or Jewish frameworks. Ellenson stresses that one of Judaism’s important challenges is its insistence on universal human dignity and simultaneously on the Jews’ particularity. He observes:

In American Jewry today the great irony is that universalism has brought many Jews back to Jewish particularity. One successful organization is the American Jewish World Service. Tens of thousands of young Jews are anxious to participate in various causes of international assistance within a Jewish framework. This promotes a type of Jewish identity.

Another such organization is Avodah Service Corps. It enables young Jews, to whom it teaches Jewish texts, to work in impoverished neighborhoods in the United States.

Other comparable organizations are the Jewish Fund for Justice and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. These work on issues of minority rights, workers’ rights, and providing low-cost housing in urban American areas where neighborhoods are becoming gentrified. The paradox is that many Jews have been brought back to Jewish frameworks because the Jewish tradition seems to be promoting this kind of universalistic commitment.59

Ellenson adds:

Whether and how this involvement in tikkun olam (social  justice  and repair of the world) will ultimately bring all these Jews to accept Jewish particularity—and whether the source of this activity is actually Judaism itself or the ethos of the modern world—remains a matter of debate and discussion in the Jewish world. However, I remain optimistic about what these developments may mean for the relevance of Judaism to countless young American Jews.60


Ethics are likely to become a more important issue in the American Jewish discourse. The subject has gained major impetus in recent years particularly concerning kosher food. This came to a head because of a scandal involving Agriprocessors, formerly the largest kosher meatpacking company in the United States with more than $300 million in revenues and over a thousand workers.

In May 2008, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raided the company’s main slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. This followed reports questioning the treatment and illegal immigrant status of many workers. The raid generated the financial collapse of the plant with defaulted loan payments and ultimately bankruptcy.61

The collapse of Agriprocessors raised many questions about the ethics of the kosher meat industry.62 Several rabbinical organizations gave their opinions on this issue. In 2008, the leaders of the Conservative movement had asked its rabbis to speak about Magen Tzedek, a seal of ethical justice that kosher food manufacturers should be persuaded to apply.63 At the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism in November 2009 in Toronto, its president Rabbi Eric Yoffie asked Reform Jews to eat less red meat and to check carefully the food being served in synagogues.64

Shapiro notes that the OU and many others in the Orthodox world stood behind Agriprocessors, though later events forced the OU to reevaluate this position. He adds:

The young Turks of Chovevei Torah see kosher food as not merely a halachic concern but an ethical issue as well. Some of the students were at the forefront of educating the public about the hypocrisy of kosher food being produced in a “nonkosher” fashion. They pushed for what can be called kosher working norms, which go beyond the strict halachic standards of slaughter. The Rabbinical Council of America also issued a statement about this, but it was the Chovevei Torah students who identified this as an issue before the mainstream rabbinic community.65

In the wake of the Agriprocessors and Madoff scandals, the OU, the RCA, and Yeshiva University sent a joint letter to affiliated rabbis in advance of the 2009 High Holidays asking them to address Jewish ethics in their sermons. It was the first time ever that such an appeal was issued by the three bodies together.

The Conservative seal Magen Tzedek calls “for a wide range of social justice measures that go above and beyond just respecting basic legal standards.”66 By the beginning of March 2010 Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization, had given thirty-six kosher eateries its seal, which recognizes “work practices that respect the pay, time and dignity of…workers.”

Judaism and the Environment

For a long time, the discussion on the relationship between kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), ethics, and environmental issues was mainly a narrative outside the mainstream of Jewish society and largely the province of New Age Judaism. It was Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi—the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement—who proposed the concept of eco-kashrut, which was gradually picked up by a few others.67

For instance, Reconstructionist rabbi Mordechai Liebling wrote in 1990: “We need to take a hard look at the system that organizes our eating—kashrut— and transform that system into one that truly upholds the holiness of life. How much pollution does the production of this food incur? How much did the animal suffer? Was the production of this food an efficient use of the world’s available resources?”68

Jewish organizations that focus on protecting the environment have also developed somewhat in recent years. However, research into the scholarly basis for a Jewish view on environmental issues has not made much progress.


Jewish education is a central element of Jewish identity. According to Jonathan Woocher, chief ideas officer of the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), “organized American Jewry is not yet capable of adequately measuring the scope of Jewish education.” Thus any assessment of the situation in the community can only be an impression. Jewish education seems to be improving for those who are engaged Jews, as they have increasing educational opportunities.

Woocher concludes, however, that for those not engaged, the community tends to lose ground. 69

A 2008–2009 census of American Jewish day schools, conducted by political scientist Marvin Schick, found that there were 228,000 students enrolled in such schools, representing an 11 percent increase from 2003–2004. He found that five out of every six day schools are Orthodox. The overall enrollment in non- Orthodox day schools had fallen by 2.5 percent in the same period.70

Woocher identifies a number of sectors as currently receiving special attention: early childhood education, day schools, informal education, and adult education. There has also been greatly increased interest in Israel education. He mentions that part-time education—also called supplementary education—has not yet attracted major funding. However, this still remains the framework with the largest number of pupils.71

A census of Jewish supplementary schools, prepared by Wertheimer, found that an estimated 230,000 children were enrolled in such programs during the 2006–07 school year as against about 170,000 in the earlier census for 2003–4. Most of the 1,720 schools for which data are available are small. The study concluded that schools and parents differ as to the purpose of supplementary schooling. Many parents link Jewish education with bar/bat mitzvah (coming- of-age ceremony) preparation, while for the schools’ educators this is a low priority.72In synagogue supplementary schools, however, the acquisition of synagogue skills and understanding of the Jewish calendar are usually treated as important.

Wertheimer says that, among the important new trends that have reshaped the field of Jewish education, one overarching development in recent decades has been families’ insistence on choice, as they try to find the schools and programs offering the best for each of their children. These expressions of consumerism have required Jewish educational institutions to tailor their programs to the needs of individual students and their parents. He adds that a number of “immersive educational experiences” have attracted larger populations. These include day schools, overnight summer camps, and a diverse mix of programs in Israel.73

Wertheimer adds that an issue to be reevaluated is Israel education. He notes that over the decades it has become a complicated enterprise, and its proper focus and content need to be assessed. In this context the place of teaching modern Hebrew should also be reevaluated.74

Harnessing New Technologies

Technological changes will also impact Jewish education. Woocher points out that “changes in domains such as global telecommunications, the Internet, wireless technologies, and on-demand media have created a new environment for Jewish education.” In 2006, he typed in the words “Jewish education” on Google and got close to thirty-five million results or about 2.5 web links for every Jew in the world. This is yet another relatively uncharted challenge to the Jewish educational world.75

Wertheimer sees a vast array of possibilities and challenges arising from new technologies. He mentions the massive Jewish educational presence on the internet where much information about Jewish matters is available. Yet he is less certain about how Jewish education—both formal and informal—can utilize it. He adds that there are many aspects to the capability of new technologies to connect people across vast distances. Wertheimer summarizes: “In all likelihood, we are only at the beginning of a revolution in the delivery of Jewish education that will remake schools, classrooms, the roles of educators, and individual learning.”76

An ongoing challenge is to find sufficiently qualified teaching personnel. Wertheimer stresses the problem of the recruitment and retention of trained teachers for a field that does not pay high salaries and often offers only part-time employment. Woocher says: “Jewish educators are generally paid less than public school educators. This is not unusual for private education in the United States in general, but in some cases the gap is significant.”77

Taglit-Birthright Israel

By autumn 2009, nearly 225,000 young Jewish adults aged eighteen to twenty- six from around the world had participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel, which consists of a ten-day educational experience in Israel. About 75 percent of the participants were from North America, with the great majority coming from the United States.

The Birthright Israel program, which was established in 1999 and has grown rapidly in the new century, is the largest-ever communal education program in Jewish history. Its aim is to make Jewish identity more relevant to the participants, to enhance ahavat Yisrael (love of the Jewish people), and to promote a sense of Jewish peoplehood.

Saxe says: “The Jewish community needs to decide if it wants an Israel experience to be a normative element for its youth. If the funding is available, and we can reach a point where well over 50 percent of the American Jewish population has had an Israel experience, Diaspora Jewry would be transformed.”78

Interviews with Birthright Israel participants have shown that these trips lead to changes in attitude for the great majority. However, there is far less change in behavior. The program has not existed long enough to determine whether changes in attitude persist in the long term. One of the major challenges for the initiators is how to follow up on the program once participants have returned to their homes and campuses.79

Jewish Studies at Universities

The expansion of Jewish studies programs at universities over the past decades has been remarkable. This has manifested itself in many ways including, for instance, the increase in the number of Jewish studies faculty, the rise in membership of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), and the publication of important studies.80 The AJS, founded in 1969, now has more than 1,800 members and there are about 230 endowed chairs for Jewish studies in the United States.81

Jehuda Reinharz, the outgoing president of Brandeis University, says that while liberal arts have undergone a decline in status over the past four decades, Jewish studies are flourishing. Unlike many subjects in the humanities there is no problem of funding for Jewish studies. He notes further that, while in the past anyone who sought quality Jewish studies needed to spend time at an Israeli university, today this is no longer the case.82 Holocaust studies have also become an important field over the past decades.

