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October 22, 2009 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-10-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

mitment that can overcome com-
placency," Kahn said.

Moving Forward
Ben-Ami acknowledged the prob-
lem created by an increasingly
polarized Jewish community; with
the locus of pro-Israel activism
shifting to the right even as atti-
tudes about Israel in the big, amor-
phous middle stay mostly the same.
"You've identified an impor-
tant question, and I don't have an
answer," he said. "It's a challenge to
the community as a whole; we have
to find ways to keep bridges open
between different parts of our com-
munity with different views."
He said J Street will gain energy
as well as supporters from an
emerging movement of young
Jews seeking new ways to relate to
Judaism and the Jewish state.
Daniel Sokatch, the incom-
ing CEO of the New Israel Fund
and founder of the innovative
Progressive Jewish Alliance in
California, agreed.
"AIPAC's power doesn't come
from millions of American Jews; it
comes from a very smart organiza-
tion that has put together a small
core of very devoted and dedicated
followers for whom one kind of
support for Israel is gospel: he said.
J Street can do the same by tap-
ping "the rising number of younger
Jews who are involved in emergent
enterprises. Many of them are look-
ing for ways to connect with Israel.
[J Street] has to find ways to light
that fire."
Many of those younger Jews won't
reconnect to Israel through the
established organizations, he said.
But J Street, working in parallel with
groups like NIF, might do it.
But how to channel that diffuse
energy into lobbying and political
clout is an open question with few
clear answers.
Political scientist Gilbert Kahn
has his doubts.
The group's biggest problem isn't
the continuing attacks from major
Jewish leaders but "the compla-
cency and passivity of the majority
of the community;' he said. "Absent
a major crisis, ifs going to be hard
to get the American Jewish com-
munity as a whole to mobilize on
issues like the peace process. That's
going to be a big challenge for J
Street."

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October 22 2009

19

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