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American Jews Just Don’t Get It

In the late spring of 1967, I was a 17-year-old high school student about to graduate from the Hebrew Institute of Long Island. But instead of dreams about prom night, what occupied my mind—and I expect those of most American Jews—was the “second Holocaust” in the making. After aligning with Syria and Jordan, blockading Israel’s Red Sea, kicking out United Nations peacekeeping forces and moving his vast army and air force into the Sinai, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser had declared that the time had come to “annihilate the State of Israel once and for all.”
It seemed likely. Our enemies had double the planes and tanks and almost 100,000 more soldiers. In Tel Aviv, rabbis of the chevra kadisha (burial society) were busy consecrating public parks to be used as cemeteries, and warehouses had stockpiled enough body bags to accommodate 40,000 casualties.
And then came the miracle: the lightning preemptive strike that not only eliminated the military threat but brought the magic news that Jerusalem was back in Jewish hands for the first time since the days of the Maccabees.
I will never forget the stunning and absolute joy that I, a young American Jew, felt at that news. I trembled, I cried and I sent up a prayer of deepest thanksgiving to the God of my fathers.
More than 50 years later, a similar joy enveloped me as the U.S. Embassy finally moved to Jerusalem. This is the key element missing from nearly all American and international coverage of the move—and without it, no observer can grasp the magnitude of what has changed. For Israelis, the embassy’s relocation was not simply logistical. It was a full-throated rejection of a decades-long Arab campaign of vicious historical revisionism, which seeks to promote the absurd and obscene claim that the Jewish people never had any connection to Jerusalem. Just recently, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s senior advisor Mahmoud al-Habbash was quoted in the Algemeiner calling any Jewish connection to the holy city “an imperialist myth that exploited and distorted history and the holy sites in order to advance and justify imperialist projects.”

That Muslims should claim exclusive ownership of the capital of the Kingdom of David, settled by Jews continuously since 1007 BCE, is as ugly a piece of cultural appropriation as is imaginable. Nevertheless, the lie has made enormous inroads, as evidenced by the December 21 UN vote in which 128 nations condemned the U.S. decision to move the embassy. (Rest assured, they were not all doing this out of concern for the prospects of a two-state solution.)

With the move, on the timely anniversary of Harry Truman’s recognition of Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence, the U.S. has rekindled the light of truth in the midst of the lies which are the real obstacles to peace in our region. The recognition of the religious, moral and historical right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and to Jerusalem as her eternal capital city, must be the foundation for any authentic, lasting peace agreement. Moving the embassy was a true move toward peace.

The attempt of Hamas, a terror organization whose entire existence is based on hate-filled lies, to destroy our joy by busing terrorists to the Gaza border with knives, axes, guns and grenades—in an attempt either to cross and inflict murder and mayhem on us, or to achieve a public relations coup in their martyrdom—was not surprising.

What was shocking and demoralizing, however, was the ease with which the second goal was achieved. Many American Jews automatically sided with our enemies, mostly out of their blind hatred of Donald Trump.

As J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami put it: “The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem…should be a moment of celebration.” Unfortunately, he went on to say, he and his friends cannot celebrate because of the “manner and timing” of the event, which he sees as “designed to advance the agenda of [the] right wing.” Yes, if only President Barack Obama had moved the embassy, and John Kerry had made the speeches with Abbas, instead of Christian Zionists and a Chabad rabbi. Alas.

The president of the Union for Reform Judaism rode the horse of social justice, crying for the poor Hamas terrorists shot down before they could accomplish their agenda: “We are alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded.” And IfNotNow, an organization that began out of “moral anguish” during Israel’s attempt to stop Hamas rocket fire from Gaza during the 2014 Protective Edge war, had this to say via a tweet: “We condemn the Trump administration for opening the Embassy of Occupation, for celebrating while Palestinians were being massacred just miles away, and for blaming Palestinians for their own deaths.” Individually tweeting Jews were just as bad: @christinajduv tweeted, “I am very proud to be Jewish, but I am completely ashamed of what’s going on in Israel.”