An emerging field is Israel studies. Mitchell Bard says: “The Second Intifada created the incentive among the American Jewish philanthropic community to promote education and scholarship on Israel. At the time there was much anti- Israel activism on some college campuses. Public attention was mainly focused on student activities including ‘mock checkpoints’ and ‘apartheid walls.’”

A program for visiting Israeli professors was organized by the American- Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and began in 2004–05. It has gradually brought an increasing number of Israeli professors to the United States and by the academic year 2008–09, twenty-seven such scholars were teaching on twenty- six campuses. By the end of 2008 about fifteen chairs in Israel studies had been endowed.83

The publication of the new edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica in 2006 has shed further light on the development of Jewish studies in the United States. Berenbaum notes that whereas the original edition was a product of German Jewry, the new encyclopedia is written mostly by Israeli and American scholars. He points out that there is major cross-fertilization between the two sides.

Much can be learned about trends in the Jewish world, including American Jewry, from what this encyclopedia’s editors considered topics demanding emphasis as well as those they considered controversial. As mentioned earlier, Berenbaum said one important indication was that women had been largely left out of the history, biography, and other sections of the previous edition. Mintz Geffen, who collaborated in the new edition says: “The role of women had to be mainstreamed into existing articles such as, for instance, those on kashrut and candles, while many biographies had to be added.”84

Among the more controversial issues were how editors should deal with homosexuality, the Israeli settler movement, and who should be included as Jews. As Berenbaum observes, “Many who are not halachically Jewish see themselves within the context of Jewish discourse and Jewish faith.”85


One crucial current issue is Jewish leadership. Wertheimer asserts that there are no longer any universally recognized leaders among American Jewry. He found that among the national organizations those more frequently cited as leading forces in the Jewish community are the ones that address international needs, such as AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Claims Conference.

According to Wertheimer, there is far less consensus regarding domestic Jewish policy. While several leaders of American Jewry are effective heads of their organizations, they rarely rise above their own sphere to influence the discourse on broader issues affecting Jewish life.

He contends that the locus of organized activity has shifted from the national to the local level, where much of American Jewry’s energy is now focused. Synagogues, havurot (small religious fellowships), federations, educational programs and institutions, as well as grassroots social-action organizations and salons seem to appeal particularly to younger Jews.86

The leadership issue also comes up in various ways. It has, for instance, raised questions in Reform Jewry. It has become the largest American denomination and is likely to remain so for many years to come. On the other hand, at the local level it is the least uniform of the denominations.

In this context, Ellenson asks what Reform rabbis should be trained for. He concludes that, in seeking common elements, a central place must be given to Israel in this training. Hence he opposed those who did not want to send rabbinical students to Israel for a year of study during the Second Intifada.87

The main leadership challenge in the future thus seems to be: who will be able to speak for American Jewry about the multiple challenges the Jewish community will have to face? And as American Jewry is the largest Diaspora community, how will it be able to address the many problems concerning world Jewry in the years to come?

American Jewish Journalism

Jewish newspapers have fulfilled an important role in keeping community members informed. With the advance of electronic media, however, this role is likely to be diluted and fragmented.

In 2004, Sarna identified three central problems regarding American Jewish journalism. The first concerns its mission;  the  second,  its  responsibilities; and third, the compromises it should be prepared to make so as to ensure its survival.88 These three problems may appear in different ways in the electronic media.

He adds:

It is “the best of times and the worst of times” for American Jewish journalism. On the positive side, thanks to the internet, newspapers boast more readers than ever before, and important local articles can quickly find their way around the world. On the negative side, paid circulation and advertising are way down at all American Jewish newspapers, and many fear for their very survival.89

Coalition Building

A relatively small community such as the Jewish one, which wants to protect its rights and advance its interests and those of Israel, must seek to build coalitions with other ethnic groups. Given its shrinking percentage within the American population, this will require greater efforts in the future. Much of coalition building is done by local Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs). For example, the JCRC in New York describes its role as “the ultimate hands-on strategic bridge builder, within the Jewish and the multi-ethnic communities of New York.”90

Particularly in cities where the ethnic composition changes rapidly, the JCRCs must be very dynamic and establish contacts with growing new communities. New York is one of these. From 1970 to 2000 its foreign-born population doubled from 1.4 million to 2.87 million. Nearly 43 percent of New York City’s foreign- born came to the United States in the 1990s.91

On a national basis, Latinos have by now become the largest minority in the United States. Numbering an estimated forty-five million, of whom up to a quarter are illegal immigrants, they account for 15 percent of the total population. Windmueller observes that “from the Jewish standpoint, the relevance of Latinos is their growing importance in the United States. Latinos are increasingly playing a role in local and national politics. In the economy they also interact increasingly with the rest of society, which means with Jews as well.”92

Windmueller says that shared values are the key to improving Jewish-Latino intercommunal relations. These include a great love for family and a strong commitment to the education of children. He adds: “One important goal for the Jewish community is to identify young Latinos who are emerging as leaders in their communities. Jews should develop strategies to introduce the next generation of Latino officials to Jewish leaders and to Israel, and to nurture such connections in general.”93


Economics have an important  impact on all communities. There are some economic issues that affect the Jewish community specifically. One of these is that in an aging community, the need to take care of the elderly will necessitate investments in nursing homes and assisted-living and other senior-citizen facilities as well as greater support for them, as there will be more people not earning a living and who have small retirement funds.

A second economic aspect concerns the cost of living Jewishly, particularly for those with the strongest Jewish identity. Their commitment entails great expenses for schooling, camps, and so on. Keeping a kosher home also involves above-average costs. To this must be added synagogue and often also Jewish Community Center memberships.

A third economic impact stems from the recent financial crisis. It affected both individuals who lost their jobs and philanthropic donations. For instance, the announcement of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008 led to many articles about the loss of major charitable donations by Jewish executives in the firm.

As a reaction to the expected reduction in donations, the officers of the UJA- Federation of New York stated in October 2008 that, if necessary, they would be willing to take money from the organization’s $850 million endowment funds to supplement funds raised annually.

John Ruskay, executive vice-president of UJA-Federation of New York, stated: “The reserves will be available during acute crises, whether to rescue Jews globally or to assure that those in our community can live in dignity.” Irv Rosenthal, the group’s chief financial officer, said, “If we need to dip into our endowments, we are prepared to do it. No Jews will go hungry and nobody will be without a roof over his head.”94

Some foundations decided to temporarily stop accepting grant applications. This included a major one when in autumn 2008 the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, which donates about $100 million annually to Jewish causes, announced that it would not accept new applications for four months, until the end of March 2009.95

The economic crisis also affected attendance at the United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) annual General Assembly, which was held in Jerusalem in November 2008. While about five thousand people from North America were originally expected, only 2,500 actually came.96

Another aspect of economics concerns a number of scandals in the financial world. In the Forward’s annual list of the fifty most prominent Jews, a special section was devoted to scandals. The paper wrote:

We take no pleasure in highlighting misdeeds and embarrassments caused by fellow Jews, but they, too, are part of our story.

Consider this: Last year at this time, only those in the know had heard of Bernard Madoff; now his name is synonymous with the worst kind of greed and betrayal. Last year at this time, J. Ezra Merkin’s name was associated with his revered, philanthropic family; now he is being sued in connection with his alleged role in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Last year at this time, few might have guessed that Solomon Dwek, son of a prominent rabbi, was a cooperating witness in an FBI sting that nabbed New Jersey politicians and prominent members of his Syrian Jewish community.97

Costs of Education

As noted earlier, Jewish education is a central element promoting Jewish continuity and identity. The burden on the Orthodox community especially, with its relatively large number of children, is already heavy, with tuition costs increasing faster than income. In particular, tuition for Modern Orthodox day schools places a heavy burden on parents who often have several children in such schools.

Lamm says: “Day schools are the only form of education that can secure future generations…. We face a crisis. If a parent earns $100,000 and it costs about $20,000 or more to send each child to school, then it is impossible to have large families.”98 To this must now be added the financial crisis that has hit the United States.

