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October 02, 2013

Where's the Coverage? Israel is Important, Even Essential to American Jews

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There has been a lot of coverage of the new Pew Study, A Portrait of Jewish Americans. It is interesting to note what the media chose to highlight.

Some of the reporting focused on American Jews’ increasing secularity. CNN’s blog headline read, “Study: American Jews losing their religion.” The Los Angeles Times declared “Almost 1 in 3 Jewish Americans had a Christmas tree, poll finds”. One Huffington Post article underscored comedy of all things, announcing, “Humor Essential To Jewish Identity, Pew Survey Reports”.

In fact, the study reported that “having a good sense of humor” was actually less essential to what “being Jewish” means to American Jews than “caring about Israel.” But caring about Israel did not make the headlines.

The Pew study revealed that for 87% of American Jews, caring about Israel is “essential” or “important” to what being Jewish means to them. Only 12% said caring about Israel is not an important part of what being Jewish means to them. Further, 69% of poll respondents said they feel emotionally “attached” or “very attached” to Israel. Only 9% do not feel attached at all to Israel.

These results largely coincide with the findings of a 2011 CAMERA study, conducted by pollster Frank Luntz, where 94% of respondents said if Israel “no longer existed tomorrow” it would be a tragedy. Nearly one in four said they would consider such an event “the biggest tragedy of my lifetime.”

But, these Pew results and the CAMERA results do not fit with the popular narrative, often promoted by the media, that American Jews are disaffected or disengaged from Israel. That could be why a second Huffington Post article was headlined, “What Defines An American Jew? New Study Reveals Divides On Identity, Religion And Views On Israel.” Eighty-seven per cent say Israel is important or even essential to their Jewish identity and 69% are emotionally attached to the Jewish state. Where’s the “divide”?

The New York Times even tried to trump up some sort of divide by arguing:

While 69 percent say they feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and 40 percent believe that the land that is now Israel was “given to the Jewish people by God,” only 17 percent think that the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security.

As if these things are in opposition! As if those of us who feel an emotional attachment to the United States have to support drone strikes or NSA surveillance practices or any other American policy.

(By the way, 40% of those polled believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people but that does not mean that 60% believe He did not. Actually, 27% do not agree, 5% don’t know, and 28% don’t believe in God.)

The fact is plain: American Jews are tightly and deeply connected to Israel. So… Where’s the coverage?

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Posted by SC at October 2, 2013 08:37 PM

Comments

Actually, the question about God is very badly worded. The question should have been if Jews believed in the ancient connection of Jews to the Land of Israel. That would probably get 90% or higher. Putting God into the question turns it into a religious question, which is why those who don't believe in God had to answer in the negative. You can be a complete atheist, and still believe (actually, scientifically know) that Jews wrote and read the Bible in Hebrew and created their national narrative around the Land of Israel in ancient times based on archeology, dead sea scrolls, etc. I recommend Amos Oz's "Jews and Words" to people who are interested in the Jewish Textline of History, and "Daily Life in Biblical Times" by Dr. Liora Ravid for a non-religious look at Biblical narratives

Posted by: Dan Adler at October 3, 2013 10:38 AM

Put it slightly differently; but pertinently to the manner in which all US Presidents since Kennedy find themselves an Irish connection and visit Ireland; if in these days of €U and globalisation anybody suggested that Irish independence was a superfluous vanity of no importance - how would the Irish lobby of the 33 million Americans of Irish descent and in-laws react???

Posted by: Frank AdAM at October 4, 2013 04:31 AM

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