I’m also ashamed. Not for the first time, this ugly discourse has made me feel ashamed to be an American Jew.

I am not alone.

According to the June 2018 American Jewish Committee survey of American and Israeli Jewish opinion, the world’s two largest Jewish communities are deeply divided, with religious observance correlating with most of their differences concerning President Donald Trump, U.S.-Israel relations, Israel’s security and peace process policies.

Perhaps a divide is inevitable. But can we not at least bond over the joy of having Jerusalem recognized and celebrated as our eternal capital? As our soldiers sang when they reached the Kotel in June 1967: “This is the day the Lord has wrought. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

This article was originally published in Moment.

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32 comments on “American Jews Just Don’t Get It”

  1. Evelyn Epstein

    I have not read every word of this … because my heart is heavy. Stop labeling people. My daughter lives in Israel … She hates American Jews. I remind her — I am one. And I am also a strong Zionist. I was in the front row at Mt. Sinai when Moses gave out the 10 commandments. That Jews hate Jews and is oee of the reasons the 2nd Temple was destroyed. I M THRILLED THT THE EMBASSY WAS RIGHTFULLY MOVED TO JERUSALEM, WHERE IT BELONGS. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew …By any other name a rose is a rose is a rose. And if we can’t get along with eaach other .. Jew and Jew and Jew — what can we possibly expect from the ret of the world. We can’t have “rules” for who can go to the Western Wall, etc. Please Naomi, don’t poisen everyone who needs a reason to hate other Jews. Let’s make bigger circles. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. And we need to take care of each other, and continue top be the light unto the world.

  2. Carol Simon

    Everyone should remember what Obamacare and Kerry did to Israel.

  3. shoshana rotter

    “American Jews don’t get it” What don’t we get? That we have a right to vote and the day Jerusalem was declared Israel’s capital, we were not ashamed to celebrate the day, all this in contrast to the somber way, “Israel’s nicest” looked as they were commenting the meaning of the day on Israeli TV. As a child I used to think how will I feel sitting next to a fascist. Today I think how will I feel sitting next to an Israeli liberal. We have very few things alike and I feel sad about it.

  4. shoshana rotter

    Dear Naomi Ragen,
    I am a great admirer of yours. Nonetheless, it seems to me that something happened to you lately. You stumbled/ fell in the great abyss between the republicans and democrats and you’re blaming the American Jewish people” for the pain and anger you feel. I guess you’re also not watching the news on Israeli TV. If you did, you’d see the Israeli newsmen opening ridiculing Trump’s presidency and intelligence. But not only, they also hate the Jewish people who voted for him. Well, I’m one of them. Did you, maybe, watch TV the day Jerusalem was declared Israel’s capital. The newsmen’s faces looked as though they just returned from a funeral. Some of them even treat the terrorists with more respect that they treat our dead soldiers. Sad!!! Nobody in there has a word of thank you for Trump, the American and Jewish people. They think they’re entitled to America’s support for free, but there is no such thing as “free” in this world and we’re supposed to be nicer and more greatful to people who support us. I used to give Israel more money, but no more. Too many tycoons and money thieves in Israel.

  5. Dalya K Horowitz

    This is one American Jew who “gets it”. I voted reluctantly for Trump and I still don’t like him personally. But I love his dedication to Israel and what he is doing for America and the world after 8 years of a traitorous and hateful Presidency. The left is selling us down the road – Jews and non-Jews alike. My husband and I used to be left-wingers, but reality intruded and made us realize who really has our back.
    We stand strong with our brothers and sisters in Israel and always will!!

  6. The Jewish Republican

    Last year, while visiting Israel,I happened to be in Jerusalem on the 50th anniversary of the retaking of the capital. I has highly moved. What the liberal American Jewish establishment is believing their own BS and turning on fellow Jews. I will quote what my father told me once:”your worst Jewish friend is better than your best gentile friend” . Embracing the socialist and communist thinking in America is just as bad as being a facist. There are quite a few people like me that are like minded, but we are silent. But, we vote and that is why Donald Trump is our president.