Wertheimer has estimated that the average annual cost for a Jewish day school education per child was around $10,000 a few years ago. This meant that the total outlay for day school attendance of parents, philanthropists, and communities came to about $2 billion per annum. Adding another hundred thousand children to the day school system would mean not only an additional $1 billion annually, but also investment of $135 million in school buildings and maintenance.99

Windmueller has made some assessments on the possible impact of the economic crisis on American Jewry. He says it may take years before all its consequences emerge.

These economic challenges threaten the existing infrastructure of the American Jewish community, leading to a new order of institutions and leaders. The changes are already having a social and psychological impact on American Jewry. For many older Jews, many of their core institutional patterns of personal engagement have been altered. For younger Jews, the dislocations may foster opportunities for further experimentation and disengagement from the traditional patterns.

He adds:

The long-term outcome of the transformation is likely to be a far weaker, less cohesive American Jewish community. As the economy moves beyond the current crisis and as institutions adjust, a new leadership will also likely emerge that will need to draw on the lessons of this period. The “new” American Jewish scene they will inherit will display a smaller communal and religious system with fewer resources.100


Even before the economic crisis that started in 2008, poverty was a problem in some Jewish communities, particularly in large northeastern ones. Ruskay drew attention to the nature of the substantial Jewish poverty in New York. “The Jewish Community Study of New York showed that from 1991 to 2001 the number of Jewish poor in New York increased by a dramatic 35 percent. Roughly one-third of the Jewish poor are elderly, one-third are immigrants, and one-third are large ultra-Orthodox families. For a family of four, this means an income of less than $27,000 per year.”

Ruskay notes that one has to think globally as well.

There are also Jewish poor in the former Soviet Union, Argentina, and Ethiopia, as well as elsewhere. In Israel and New York there are government- funded human safety nets, however inadequate these may be. These do not exist elsewhere. A Jewish philanthropic mutual fund’s responsibility is to first make sure that no one is starving. Thereafter, one has to try to determine where one can have an impact to get people to the next level.

Similarly, we have a shared responsibility for Jewish education in communities that cannot afford it. A few years ago, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon invited a few of us to come to his home for dinner and said “Israel needs your help; we must make certain that every Jew who wants to can get out of Argentina as the economy there is in a free fall. For those who stay, we have to make sure that they have adequate food and education.” The Federation system made a commitment on the spot for up to $50 million.101

In its report on Jewish poverty the UJA-Federation states that “244,000 Jewish New Yorkers are poor and that an additional 104,000 live just above the poverty line, disqualifying them for entitlements.”102

International Charity

The main American Jewish organization to provide international charity is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). It operates in more than seventy countries on behalf of North American Jewry. It carries out major activities in the former Soviet Union, where it provides basic nutrition and medicine to close to 170,000 Jews. It also provides nonsectarian humanitarian assistance for victims of natural and man-made disasters.

Though it is the largest such organization, it is far from being the only one. Ruskay mentions that the UJA-Federation of New York more than a decade ago ended the division between domestic and overseas issues, which reflects a changing worldview:

Maintaining “domestic” and “overseas” divisions was anachronistic…. All our planning, allocating, and fundraising are now rooted in the concept that we are a global Jewish people.

The question should have been how a philanthropic entity like UJA- Federation of New York can have maximum impact in caring for Jews, enhancing Jewish identity, and strengthening the Jewish people by developing a sense of global cohesiveness. We have thus created three commissions to deal with our planning and allocations. They reflect the three pillars of our mission: chesed (caring), Clal Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood), and chinuch (Jewish identity and renewal).

This new approach creates a different understanding of collective responsibility. As a global people, we are responsible for one another. Within this context, we believe the Jewish Agency for Israel might be more appropriately named the Jewish Agency for the Jewish People.103

Israel in American Jewish Identity

The place of Israel in American Jewish identity is a subject of much debate. This is likely to increase further in the future. The issue of whether American Jewry is getting more distant from Israel has been debated for a long time. Many Jewish leaders have expressed their fears on this score. A study by Cohen and Ari Kelman found that by every measure there is a decline of attachment to Israel in each younger generation. For instance, 80 percent of Jews aged sixty-five and above said that “caring about Israel is an important part of being Jewish.” For those under sixty-five the figure was 60 percent.104 A study undertaken in 2008 by Brandeis University on behalf of Taglit-Birthright Israel contradicts this common belief, also known as the “distancing hypothesis.”105

Attacks on Israel in the  new century not only fostered an increase in commitment to Israel among many core elements of American Jewry. They also led to the establishment of an array of pro-Israel grassroots organizations. This development should also be seen within the framework of the mounting individualism in American society at large.106

Since its initiation in 1965, the “Salute to Israel” parade in New York has grown into a major expression of American Jewry’s identification with Israel. Marissa Gross of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs writes that “the parade is a barometer for the community and its trends. The attendance of the parade also suggests American Jews’ sense of comfort and security in the United States.

The participants, the themes that are chosen, and the dynamics of the parade itself reflect how American Jews relate to Israel and to themselves.”107

Future Comfort Levels

One major question that will remain on the American Jewish agenda concerns the level of comfort of Jews in American society. Rabbi David Wolpe says:

We are not used to being, and being accepted as, part of the great collective. Whether labeled Jewish American  or American Jews, “Jewish” always pulled at the purity of the other half of the compound word…. This tension, of course, has long been an accusation of our enemies. But it is not an issue of divided loyalty; that is a canard. Rather, the sense of disquiet is a natural accompaniment to being the outsider, the marginalized one who does not feel fully at home.108

American Jewry can find comfort in the large number of Jews in Congress and the Jewish presence on the Supreme Court. There is also a significant number of Jews among American Nobel Prize winners. Jews, moreover, are found in the forefront of philanthropy and many other respected activities.

One structural example of tension was mentioned by Sarna: “The holiday of Christmas, for example, annually reminds American Jews just how far apart they stand from central aspects of contemporary American culture. Although they may attempt to magnify the relatively minor holiday of Hanukkah into a surrogate for Christmas, Christmas remains an awkward day for many American Jews.”109

The general opinion is that the American Jewish experience is unique. This is often called the “exceptionalism” issue. Former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz wrote regarding the Jewish immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth century:

Obviously there was no gold in the streets, as some of them may have imagined, and so they had to struggle and struggle hard. But there was another kind of gold in America, a more precious kind than the gold of coins. There was freedom and there was opportunity. Blessed with these conditions, and hampered by much less disabling forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination than Jews had previously grown accustomed to contending with, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these immigrants flourished— and not just in material terms—to an extent unprecedented in the history of their people.… Through the unique benignity of their experience in the United States, the Jewish people bear witness to the infinitely precious virtues of the traditional American system.110

Windmueller observed:

Probably no other definitive standards can as effectively be employed to determine a society’s level of connection and openness to its Jewish population as the presence/absence of anti-Semitism and support for the State of Israel. Employing both standards of assessment, the U.S. must be seen as unique in its welcoming of Jews and supportiveness of Israel. In the current political environment, the American model must be seen as both significantly different from other nations, and in turn, particularly appealing.111

The absence of any state-supported or sponsored anti-Semitism in American society is indeed a very important element in the American Jewish experience. It should, however, not be the only tool used to assess the future comfort levels of American Jewry. There are signs in some areas that certain forms of distress are emerging, some of them from different sources, such as the campus and mainstream Christian churches, than in the past.

The 2000–2001 NJPS questionnaire included a question phrased as “I feel like an outsider in American society because I am a Jew.” Three percent of those polled strongly agreed, 14 percent somewhat agreed, 18 percent somewhat disagreed, 63 percent strongly disagreed, and 2 percent did not respond.112

The status of Israel in American society at large also contributes to the comfort level of American Jews. A Gallup poll in February 2010 found that Israel ranked fifth among countries viewed most favorably by Americans. Only Canada, Britain, Germany, and Japan ranked higher. Sixty-seven percent of the more than a thousand people polled said they had a favorable opinion of Israel compared to 25 percent who had an unfavorable one. Sixty-three percent had more sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians. This was the highest level of support for Israel in nineteen years. About 15 percent said they sided more with the Palestinians.113

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that anti-Israelism and anti- Semitism overlap to a great extent. The best-known current definition of anti- Semitism is the working definition of the EUMC.114 It reads:

Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

The document containing this working definition gives a series of contemporary examples of anti-Semitism.115 One of these is: “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”

The document also states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” It lists examples of how anti-Semitism can manifest itself concerning Israel:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the
  • Holding Jews  collectively  responsible  for  actions  of  the  state  of 116

The anti-Semitic character of anti-Israelism can be proved through the analysis of cartoons, survey findings and other statistics, and semantics.117 During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the turn of 2008–2009, the many attacks on Jews around the world provided further proof of this.

There is overwhelming evidence that the three main permutations of the core theme of anti-Semitism have many common characteristics, with their principal submotifs being identical. These permutations are: religious anti-Semitism, which can more precisely be called anti-Judaism; ethnic (racist) anti-Semitism; and anti- Israelism (anti-Zionism).

