American Jews’ Nation is the United States

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In the discussion of Israel’s new “nation-state” law, an important point to be made is that, despite its claim to be the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel is not, in fact, the nation-state of American Jews (“Stating the Obvious,” July 20).

Claiming that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people rather than a state of all its citizens — more than 20 percent of whom are not Jewish — has a number of problems. And the Israeli government repeatedly calls it the “homeland” of all Jews, the majority of whom are citizens of other countries.

The homeland of American Jews is the United States, and whatever the Knesset passes into law is completely irrelevant to Jews in other countries. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government may believe that Jews are a  nation and that those Jews living outside of Israel are in exile, this view is not shared by the overwhelming majority of American Jews.

The reality is that the Eastern Europeans who founded and settled Israel had no understanding of the American experience, where religious freedom for all is written into law in the First Amendment. Israel, for its part, has no such idea of religious  freedom or separation of  religion and state. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis are forbidden by Israeli law to perform weddings, preside over funerals and conduct conversions. A Jew and non-Jew who wish to marry must leave the country to do so. Indeed, this leads to the question of whether Jews support religious freedom only when they are in a minority and it serves their interests to  do so.

American Jews are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.

Israel would do well to confine itself to speaking in the name of its own citizens, as other countries manage to do. Its dream may be to be the nation- state of all Jews, but this has no relationship to reality.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Your naivete’ is striking. Perhaps you are too young to remember signs that read “No Jews or dogs allowed” at swimming pools, country clubs, theaters, etc. We have only been in this country en mass for about 150 years, if that. We enjoy freedoms that we have fought for, and will continue to fight for. Don’t be so content with those freedoms as to believe we are anything more than guests in this country.
    Jews fought for the Fatherland (Germany) in WWI. Those war heroes thought they were totally safe from Hitler’s genocidal actions. Every country we have settled in since we lived in Egypt during Biblical times, has eventually seen to it that we were either expelled or murdered. In each of those countries, we insinuated ourselves into every aspect of the national culture, including government, art, media, and finance. America is no different. We have only been “safe” for the past 60 years or so, since anti-discrimination laws and civil rights laws came into effect. No old amendments made any difference, just as freeing the slaves made no difference as far as discrimination.
    How long before a “new Pharaoh” arises that sees us as a burden, even though we have contributed so much? The other nations we lived in didn’t care. They wanted us out or dead. If you really think it can’t happen here, you are not only naive,you are a fool. It only takes one person to turn the numerous pockets of anti-Semitism that still exist, into a national ideology. That is reality, not a post-Holocaust mentality.
    And when it does happen, which “homeland” will you run to next time?
    You may think we are Jews by religion only, but you are wrong. None of the powers that sought our destruction cared what religion we were. We are Jews, through and through. We are a race, not a religion. And if we ever forget that, then the rest of the world, even other Americans, will surely remind us. We are not Jewish Americans. We are American Jews, with the emphasis on “Jews”. We are Jews first and foremost. Do you think if you become Catholic that it will make a difference? You can’t change what you are when it comes to being Jewish. Whether we live here or in Israel, Israel is and will always be our homeland and our people.
    I wonder, should America ever go to war with Israel, which side would you root for?

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