  7. Lawrence Wald

    Excellent article, Naomi. As an American Jew, I am flabbergasted that liberal American Jews support The Palestinian cause and the boycott of Israel, and that they oppose the moving of our embassy to Jerusalem and the right of Israel to defend itself agains evil.

    Donald Trump is no racist or white supremacist. Any suggestion of this is ridiculous and a promotion of the democrats and the biased liberal media. Trump believes in a strong and safe America, legal immigration, a good economy, jobs for all (including minorities), denuclearization, and war against terrorism. What is wrong with that?

    It is amazing to me that American Jews cannot realize that he is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish people. If there is no peace with the Palestinians, blame the Palestinians. They have had numerous opportunities to make peace with Israel. They do not want peace with Israel, they want Israel! A generation of Palestinian children have been taught that Jews and Israel are their enemy. Their minds have been brainwashed to the point that peace is impossible.

    Obama was one of the worst Presidents, but so many misguided people think he was a good President.There were those who thought FDR was a good President. Yet, during FDR’s presidency, one of the worst genocides in history occurred. Also, FDR presided over one of the worst recessions and depressions in history. I wonder how many people realize that during the 11 genocides that have occurred since 1900, a democrat was President of the United States at the time!

    Wake up, American Jews, and smell the roses. America is doing well economically and it has become respected in the world once again. Trump cares about the well-being of all people, including minorities. Realize that Trump and his family have strong Jewish connections.Trump has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. He has recognized Israel’s ancient capital of Jerusalem. He is a defender of Israel against aggression. He is the best President in my lifetime.

  8. Becky

    Sadly the division is also in the so-called Christian community especially in the U.S. Those that know and study the Word of God stand strongly with Israel and are thrilled with moving the Embassy to Jerusalem. Others, Jews or “Christians” are more believers in their liberal doctrines than ever standing for Biblical truths! True Believers do like President Trump and love Israel. He stands with Israel and is against slaughtering babies. And so does God. Isaiah 6 says He hates shedding of innocent blood. He’s the One we ALL will answer to.

  9. Susan

    Israel does not accept Reform or Conservative rabbis. They cannot perform weddings or funerals or grant a divorce. And the government does not acknowledge non Orthodox synagogues. Israel seems to have become a theocracy instead of a democracy. The only hope is for the government to be formed without the Orthodox parties.

    • Surak

      “Israel seems to have become a theocracy instead of a democracy.” Reading the Torah, that seems to have been God’s plan all along.

    • Tzioni

      This is not quite right. The govt of Israel is still pretty secular. Any Jew can make aliyah, and converts converted under any of the Reform, Conservative or Orthodox divisions are accepted, as long as they show they truly converted. It is the Israeli Rabbinate that controls marriage and probably funerals. This is what this means – it means the couple must meet with the Rabbinate representative before being given a marriage license, and it means the rabbi officiating the chupah part of the wedding must be approved by the Rabbinate. But once the chupah part is over, the couple can continue the wedding celebration anyway they want. It really is only a small part of the service. I’ve been to a reform wedding before and it was reform all the way once the chupah part, in which the vows are exchanged, was done. The Orthodox rabbi went home. So we’ve learned to live with this. You say the govt does not acknowledge Reform synagogues, but I don’t know exactly what that means. I know there is a Reform shul in my town – it’s a Russian shul. I really don’t think the govt controls the shuls, but as I said, when it comes to weddings, the Rabbinate is in control.I hope this helps to clare up any misunderstandings.

  10. Gideon Rappaport

    The reason secular Jews have turned against Israel goes deeper than Trump. The Marxist communist doctrine, reinforced by Stalin, is that Israel’s national renewal goes against the universal rule of the proletariat and the end of the nation-state. For a century that doctrine has been infused into American culture through colleges and universities, and hence Hollywood, the media, and now the lower schools. And since leftism has become the religion of choice for secular Jews, they will sacrifice Judaism and Israel in their worship of the utopian future while all the time claiming to be morally superior to those who support Israel and/or believe in God.