The common characteristics of the three permutations include the main motif that the Jew—now including also the Jewish state as the new Jewish collective— constitutes absolute evil. This motif manifests itself according to prevailing worldviews at any given time. Furthermore, there is an ongoing powerful promotion of a discourse of Jew-hatred (now represented as hatred of Israel).118

Jews as Inciters

A small number of Jews and Israelis are central to the anti-Semitic discourse. This phenomenon is something the mainstream Jewish community will have to continue to live with.

Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University said:

Many of those who are most guilty of stoking anti-Zionist hatred on college campuses in the United States and Europe, are Jews. Among the best known are MIT Professor Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, the latter an unsuccessful academic who has made a career out of attacking pro-Israel Jews…. They represent few Jews, but their positions enable non-Jews to claim that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not the same. The latter only have to claim that they are joining “the best of the Jews” in their critique of Israel.119

Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor phrased it somewhat differently: “To the new anti-Semitism Jewish progressives are indispensable because they are ever ready to declare that what might seem anti-Semitic to untutored minds is really nothing more than ‘criticism of Israeli policy.’ After all, who should know better than Jews whether something is anti-Semitic or not?”120

Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University analyzed the anti-Zionist hatred of a number of “progressive Jews.” He remarks that

In some quarters, the challenge is not to Israel’s policies, but to its legitimacy and right to an ongoing future. Thus, the argument leveled by Israel’s fiercest critics is often no longer about 1967 and the country’s territorial expansion following its military victory during the Six-Day War, but about 1948 and the alleged “crime,” or “original sin,” of its establishment.121

The more one analyzes anti-Semitic attacks on Israel by Israelis and Jews, the more one sees that they are frequently indistinguishable from those by gentiles. Among the specific features of the anti-Israel writings of some Jews are the use of their family’s Holocaust experiences, their references to being Jewish, or to their association with Israel.122

Anti-Semitism in Society at Large

Anti-Semitism is not a major issue in American society at large. This is borne out by various studies by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In its 2008 annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, it counted “1,352 incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions in 2008, representing a 7 percent decline from the 1,460 incidents reported in 2007.” Nevertheless, Jews remain the religious group most targeted for hate in the United States.123

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the ADL, has said that while the audit is a barometer of anti-Semitism, there are certain fields where anti-Jewish manifestations are hard to quantify. He specifically referred to the internet, Facebook, and YouTube. Foxman added: “In 2008, the financial crisis brought about an increase in rhetoric targeting Jews, with letters in newspapers and on Web sites blaming Jews for the misdeeds of a select few, with Bernard Madoff topping the list.”124

Steven Bayme comments that in general American society has demonstrated repeatedly that when Jews commit misdeeds, Americans react fairly and do not blame the Jews collectively. This has been the pattern consistently since the Rosenberg trial in the 1950s.125

The ADL’s October 2009 poll of American attitudes toward Jews found that “Anti-Semitic propensities are at a historic low since 1964, matching the previous all time low point in 1998.” Only 12 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views. Yet, as far as particular stereotypes are concerned, 79 percent of Americans think Jews have too much power in business and 64 percent say Jews have too much influence in the United States. Twenty-nine percent of all Americans believe that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.126

There are various areas where anti-Semitism manifests itself significantly. This pertains mainly but not exclusively to its anti-Israel mutation. Some examples are college campuses, mainstream Christian denominations, and major progressive online media.


One area where the anti-Israel mutation of anti-Semitism continues to develop in particular is the campus. Initially much of the anti-Israel campaign focused on convincing universities to divest their holdings in Israeli securities and in those

U.S. companies that supply arms to Israel. There was much opposition to this campaign from Jewish organizations, university presidents, and many others. Ultimately not a single university decided to divest.127

In recent years the problems have been of a different nature. A number of universities stand out as places where anti-Israelism is structural. One example is the University of California (UC) system, with the University of California at Irvine being a hotbed of anti-Israelism.

In February 2008, for example, an Israel Apartheid Week was held there. Included in the program was a lecture by Imam Mohammad Al-Asi titled “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide.”128 He claimed that Israel is an apartheid state and that “Israel is on the way down…your days are numbered. We will fight you until we are martyred or until we are victorious.”129

Al-Asi returned to UC-Irvine in May 2008 to take part in a weeklong event to commemorate the Nakba, that is, the Arabs’ catastrophic defeat in the 1948 war against Israel. Another speaker was Norman Finkelstein. There the imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali praised Palestinian mothers who send their children out as suicide bombers.130 In February 2010, while addressing students of the Law School and Political Science Department, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren was heckled and frequently interrupted by Muslim students. Police made eleven arrests.131 Thereupon UC president Mark G. Yudof and the chancellors of ten UC campuses condemned “all acts of racism, intolerance and incivility.”132

Columbia University has also held several anti-Israel events over the past few years, even if only a limited number of its staff is involved in these.133 Columbia stood out negatively again in September 2007 when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at its World Leaders Forum. The idea of inviting him had already been raised the previous year. At the 2007 lecture, Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger challenged Ahmadinejad and others did so as well. Yet the fact of Columbia’s invitation gave legitimacy to the Iranian president, who consistently calls for the elimination of Israel and the genocide of Jews.

One paradigmatic phenomenon was the statement of the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University.134 More than 650 academics, including scholars from almost every Ivy League school, signed this petition that was in part an attack on supporters of Israeli power and those fighting anti-Semitism in American academia.

The statement begins by stressing the essential role of academic freedom, blaming pressure or lobby groups for imposing limitations on this freedom. It singles out pro-Israel activities. According to supporters of the declaration, the Israel lobby has taken control of the universities via donations, linking anti- Semitism to anti-Israelism, and exerting other types of influence.

Campus Watch director Daniel Pipes unmasked the hypocrisy of the Ad Hoc Committee by pointing out that the anti-Israel academic Noam Chomsky has no problem being invited to speak at American universities and added: “When I go on universities I can barely give a talk.”135

Gradually the many ideological abuses on American campuses have led to a number of counteractions. An important example was an investigation of anti- Semitic and anti-Israel hate at UC-Irvine by members of the Jewish community of Orange County. They examined the structural problems in their totality rather than only dealing with some individual incidents. This can serve as a model for similar investigations at other universities.136

Teaching in the Classroom

 The discriminatory developments in the academic world that have been exposed may, however, only be the tip of the iceberg. More severe problems exist in the classroom. Biased teachers in various areas of the humanities make discriminatory remarks about Israel, but outsiders rarely know anything about it. An exception occurred at Columbia where the David Project  created publicity about the misbehavior of various teachers in the Middle Eastern department (MEALAC).

Columbia had no choice but to investigate the incidents, even if the investigation avoided many issues.137

For information on what goes on in the classroom, one must depend mainly on anecdotal evidence. Students talk about how anti-Israel books, such as those by Walt and Mearsheimer and Jimmy Carter—which will be discussed below— are used as textbooks without any balancing material. In this way students are indoctrinated against Israel.

The Arab states have long understood the importance of universities and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to establish programs of Arab and Islamic studies that obfuscate many of the problems, which originate in Muslim states and societies but affect both their citizens and humanity at large. The financing of chairs in Western universities by Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships is an issue that will require increasing scrutiny. Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says Persian Gulf Arabs donated a total of $88 million to fourteen U.S. universities from 1995 to 2008. His own university was the largest recipient.138

Carter, Walt and Mearsheimer

The accusation that the Jews aim to control the world is one of the classic motifs of anti-Semitism. The best-known manifestation of this is an invented text called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is published again and again, in great numbers mainly, but not exclusively, in the Arab and Muslim world.

A contemporary variant is that a powerful “Israel lobby”—consisting of Jews and others—controls American policymaking, leading to the United States making moves against its own interests. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt first published an article on this subject called “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” and later turned it into a book.139 The main target of the attacks on this perceived Israeli power is AIPAC.

