"Growing up at Congregation Olam Tikvah, Michelle Pearlstein remembers how Israel was taught at religious school: "Black and white — you can’t trust anyone, and it was a united front in support of Israel." Today, Pearlstein, 35, is the Israel specialist at the Fairfax (Virginia) synagogue, where she teaches what is now the mainstream approach: "We call it ‘Israel, warts and all.’ "
The change in curriculum is but one manifestation of the changing relationship between American Jews and the Jewish state, even as the country celebrates its 60th birthday this week.
Multiple new polls show that younger American Jews feel less of a connection to Israel than older Jews. And while there is heated debate about some of the polls’ methodologies and conclusions, most Jewish leaders are very concerned about the data. The leaders see them as a long-term byproduct of intermarriage, assimilation and controversial Israeli policies, including settlement expansion in the occupied territories." Michele Boorstein
In Alexandria, Virginia (my home town) There is a beautiful Episcopal Church, one of several actually. It is called Christ Church. There is also a regrettably modern looking but suitably ancient synagogue, Beth El. For as long as anyone can remember these two congregations have been celebrating Thanksgiving together. They alternate between sanctuaries. Although not congregants of either, we were invited by a VMI classmate to the joint service at Christ Church one year. He is a member of Beth El. It was as satisfying an experience as one could hope for.
"You can’t trust anyone?" My God! Here? What was the justification for teaching children such a thing? Not everyone liked Jews? So what! I have an original sign in my office from 1908 that reads "Help wanted. No Irish Need Apply." My father used to laugh about a sign he saw over the door of a women’s dormitory at Hunter College in New York back in the 1930s. It read "No dogs or soldiers allowed within." Fortunately we did not need jobs in 1908 and my father had no interest in Hunter girls.
"You can’t trust anyone." Let us hope that we Americans are coming to end of that kind of idea. I am not surprised that young Jewish Americans are not so gullible as to cower before the fears of their ancestors. They have looked around them and have seen that there is no need.
I congratulate the Israelis on the birthday of their country. I hope it prospers in justice and freedom for all. pl