  11. Joel Laker

    Hi Naomi,
    I too was in Israel From Feb 1967 to Oct 1967 during the 6 day War. The Trump movement of The US embassy to Jerusalem undoubtedly brought joy to Israel as this move ended speculation and negotiations with Palestinians regarding Ownership and Rights.
    It may have been a wiser move to include the Palestinians but in not doing so, in my opinion, any form of peace or peace plan went out the window.
    Today 16 July 2018 I listened to the Trump /Putin summit. The USofA has a new best friend. There is a new world order being established. Your allies are your enemies and your enemies are your friends under this President. If he can do it to Nato Nafta and a host of other ally countries, Israel should be very careful with this man. Keep Charlottesville in mind, Trump said ” There were good people on both sides”. He was referring to Neo-Nazis.
    America has become isolationist, a Trade war is just getting started, “Make America Great Again” is a slogan that was used by the “KKK” which interprets to ” Make America White Again”. Every day I get up and say Modeh Ani and thank god I am Canadian.My Best Regards Naomi

    • Stu Tarlowe

      You are not only a fucking moron, you are a dangerous fucking moron. Besides being mind-numbingly stupid, you are entirely too eager to swallow and then regurgitate Leftist talking points which demonize Trump and deliberately mischaracterize the so-called “Palestinians”, but which have no basis in fact.

      • Joel Laker

        Hey Stu – you misspelled your first name. Demonizing Trump is “Par for the Course”.

        Listening to a Liar a Cheat and a Thief with no Morals of any kind who gets his great Policies from the likes of Fox News – Steve Bannon and Steven Miller can’t help but be Demonized.

        My belief is all good things come to those who wait (for the other shoe to drop). I believe that other shoe dropping is in the Devine Plan for your Leader.

        PS – Name calling only affirms what an insignificant person you are. X0X0X

      • Dalya K Horowitz

        Well said – you made me laugh at your bluntness, but these guys can’t understand anything else. Give ’em hell!

    • Surak

      There is so much that is staggeringly wrong with this comment, it is hard to know where to begin.

      Inclusion of the Palestinian-Arabs is a pipedream indulged by Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and 0bama. It has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Jews as human sacrifice to multiculturalism, in which we accept jihad and conquest as equivalent to peace and tolerance.

      “Your allies are your enemies and your enemies are your friends under” 0bama, not Trump. It was 0bama who gave $150 billion to Iran to wipe Israel off the map. On the other hand, I may have a different list of friends and enemies compared to Mr. Laker.

      NATO has been asked to pay its fair share for its defense, and to stop freeloading off America. All NATO members are expected to pay 2% of GDP for defense. America contributes over 3%; Belgium and Luxembourg (very wealthy countries) under 1%. Why is asking them to take responsibility for themselves problematic? If I decide to pay only half my tax burden, will you gladly make up the difference on my behalf?

      Charlottesville? That is the place where the left-wing fascists came to beat up right-wing fascists. I despise both sides, but the leftists initiated the violence. There are Youtube videos showing this. ANTIFA is a widespread domestic terrorist group.

      America is not isolationist. That’s just a slogan. “Leading from behind”, the 0bama philosophy, is quasi-isolationist. There is no virtue in ceding authority to the United Nations.

      The “trade war” has been fought for decades, with countries – like Canada – charging 270% tariffs on American goods. President Trump “started” the war by fighting back (similar to Israel). He offered a mutual no-tariff agreement at the G-7 meeting and he was turned down.

      “Make America Great Again” was used in a presidential speech by Bill Clinton.

      The KKK was founded by Democrats, who continue to fan the flames of racial hatred.

      Canada, under Trudeau, is re-aligning with the global open borders left. I hope you enjoy your no-go zones and sharia courts.