Walter R. Mead has given a convincing response: “Widespread gentile support for Israel is one of the most potent political forces in U.S. foreign policy, and in the last 60 years, there has never been a Gallup poll showing more Americans sympathizing with the Arabs or the Palestinians than with the Israelis.”140

Another book, with a distinctly anti-Semitic title, was written by former president Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.141 Carter traveled all over the United States to promote his book and was even invited to speak at Brandeis University, which benefits from major Jewish support. As in many other cases, he refused to allow any debate on the book. Brandeis had invited Dershowitz to debate Carter. When the former president refused, Dershowitz was given the opportunity to speak after Carter left.142 The hosts’ willingness to accept Carter’s conditions was yet another example of how academic freedom is twisted at many American universities.143

Although the book’s many distortions were criticized from various directions, hundreds of thousands of copies were  sold. CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) published a monograph detailing the many errors in Carter’s book.144 Kenneth Stein, first executive director of Emory University’s Carter Center, and other board members resigned after Carter’s book was published. In his resignation letter Stein stated as reasons: “the factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments” in the book. 145

In December 2009, Carter sent a letter to the American Jewish community in which he offered a personal apology for the harm he had caused. He referred to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within secure and recognized borders. A few months later he repeated his earlier views. Foxman reacted: “President Carter’s recent comments on Israel are profoundly disappointing, and leave little doubt of the insincerity of his apology.”146

High Schools

Another source of anti-Israelism about which very little is known is public-high- school curriculum and teachers. Weinreb has insights on this problem, the OU’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) having established culture clubs in over 150 public schools across the United States that reach thirty thousand Jewish youngsters. He says: “We find that many children are very anti-Israeli. They have been very much brainwashed by an extremely anti-Israeli education establishment. We need a component of Israeli advocacy.”147

High school textbooks are another source of bias. In their book The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion, Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra reviewed twenty-eight high school textbooks from major publishers. They focused on four subjects: Jewish history, theology, and religion; the relationship between Judaism and Christianity; the relationship between Judaism and Islam; and the history, geography, and politics of the Middle East.

The authors found much biased scholarship. Several textbooks obfuscate or minimize Palestinian terrorism; others even justify it. Tobin and Ybarra found “that Arab and Muslim interest groups attempt to whitewash and glorify all things Islamic and promote Islam as a religion.” These organizations also attempt, sometimes with success, to advance the Palestinian narrative. Tobin and Ybarra conclude that textbooks are frequently critical of Jews and Israel and sometimes show little respect for Judaism while Islam is depicted without criticism.148

Fifteen years ago Bard published a study, titled Rewriting History in Textbooks, that surveyed eighteen of the history textbooks most widely used in American high schools. He found them “full of factual errors, oversimplification, omission, and distortion, consistently to the detriment of Jews and Israel. This inevitably leads to the conclusion that the authors are prejudiced.”149

Bard remarked that high schools are, as far as anti-Israeli teaching is concerned, even worse than universities. This problem has grown since the Arab terrorist attacks of 9/11. They prompted a desire to better understand the Muslim world. The people who are producing the information about it in textbooks are largely funded by the Saudis. They are presenting a version of Islamic history that is often very selective, to put it mildly. We have tried during the last couple of years to produce texts on the history of Israel and found it surprisingly difficult to get them into public schools.150

The Hadassah organization, as part of its “Curriculum Watch” activity, also reviews textbooks to “detect inaccuracies and bias as relating to Judaism, the Holocaust, and the history of Israel.”151

Anti-Israelism in Mainstream Churches

Christian anti-Semitism, mainly in the form of anti-Israelism, has grown in recent years. While it is found in some Catholic environments, its main foothold is in mainstream U.S. Protestant churches. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says: “Theologians and activists in some prominent Protestant churches are seeking to destroy Israel from Above. Their activities threaten to turn traditional friends into enemies and erode support for Israel in the United States.… They cast Israel as a theological mistake, conceived in the sin of the last gasp of Western colonialism.”152

Dexter Van Zile, an analyst who works for CAMERA, monitors Protestant anti-Semitism. He writes:

For the past several years, a group of five Protestant churches—the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—have legitimized the increasingly virulent anti-Israel movement in the United States. Although these churches have suffered substantial membership declines since the mid-1960s, they still enjoy a considerable influence on the American scene, particularly on the Left, thanks to their role in American history and the affluence of their members.153

One important development in recent years has been divestment campaigns by various liberal Protestant churches. For instance, in 2004 the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) passed a resolution calling for selective divestment from corporations doing business with Israel, specifically corporations that “support the occupation.”154

Rabbi Eugene Korn comments:

The resolution precipitated a crisis in Jewish-Protestant relations in America. For many years there had been anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rhetoric in member churches of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in America, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Europe. But it was just that—rhetoric confined to political posturing. It had few “teeth,” and most Jews and Israelis regarded it as a mild curiosity holding little potential for serious damage to Israeli or Jewish interests.155

Korn notes that the threat of divestment, however, crossed the threshold to action.

He observes that divestment came as a shock to the Jewish community because American Jews had a longtime informal alliance with the mainline Protestant churches on domestic political issues. Historically, the American Jewish community has identified largely with the liberal end of American domestic politics on principles such as the separation of church and state, keeping religion out of the public square, and freedom of choice on abortion. In this posture American Jews were almost in lockstep with the positions of the liberal churches.156

Korn thinks the hostility toward Israel in the mainline churches is confined to a minority. He therefore recommends that American Jews engage with moderate Christians so as to undermine anti-Israel church campaigns. This is even more so as Jews and Christians have common strategic interests in the Middle East against Islamic intolerance.157

Mennonites against Israel

There are other Christian denominations as well in which anti-Israelism flourishes.

Van Zile says:

Mennonite-supported peacemaking institutions have been at the forefront of the effort to discredit Israel to audiences in North America. These institutions portray Jewish sovereignty as the cause of conflict and suffering in the Middle East and downplay Muslim and Arab hostility toward Jews and Israel.158

The prescription for peace offered by these activists—especially those affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and Christian Peacemaker Teams—is for Israeli Jews to abandon their insistence on maintaining Israel as a sovereign Jewish state and acquiesce to a one-state solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict. This prescription fails to take into account overwhelming evidence that a Jewish minority would not be safe in a Muslim- and Arab- majority country in the Middle East.159

In September 2007, MCC officials went so far as to help organize an interfaith dinner between Christian leaders and Iranian president Ahmadinejad during his visit to the United Nations in New York.160

Progressive Political Blogs

A new field where Jew-hatred, in both its classic and anti-Israel forms, manifests itself is that of major progressive blogs. The nature of Jew-hatred in blogs has hardly been analyzed. A study by Adam Levick of some leading blogs found that three important historic anti-Semitic motifs appeared frequently: Israel resembles Nazi Germany; there is excessive Jewish power and control over American society and government; and Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country.161

Levick has also analyzed cartoons in a larger number of such progressive web media. There as well he found Israel recurrently portrayed as a Nazi country. In viewing these cartoons it becomes even clearer that anti-Semitism in the progressive sphere focuses on a limited number of motifs. Other negative portrayals of Jews such as the Jew as an animal—a staple in the Arab and Muslim world—and the Jews as God-killers are absent.162

With the increasing importance of web media and blogs, the problem of anti- Semitism there will only intensify. Unlike most classic media, editorial control is largely absent.

Human Rights and Racism

For many reasons, Jews have always played a role disproportionate to their size in the promotion of human rights. This is still the case as shown by organizations such as the AJDC and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). The issue of human rights has also become for many an alternative religion. Yet, in recent decades, the cause of human rights has been increasingly undermined in several areas. While many worthy causes are still being promoted, the moral integrity of the human rights movement at large is doubtful at best.

Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor has pointed out that:

For many years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that use the language of human rights and other universal moral causes have been exempt from independent examination. Their activities and publications were usually accepted at face value, under the assumption that the officials involved are virtuous and unbiased. But, like other powerful political actors, NGOs need independent evaluation and constructive criticism to prevent abuse.163

Many of the humanitarian activities of the United Nations have been corrupted. This became evident at the infamous UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban in August- September 2001 (Durban I).

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler says that by its discrimination against Israel, “the United Nations has become a case study of the new anti- Jewishness and the singling-out of the Jewish people for differential and discriminatory treatment.”164 The Goldstone Report has become yet another example of this.

Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute notes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledges the debt to the Jewish people when it says: “Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” She adds regarding the serious misconduct of the United Nations: “But over time, the UN has turned the Jewish victims of the Nazis into their counterparts of the 21st Century.”165

Major human rights NGOs have also played a large role in undermining human rights. In October 2009 Robert Bernstein, who founded Human Rights Watch (HRW), accused the organization of anti-Israel bias. He said it had lost critical perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel had been attacked by Hamas and Hizballah, “organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields.” Bernstein added: “These groups are supported by the Government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”166

Earlier HRW was forced to suspend Marc Garlasco, its senior military analyst, after it became known that he was a collector of Nazi memorabilia. Garlasco had been involved in HRW investigations of Israel.167 In July 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that an HRW delegation had gone to Saudi Arabia to “raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW’s demonization of Israel.”168

The semantics concerning human rights have been greatly distorted. After the Durban I conference, then-congressman Tom Lantos wrote that the official NGO document “debases terms like genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity by using them to describe Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories.”169

The abuse of human rights language has increased drastically over the past decade and there is little indication that this trend will be reversed. In this process a new type of racism has emerged that can best be called humanitarian racism. It is based on the assumption that only powerful people—in particular whites—can be responsible for their deeds, while others can only be victims.170

Promoting Peace as a Tool for Totalitarianism

For almost a century many people claiming to be pacifists and peace promoters have used dishonest semantics in the field of ethics. In doing so they have also served the interests of various totalitarians. In 1922, Lenin instructed Georghi V. Chicherin, who led the Bolshevik delegation to the International Conference in Genoa, to present a far-reaching pacifist program. Chicherin was amazed by this radical change of policy. Lenin responded by saying: “Comrade Chicherin, you are too nervous.… In the name of our revolutionary proletarian party’s program, you have fought against pacifism. But tell me, then, where and when the Party has refused to use pacifism to break up the enemy…[?]”171

In our days the corruption of the civil liberties and social justice movements has not progressed as much as that of the human rights movement. Yet there are indications that, from time to time, promoters of social justice serve the perpetrators of crimes more than their victims. Those who consider civil liberties an absolute priority will increasingly have to confront accusations that they are facilitating terrorist attacks. These are further phenomena that must be monitored in the coming decades.

The concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) could be furthered as well if certain pseudohumanists who are hiding behind a humanitarian mask were to drop out of promoting ethics all together. What tikkun olama nowadays popular term for which there are few traditional sources—should embody will also require a thorough examination.

These challenges, which have emerged from the corruption of human rights and other types of ethics, will have a substantial place on American Jewry’s agenda in the years to come. As Ambassador Alfred Moses put it: “We cannot afford to have those who would destroy Israel pose as champions of the antiracism cause in the world.”172


In 2004, Harris said:

We will continue to confront radical Muslims, as we believe existential questions are at stake here that go far beyond Jews. The American Jewish community will not unilaterally withdraw itself from the public debate on central questions about America’s future and the world’s destiny. Let me be clear about this: We are not concerned about drawing too much attention to ourselves and roiling the waters—those days are over.173

This statement remains valid. Yet in the United States the problems caused to Jews by segments of the Muslim community are far less severe than those in Western Europe, where calls of “Death to the Jews” have been heard in the public domain in many cities. This has happened particularly, but not exclusively, during periods of tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There has also been substantial violence by Muslims against Jews, and often few or no Muslim organizations have condemned this behavior. The increasing numbers of Muslim voters also influence the political positions of some countries. In some European cities such as Malmö, Sweden, Jews have declared that they are leaving because of Muslim anti-Semitism.174

In this regard, developments in the United States have been very different. In Europe violent Muslims began to target the vulnerable Jewish community first, before taking aim at the main target—society at large. In the United States the mass murder of 9/11 came at an early stage of Muslim violence. Muslim terrorism directed at general society thus became part of the American worldview relatively early.

There are other reasons why the American Jewish community  is  not (yet?) confronted with major problems of this kind. Unlike in Western Europe, Muslim immigration to the United States largely consists of a much more educated population. Many make an effort to integrate into a pluralistic society. Furthermore, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), the American Jewish community is still substantially larger than the Muslim population.175

Yet there are pockets where Muslim anti-Semitism in various forms has made substantial inroads in the United States. One such area in particular is university campuses. There were also anti-Semitic episodes during Israel’s 2008–2009 Gaza campaign. It was mainly Arabs and Muslims who participated in numerous demonstrations against Israel.176 In some of them calls of “Death to the Jews” were heard.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an extremist Muslim demonstration was accompanied by a prayer service in the public domain. One of the demonstrators shouted “Go to the oven!” several times at the participants in a pro-Israel counterdemonstration.177

There is some anecdotal evidence of the Muslim presence affecting the comfort level of Jews. In one major city where there are many Muslim taxi drivers, a board member of a major Jewish institution said, on condition of anonymity, that she gets out of the cab one block away from a prominent Jewish building, and several of her colleagues do the same.

The Obama Presidency

Comfort levels also depend on the attitude of leading U.S. politicians toward Jews and Israel. The first year of the Obama presidency has not provided clear indications of how its policies might develop and what impact they may have on the American Jewish community, both directly and indirectly, as a result of the United States’ changing position in the world.

All one can do is watch the president’s attitude concerning Jewish issues and Israel. At present this gives a confused view. From its beginning the Obama presidency has been characterized by a soft rhetoric toward the Arab and Muslim world, despite the many racist and other crimes as well as multiple human rights violations in these societies. The one exception where this administration’s solicitous behavior has gradually changed is that of Iran.

Even though it was only after much hesitation, the Obama administration decided in February 2009 not to participate in the Durban II conference that took place in April 2009 in Geneva. In May Obama insisted that Israel freeze all construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.178

His Cairo speech in June 2009 contained many inaccuracies about Islam. Obama also linked the establishment of the state of Israel to the Holocaust, as if the Zionist movement had not already existed for more than forty years prior to World War II. Yet another indication was his choice of Jewish invitees to the White House for a meeting with Jewish leaders in July 2009. Besides well-established bodies these also included J Street, a very young and dovish organization.179

One sign of the uncertainty regarding Obama’s stance toward the Israeli- Palestinian conflict emerged in a meeting Vice-President Joe Biden held with Jewish leaders before his visit to the Middle East in March 2010. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:

A broad left-to-right consensus that the Obama administration has failed to make its case to ordinary Israelis has emerged in recent months among pro- Israel groups. Groups have been urging the White House to make a direct appeal, through a speech or a visit, since last summer—especially because President Obama has gone out of his way to reach out to Muslims in speeches and media interviews.180

The Biden visit was not successful, in part because of Israel’s announcement of plans for new construction in a Jerusalem suburb. The subsequent extremely disproportionate criticism of Israel by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others close to Obama, however, created a degree of tension between the two countries that had not been there for a long time.181

The Jew as an Indicator

Because of their history and the reactions to it, what happens to Jews has often become an indicator of developments in society at large and a sensor for future trends. Very often one can, by looking at a smaller group, see more clearly what is happening in a broader frame. In recent decades attitudes toward Israel in several countries have also become a prism through which certain phenomena there can be analyzed more easily and earlier than by looking at society at large.

The phrase “canary in the mine” is often used for this indicator function of the Jews. These birds would fall ill from the increasing concentration of gas before the miners did, thereby enabling them to exit in time. It is an unfortunate association that should be avoided, since it entails that the canary must die so the miners can live.

This function of Jews is far more pronounced in Europe than in the United States. In the latter too, however, it exists in certain areas. One is academia. Academic freedom has in many cases become freedom of propaganda, indoctrination, incitement, and distortion. Together with tenure it has created a bulwark for the academic inciters that is almost impenetrable. On a significant number of campuses, many teachers of humanities have infected the search for knowledge with anti-Israel propaganda and are fostering ideology rather than advancing learning.182

The sorry state of Middle Eastern studies in the United States is a further example of how bias can conquer an academic discipline. This has been exposed by Martin Kramer.183

Watches Counteract Bias

Another area in which Israel fulfills a similar prism function is that of media bias. Here too distorted reporting on Israel is an indicator of a much wider problem that has permeated journalism. Thomas Friedman has pointed out that Western correspondents stationed in Beirut before 1982 did not even give a hint about the well-known corruption of the PLO leadership there. He also noted that these correspondents judged the PLO much more gently than they did the Phalangists, Israelis, or Americans.184

As Jews and Israel are in the forefront of those attacked, they are also often the first to develop mechanisms to counteract the aggressions, distortions, and bias. Scholars for Peace in the Middle East was established in response to the anti-Israel incitement in academia. The media-watching function has developed particularly well in pro-Israel circles.185 One leading example in the United States is CAMERA. Eye on the UN and the Swiss-based UN Watch monitor anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. NGO Monitor, located in Jerusalem, exposes anti- Israel NGOs and development aid agencies, including human rights bodies in the United States. There is, however, no systematic watch of the anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred in American Christian organizations.

While Jews, and nowadays Israel, are often among the first to be attacked, they are never the last. It would thus make sense for the outside world to watch what happens to the Jews and Israel so as to better understand what they might expect in the future.

Where to Go From Here?

 Sarna takes stock of some present-day critical issues:

Jews feel bewildered and uncertain. Should they focus on quality to enhance Judaism or focus on quantity to increase the number of Jews? Embrace intermarriage as an opportunity for outreach or condemn it as a disaster for offspring? Build religious bridges or fortify religious boundaries? Strengthen religious authority or promote religious autonomy? Harmonize Judaism with contemporary culture or uphold Jewish tradition against contemporary culture? Compromise for the sake of Jewish unity, or stand firm for cherished Jewish principles?186

The challenges confronting American Jewry are multiple. Some derive from developments in the societal environment, such as the declining general consensus on many issues. Others are the result of generational problems, both in society at large and within the Jewish community.

