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July 18, 1986 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-18

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What's the difference
between a young Jew
in Israel and one
in the United States?


It's difficult to say, exactly.
Proportionately there seem to
be as many assimilated Jewish
youths in Israel as in the U.S.
Many younger Israeli Jews, in
fact, don't even see
themselves as Jewish.


Staff Writer

Giora Carmi

American Jewish .young-
sters have many questions
about their Judaisth, but lack
the answers. Their Israeli
counterparts have the an-
swers, but couldn't care less
about the questions.
At least, that is the fre-
quent assumption when peo-
ple compare the Jewish iden-
tities of the world's two
largest Jewish communities.
The implication is that
Diaspora Jews--especially
younger Diaspora Jews--have
been set adrift. Perhaps they
feel Jewish, but they also lack
the tools necessary to under-
stand what Judaism is and
what it can be. In Israel, be-
ing a Jew is so "normal" that
Judaism is not given a second

But is that somewhat
simplistic contrast true? One
often hears about Jewish
assimilation in the Diaspora,
but who has heard it men-
tioned. in Israel?
In search of answers to
questions about Jewish iden-
tity and the preservation of
Judaism, as well as a clearer
definition of the issues in-
volved, I interviewed several
young American and Israeli
Jews, in addition to profes-
sionals who work closely with
Jewish youth. With two ex-
ceptions, all the interviews
were conducted in Israel.
The responses suggest that
if Judaism, as the full Jewish
experience of history, tradi-
tions, laws, ethics, language,
holidays and sense of corn-

munity is worth maintaining,
there must be a link between
Jews and Judaism.
Perhaps improving and ex-
panding the Jewish educa-
tional system is one of
the ways of establishing or
strengthening that link. Mak-
ing Israel more than just the
centerpiece of the Jewish
symbolic pantheon may be
Too often Judaism in
America seems to emphasize
form over cpntent, like the
old Woody Allen story in
which he is hired by a com-
pany as its token Jew. He
frantically reads his memos
from right to left, but is final-
ly fired for taking off too
many Jewish holidays.

At home
in Jewish history

"I grew up in the suburbs
of Albany, New York, which
were heavily non-Jewish," ex-
plained Michael Kohn, 27, an
oleh (immigrant) now living
in Jerusalem. "I felt Jewish
because I was different."
Michael says that his
strongest tie to Judaism
stems from his deep sense of
history_ "We've been around
for 4,000 years. How can I
turn my back on that"?
To Michael, living in Israel
links him to history; it direct-
ly connects him, he said, to
Jewish experiences in the
shtetl or medieval Spain, or
"To be a Jew is to have a

Continued on Page 67

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