      Back to reality…

      • Joel Laker

        SURAK – I’m not sure if you are male or female but with the words “Judenrein” possibly German and I would guess male by the attitude. Your reply to me was one of a person not understanding what is staring him in the face. You may love Trump and what he is doing but there is a world consensus and even within America that he is a very dangerous man which will come back to bite. Republicans agree.

        Your reply to Justin freed was off the charts. In the event you haven’t noticed Obama is not the current President. Iran is back building up it’s Nuclear force since trump pulled the plug. Kim Jong Un is currently thumbing his nose at the reality TV Host with Trump having stopped the War Exercises to the South while Kim builds his arsenal. Trumps Security Advisors have told him Putin meddled in the 2016 Election and he stood before the world today saying he believed Putin not Dan Coates. Trump will never concede because it would say he is the Illegitimate President. When the other shoe drops with Meuller He won’t have to admit it Impeachment will do it for him.
        What Israel and the Palestinians need is a sit down round of Truth and Reconciliation. South Africa benefited from that road but where are the Desmond TuTu’s?

        Trump has been under investigation from day one and his time is running out.

        In closing, we don’t have “no go zones” here in Canada nor do we have “Sharia Courts” but we do have a Bet Din.

        Your anger is palpable with a great need to be right rather than happy.

        To be a Judge you have to listen to both sides. Start Listening and lose Mr. tough guy. IN’SHALA

  12. Leah Blumenfeld

    Great article Naomi. It saddens me, as an Orthodox Jew, there is so much anger and hate that all of us cannot enjoy all the wonderful events that have occurred in Israel.

  13. Justin Freed

    I hope that a more nuanced discussion of these issues could take place. There are significant failures on both sides. Embracing Trump, a most insincere and irrational world leader , doesn’t help your argument.
    Please understand that I love Israel and the Jewish people profoundly. My grandfather was a Zionist organizer in America. But we have our own internal problems and fundamentalism only exacerbates them.
    Of course Israel’s survival is essential. But embracing authoritarian, racist positions will lead to disaster.
    Neither do I endorse any boycott of Israel.
    Let’s be civil with one another and learn from one another. I know I have much to learn and look forward to doing that.
    Let me start by asking if Palestinians have any legitimate concerns.
    Finally, what is your picture of a peaceful solution?

    • Surak

      President Trump is only an “insincere and irrational world leader” if, like 0bama, you endorse jihadism and leftist totalitarianism.

      “…embracing authoritarian, racist positions will lead to disaster.” Good, so you opposed 0bama’s endangering Israel by giving $150 billion to Iran to wipe Israel off the map. Right?

      “Let me start by asking if Palestinians have any legitimate concerns.” They have repeatedly expressed the concern that Israel was founded at all – in any borders – and have demanded that their future state must be completely Judenrein (Jew-free). On second thought, no, those concerns are not legitimate.

      My picture of a peaceful solution is one in which the Muslims reject jihad. Their picture of a peaceful solution is one in which all Jews convert, submit, or are killed, as commanded in the Qur’an 9:5. If you see room for compromise (just kill a small number of Jews), I’m curious.

    • Stu Tarlowe

      So very typical! “I love Israel and the Jewish people profoundly. But..” Apparently Trump Derangement Syndrome is far more powerful than any concern for the ultimate survival of Israel or the Jewish people.

  14. NAOMI ROMM

    Sadly Naomi you are 100% correct in your assessment of American Jews and their relationship to our Jewish Homeland. If anything it has worsened since Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. If anything Leftist American Jews are in the forefront with their hatred, yes hatred of Trump and anything he he is doing to cement the relationship between our two countries. Lest we forget, Trump is not a politician. He is a businessman, and the presidency is a business, one which has shown what a man of Trump’s talents can accomplish. In the end though we must keep in mind that all actions are ordained by Hashem and that is truly the bottom line.

  15. Herb Philbrick

    Rabbi Fleishig should use a more appropriate fake name. How about “Rabbi Treif”?