For the individual Jew private and family concerns dominate, with a heavy emphasis on economic issues accompanied by religious, social, and cultural needs. The communities’ leaders, however, will have to confront a varied set of challenges.

Those who wrote or were interviewed for this volume clarify many aspects of where the community is and what may be awaiting it. The battle for the future of a vibrant American Jewry begins with understanding the present better and continues with assessing as best as possible what the future might bring.

With this comes the need to become more flexible in thought and action. Jews, because of their circumstances, have frequently outperformed larger societies as far as dynamic approaches are concerned. In other situations the challenges were so great that even this was not adequate. The need to develop tools to understand faster the changes occurring and their effects is perhaps the greatest challenge the American Jewish community has to confront.



1. Statement of Mindy Kleinberg to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 31 March 2001.
2. Statement of Abraham D. Sofaer to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 31 March 2003.
3. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Malcolm Hoenlein, “A Community Seeking Unity through Consensus,” in American Jewry’s Challenge: Conversations Confronting the Twenty-First Century (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 150.
4. Alan Mittleman, personal communication.
5. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with David A. Harris, “Confronting Existential Questions,” in American Jewry’s Challenge, 138.
6. Juliana Menasce Horowitz, “Declining Support for bin Laden and Suicide Bombing,” Pew Research Center Publications, 10 September 2009.
8. The organization was then called the Council of Jewish Federations. In 2009 the UJC changed its name to the Jewish Federations of North America.
9. Chaim I. Waxman and Ruth Yaron (project leaders), The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute Annual Assessment, 2008, Executive Report No. 5, 18.
10. Ira M. Sheskin, “Four Questions about American Jewish Demography,” Jewish Political Studies Review, vol. 20, nos. 1–2 (Spring 2008): 23–42.
11. Ibid., 39.
12. Sid Groeneman and Tom W. Smith (principal investigators), “The Impact of Geographic Mobility on the Jewish Community 2009,” Mandell L. Berman Institute, North American Jewish Data Bank (the Jewish Federations of North America and the Berman Institute— North American Jewish Data Bank of the University of Connecticut, November 2009),
13. See the essay by Steven Windmueller in this volume.
14. Ira Sheskin, personal communication.
15. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, “The Orthodox Union and Its Challenges,” Changing Jewish Communities 23, 15 August 2007.
16. Ibid.
17. Associated Press, “Group Offers Jews $50,000 to Move to U.S. Bible Belt Town,”
Haaretz, 8 September 2008.
18. See the interview with Steven M. Cohen in this volume.
19. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with David Ellenson, “How Modernity Changed Judaism,” Changing Jewish Communities 36, 15 September 2008.
20. Ibid.
21. Michael Medved, in “Why Are Jews Liberals?: A Symposium,” Commentary, September 2009.
22. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Norman Lamm, “Changes in Modern Orthodoxy,” in American Jewry’s Challenge, 241.
24. See the interview with Steven M. Cohen in this volume.
25. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Steven M. Cohen, “The Ethos of Young American Jewish Leaders: Generational Contrasts,” Changing Jewish Communities, forthcoming.
26. See the essay by Sylvia Barack Fishman and Daniel Parmer in this volume.
27. See the essay by Sylvia Barack Fishman in this volume.
28. Gerstenfeld, interview with Steven M. Cohen, “The Ethos of Young American Jewish Leaders.”
29. See the interview with David Ellenson in this volume.
30. See the interview with Rela Mintz Geffen, “Jewish Grandparenting in the United States,” in this volume.
31. Hasia R. Diner, The Jews of the United States: 1654 to 2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 350.
32. Ibid., 356.
33. See the essay by Sylvia Barack Fishman and Daniel Parmer in this volume.
34. See the interview with Rela Mintz Geffen, “How the Status of American Jewish Women Has Changed over the Past Decades,” in this volume.
35. “R.A.’s Choice of Female Rabbi Makes History,” JTA Breaking News, 29 October 2008.
36. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Michael Berenbaum, “The Transformation of Jewish Knowledge over the Decades: The New Edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica,” Changing Jewish Communities 27, 16 December 2007.
37. Ami Eden, “Avi Weiss: No More Rabbas,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5 March 2010.
38. Ira Sheskin, personal communication.
39. See the interview with Rela Mintz Geffen, “Jewish Grandparenting in the United States,” in this volume.
40. Ira Sheskin, personal communication.
41. See the interview with Marc B. Shapiro in this volume.
42. See the essay by Chaim I. Waxman in this volume.
43. Dana Evan Kaplan, Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 381.
44. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 372.
45. See the interview with David Ellenson in this volume.
46. See the interview with Steven M. Cohen in this volume.
47. Ibid.
48. See the interview with Arnold M. Eisen in this volume.
49. Jack Wertheimer, “Jews and the Jewish Birthrate,” Commentary, October 2005.
50. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Norman Lamm, “Modern Orthodoxy and Its Future,” Changing Jewish Communities 9, 15 June 2006.
51. See the interview with Marc B. Shapiro in this volume.
52. Samuel C. Heilman, Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).
53. Samuel C. Heilman, personal communication.
54. Ira Sheskin, presentation at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 2010.
55. Steven M. Cohen and Judith Veinstein, “Israeli Jews in Greater New York: Their Numbers, Characteristics and Patterns of Jewish Engagement,” a UJA-Federation of New York Report, March 2009, 33.
56. See the essay by Sylvia Barack Fishman and Daniel Parmer in this volume.
57. See the interview with Jack Wertheimer, “The Future of Jewish Education,” in this volume.
58. See the interview with Leonard Saxe in this volume.
59. Gerstenfeld, interview with Ellenson, Changing Jewish Communities.
60. Ibid.
61. Nathaniel Popper, “Agriprocessors Files for Bankruptcy,” Forward, 5 November 2008.
62. Anthony Weiss, “Debate Highlights the Politics of Kosher Food, from Left, Right and Center,” Forward, 19 December 2008.
63. Sue Fishkoff, “Orthodox Focus on Jewish Ethics at High Holidays,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 5 October 2009.
64. “Yoffie to Reform Jews: Eat Less Meat, Blog More,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 8
November 2008.
65. See the interview with Marc B. Shapiro in this volume.
66. Gal Beckerman, “New Restaurant Seal Meets with Approval,” Forward, 19 March 2010.
67. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Judaism, Environmentalism and the Environment (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and Rubin Mass, 1998), 67.
68. Mordechai Liebling, “Choose Life—and Protect It,” The Reconstructionist, March-April 1990, 7–8.
69. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Jonathan Woocher, “Jewish Education in the United States: Improving but Still a Long Way to Go,” Changing Jewish Communities 15, 15 December 2006.
70. Marvin Schick, “Summary of Key Findings: A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States 2008–09,” Census-of-Jewish-Day-Schools-in-the-United-States-2008%252D2009/details.
71. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Woocher.
72. Jack Wertheimer, “A Census of Jewish Supplementary Schools in the United States, 2006–2007,” Avi Chai, August 2008.
73. See the interview with Jack Wertheimer, “The Future of Jewish Education,” in this volume.
74. Ibid.
75. Jonathan Woocher, “Jewish Education in the Age of Google,” Changing Jewish Communities 8, 15 May 2006.
76. See the interview with Jack Wertheimer, “The Future of Jewish Education,” in this volume.
77. Gerstenfeld, interview with Woocher.
78. See the interview with Leonard Saxe in this volume.
79. Ibid.
80. Gerstenfeld, American Jewry’s Challenge, 72–74.
81. (viewed on 3 March 2010).
82. Anshel Pfeffer, “Israel No Longer the World’s ‘Mecca’ of Jewish Studies,” Haaretz, 6 February 2008.
83. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Mitchell Bard, “Introducing Israel Studies in U.S. Universities,” Changing Jewish Communities 39, 15 December 2008.
84. Rela Mintz Geffen, personal communication.
85. Gerstenfeld, interview with Berenbaum.
86. See the interview with Jack Wertheimer, “The Fragmentation of American Jewry and Its Leadership,” in this volume.
87. See the interview with David Ellenson in this volume.
88. Jonathan Sarna, “A History of Jewish Journalism in the United States,” in Luke Ford, Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism (New York: iUniverse, 2004), 329.
89. Jonathan Sarna, personal communication.
90. “Overview,” Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
91. Michael Miller, presentation at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “New York, New York,” 16 March 2007.
92. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Steven Windmueller, “Jewish-Latino Interactions in the United States,” Changing Jewish Communities 34, 15 July 2008.
93. Ibid.
94. Stewart Ain, “UJA-Fed. Prepared to Tap Reserves,” Jewish Week, 8 October 2008.
