Criticism of Israel by Young American Jews is a Good Sign

Speaking at the Jewish Funders Network Conference today in Phoenix, Arizona, Irina Nevzlin, president of the Nadav Foundation said, “The new generation of Jewish leaders is very creative and trying to incorporate their philosophy and ideology while looking for their own meaning of Jewishness and Jewish Peoplehood. The fact that young American Jews display ‘a whole range of liberal feelings’ means that Israel is very close and personal to them, and for me it’s a positive sign”. Her remarks were conveyed during a panel discussion entitled ‘Continuity and Discontinuity’.

The plenary session was based on the results of an extensive survey of 6,773 young Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s conducted by JTS professor Dr. Jack Wertheimer. The survey researched the respondents’ attitudes towards the Jewish people, Israel and collective Jewish action, as well as the implications of this for funders, existing Jewish organizations, and the likely configuration of Jewish communal life in the coming years. Mrs. Nevzlin Kogan participated in a panel addressing the implications of the survey results together with HUC-JIR Rabbi David Ellenson, president of HUC-JIR and Professor Noam Pianko, assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington.

“I was much more concerned about whether Israel is relevant to young American Jews at all, because only when they care can we have a chance to create a dialog”, said Nevzlin Kogan. She added that Israelis cannot demand or expect unconditional loyalty to the politics of the State of Israel from young Jews in America, as they cannot expect from their peers in Israel an unconditional support of the policy of Israeli government.

Nevzlin Kogan also noted that while Israel is often perceived as a central theme in the Jewish world, recent research shows that young Jews believe a connection to the State of Israel is not among the primary factors in determining the collective Jewish identity. “As such, we must create new initiatives which will foster creative and productive dialogue between young Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora, which will hopefully produce joint projects, activities and experiences” she emphasized. “This will also expose young Israelis to the abundance of Jewish life in the Diaspora.”