  16. shimshon bitnun

    I DONT REALLY THINK THAT THERE IS A DEEP DIVIDE BETWEEN JEWS IN OR OUT OF ISRAEL.IBELIEVE IT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL THAT WE HAVE DIFFERENTOPINIONS ABOUT MANY THINGS AND EVEN HEATED ARGUMENTS BUT APART FROM EXTREMISTS ON EITHER SIDE THERE IS A DEEP CONNECTION WITH CARING AND LOVE ON BOTH SIDES-MAY IT CONTINUE FOREVERMORE!
    LIKE NAOMI I CAME TO ISRAEL AS A VOLUNTEER 2 DAYS BEFORE THE 6 DAY WAR,STAYED FOR 3 MONTHS AND THEN RETURNED IN 1970 WITH WIFE AND 5 YOUNG KIDS.NONE OF US HAVE REGRETTED LIVING AND BEING HERE ALTHOUGH WE LIVED IN A “GARDEN OF EDEN” IN BRITISH COLUMBIA,CANADA.
    I ENJOY YOUR WRITING NAOMI BUT I THINK YOU ARE BEING TOO CAUSTIC AND PESSIMISTIC ABOUT OUR BRETHREN ON THE OTHER SIDE-EACH HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY-THEY ALL CARE

  17. Susan

    Israeli Jews just don’t get it. Time to start accepting Reform and Conservative Jews (Liberal and Masorti Jews) as Jews.

    • Naomi Ragen

      There are numerous Rreform And pConservative congregations in walking distance from my home in Jerusalem

      • Susan

        But their synagogues and rabbis are not accepted as being Jewish according to the Government of Israel.

        If you live in Israel and want to be married by a rabbi who is not Orthodox you must go to Cyprus.

        Time to accept all Jews.

  18. Susan Marx

    I love reading what all these polls about American Jewry say. No one ever asked me and I don’t know anyone who has ever been contact. I think Israelis love to generalize about how bad American Jewry is.

    And when Israel and Israelis decide to accept Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews as being Jews, American Jewry will look at Israel differently. One does not have to be Orthodox to be Jewish.

    • Rabbi Fleishig

      Unfortunately, as long as the Israeli political system produces coalition governments in which the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist fanatics hold the balance of power, sanity will continue to fall by the wayside and the nutcases (for example, the ones who hold up El Al flights by refusing to sit next to or even look at a woman) will be the ones running the show.

    • Surak

      Susan’s comment, which she posted twice, repeats a commonly held anti-Semitic libel, namely, that “Orthodox” Judaism (actually Torah Judaism) rejects non-Orthodox Jews’ Jewish identity. Every Jew should know that Torah Judaism identifies as Jewish anyone born to a halakhically Jewish mother, or anyone with a halakhic conversion.

      Torah Judaism, however, properly rejects the other movements as heretical. If you deny HaShem, or His eternal covenant with the children of Israel subsequent to the Exodus from Egypt, or the fact that the details of that covenant are written in the Torah and are binding law for all Jews for all time, that is not Judaism, but rather a new religion. Rejecting the heresy does not cause a person to lose his status as a Jew.

      Tolerance is a two-way street. Rejecting the chareidim as insane and “nutcases” does not further the cause of Jewish unity either.

      Natural selection will have the last say. Torah Jews believe in traditional families; the other movements don’t. It is not a coincidence that Torah Jews’ fertility rate is above replacement, but the other movements’ fertility rate is below replacement.

      All of this is, of course, beside the main point of the article, which is to inquire why there is such fanatical hatred for President Trump among the majority of Jews, considering how benevolent he has been towards us, and how malevolent his predecessor was. $150 billion to Iran???

      Mrs. Ragen has not even touched on the newly popular American political movement, the Democratic Socialists of America, who have openly flaunted their hatred of Israel (“F*ck Israel” on one of their signs). One wonders what degree of leftist threat is necessary for American Jews to start demonstrating the survival instincts of other diaspora Jews. Do you think that America is suffering most crucially from a shortage of Muslims, for example? And doesn’t American Jews’ embrace of the hard left actually endanger Israel?

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