95. Jacob Berkman, “Weinberg Foundation Puts Temporary Halt on Accepting Requests for Grants,” JTA Blogs, 10 November 2008, article/2008/11/10/1000869/its-assts-down-13-percent-weinberg-foundation-puts- temporary-halt-on-accept.
96. Ruth Eglash and Haviv Rettig, “Worldwide Economic Crisis Puts Squeeze on GA,”
Jerusalem Post, 11 November 2008.
98. Gerstenfeld, interview with Lamm, “Modern Orthodoxy and Its Future.”
99. Gerald Bubis, “The Cost of Jewish Living,” American Jewish Committee, 2005.
100. Steven Windmueller, “The Unfolding Economic Crisis: Its Devastating Implications for American Jewry,” Changing Jewish Communities 47, 16 August 2009.
101. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with John Ruskay, “UJA-Federation of New York: Strengthening a Global Jewish Identity,” Changing Jewish Communities 5, 15 February 2006.
102. (viewed on 3 March 2010).
103. Ibid.
104. Anthony Weiss, “Attachment to Israel Declining among Young American Jews,”
Forward, 7 September 2007.
105. Theodore Sasson, Charles Kadushin, and Leonard Saxe, “American Jewish Attachment to Israel: An Assessment of the ‘Distancing Hypothesis,’” Steinhardt Social Research Institute, Brandeis University, 2008.
106. Carl Schrag, “Ripples from the Matzav: Grassroots Response of American Jewry to the Situation in Israel,” American Jewish Committee, 2004.
107. Marissa Gross, “The Salute to Israel Parade,” Changing Jewish Communities 33, 15 June 2008.
108. David Wolpe, in “Why Are Jews Liberals?”
109. Sarna, American Judaism, 371.
110. Norman Podhoretz, Why Are Jews Liberals? (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 294–95.
111. Steven Windmueller, “Jews in the Psyche of America,” Jewish Political Studies Review, vol. 21, nos. 3–4 (Fall 2009): 68.
112. I am grateful to Ira Sheskin for bringing this to my attention.
113. “Poll: Israel among Americans’ Most Favored Nations,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1 March 2010.
114. The current name is European Agency for Fundamental Rights.
115. papers/studies_antisemitismreport_en.htm.
116. Ibid.
117. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism: Common Characteristics and Motifs,” Jewish Political Studies Review, vol. 19, nos. 1–2 (Spring 2007): 83–108.
118. Ibid., 85.
119. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Alan Dershowitz, “Unprepared Jewish Leadership and Radical Change,” in American Jewry’s Challenge, 118.
120. Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor, eds., The Jewish Divide over Israel: Accusers and Defenders (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2006), xix.
121. Alvin H. Rosenfeld, “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” American Jewish Committee, 2006, 9.
122. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Jews against Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 30, 1 March 2006.
123. “Anti-Semitic Incidents Decline for Fourth Straight Year in U.S., According to Annual ADL Audit,” Anti-Defamation League, June 2009.
124. Ibid.
125. Steven Bayme, personal communication.
126. “American Attitudes towards Jews in America,” Anti-Defamation League, October 2009.
127. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 38–39.
128. Aaron Elias, “Al-Asi on Israel: Yes, He Really Said That,” New University, 9 March 2008,
129. Michal Landau, “Fight UC Irvine Campus Anti-Semitism,” Jerusalem Post, 3 April 2008.
130. “The ‘Nakba’ at UC-Irvine,” FrontPage Magazine, 20 May 2008.
131. “11 Students Arrested after Disrupting Israeli Ambassador’s Speech at UC Irvine,”Los Angeles Times, local ed., 9 February 2010.
132. Statement of UC President Mark G. Yudof, the Chancellors of the Ten UC Campuses, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Universitywide Academic Senate, 26 February 2010.
133. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “2007–2008: Another Year of Global Academic Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 73, 2 October 2008.
134. Ibid.
135. Ibid.
136. Task Force on Anti-Semitism at the University of California-Irvine, Report and Addendum
(Huntington Beach, CA: Orange County Independent Task Force, 2008).
137. Noah Liben, “The Columbia University Report on Its Middle Eastern Department’s Problems: A Paradigm for Obscuring Structural Flaws,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 95– 102.
138. Jamie Glazov, “Why Arabian Gulf Countries Donate to US Universities,” FrontPage Magazine, 9 June 2008.
139. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
(New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007).
140. Walter Russell Mead, “The New Israel and the Old,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2008.
141. Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007).
142. Lawrence Grossman, “Jewish Communal Affairs,” in American Jewish Year Book: The Annual Record of Jewish Civilization, vol. 108 (New York: American Jewish Committee, 2008), 121–150.
143. Gerstenfeld, Academics.
144. Andrea Levin, ed., Bearing False Witness: Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Camera Monograph Series, 2007.
145. (viewed on 24 February 2010).
146. ADL press release, “Apology Not Withstanding, Carter Reverts to Anti-Israel Rhetoric,” 26 March 2010.
147. Gerstenfeld, interview with Weinreb.
148. Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra, The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008).
149. Gerstenfeld, interview with Bard.
150. Ibid.
151. (viewed on 24 February 2010).
152. Dan Izenberg, “Rabbi Abraham Cooper: Liberal Protestant Churches Pose Growing Threat to Israel,” Jerusalem Post, 18 February 2010.
153. Dexter Van Zile, “Mainline American Christian ‘Peacemakers’ against Israel,” Post- Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 90, 15 November 2009.
154. See
155. Eugene Korn, “Divestment from Israel, the Liberal Churches, and Jewish Reponses: A Strategic Analysis,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 52, 1 January 2007.
156. Ibid.
157. Ibid.
158. Dexter Van Zile, “Mennonites against Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 83, 2 August 2009.
159. Ibid.
160. “Mennonite Central Committee Hosts Dialogue between Iranian President and 100 Religious Leaders,” Mennonite Central Committee, 26 September 2007, news/news/article.html?id=254 (viewed on 27 March 2009).
161. Adam Levick, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism in Progressive U.S. Blogs/News Websites: Influential and Poorly Monitored,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 92, 1 January 2010.
162. Adam Levick, personal communication.
163. Gerald Steinberg, “The Sad State of ‘Human Rights’ Organizations,” Ottawa Citizen, 13 March 2010.
164. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Irwin Cotler, “Discrimination against Israel in the International Arena,” in Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2003), 220.
165. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Anne Bayefsky, “The United Nations: Leading Global Purveyor of Anti-Semitism,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 31, 1 April 2005.
166. James Bone, “Robert Bernstein, Founder of Human Rights Watch, Accuses It of Anti- Israel Bias,” The Times, 21 October 2009.
167. Ibid.
168. David Bernstein, “Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia,” Wall Street Journal, 15 July 2009.
169. Tom Lantos, “The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the UN World Conference against Racism,” Policy Forum 24, Institute of the World Jewish Congress, Jerusalem, 2002.
170. For more details on humanitarian racism, see Manfred Gerstenfeld, Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2009), 22–23.
171. Jean-François Revel, How Democracies Perish (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 149.
172. Alfred Moses, “From Durban I to Durban II: Preventing Poisonous Anti-Semitism,”
Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 71, 1 August 2008.
173. Gerstenfeld, interview with Harris, 144.
174. Nick Meo, “Jews Leave Swedish City after Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes,”
The Telegraph, 21 February 2010.
175. Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Most Religious Groups in USA Have Lost Ground, Survey Finds,” USA Today, 17 March 2009.
176. “Widespread Protests in US against Gaza Attack: Israel Still at It in Gaza,” Pakistan Tribune, 1 January 2009.
177. “Pro-Hamas Demonstration—Fort Lauderdale FL,” YouTube video, 30 December 2008 (viewed on 2 March 2009).
178. Helene Cooper, “Obama Calls for Swift Move toward Mideast Peace Talks,” New York Times, 28 May 2010.
179. Barak Ravid, “Obama to U.S. Jewish Leaders: Israel Must Engage in Self-Reflection,”
Haaretz, 14 July 2009.
180. “Jewish Leaders to Biden: Reach Out to Israelis,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 3 March 2010.
181. Barak Ravid, “US-Israel Relations at Their Worst in 35 Years,” Haaretz, 15 March 2010.
182. Gerstenfeld, Academics.
183. See Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle East Studies in America (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001); Martin Kramer, “Is Zionism Colonialism?: The Root Lie,” Post Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 35, 1 August 2005.
184. Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1990), 72–73.
185. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green, “Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers,” Jewish Political Studies Review, vol. 16, nos. 3–4 (Fall 2004): 33–58.
186. Sarna, American Judaism, 373.





American Jewry: Present and Future                                                                                      109

  1. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green, “Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 16, nos. 3–4 (Fall 2004): 33–58.
  2. Sarna, American Judaism,

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