April 20, 2019


How Can You Ask Us To Be Zionists When Israel Rejects Us As Jews? (Eliana Fishman, Apr. 15th, 2019, The Forward)

As the chasm between American Jews and Israel widens and more and more young Jews renounce Zionism, many assume that Jewish anti-Zionism is based on scorn for Israel's myriad human rights abuses.

They aren't exactly wrong. Many Jews, both young and old, have rejected Zionism due to their solidarity with Palestinians. But pro-Israel advocates miss an additional key reason for the shift to anti-Zionism among young Jews: self-interest.

Imagine attending the celebration of a recent convert. The officiating rabbi calls her up to the Torah the first Shabbat after her immersion in the mikvah, and congratulates her on this momentous occasion. The rabbi then goes on to talk about how moving it is for converts to join the Jewish people at a time of rising anti-Semitism around the globe. Thank God, she continues, that we have the State of Israel as a haven from anti-Semitism.

But this scenario, which has no doubt happened in Conservative and Reform synagogues across America over the past few years, is actually a chilling one. For even though the rabbi and the congregation are happy to embrace their new convert as a Jew, the State of Israel will not. Israel only accepts conversions from a limited number of rabbis, all of whom are Orthodox men. The Rabbinate, which defines who is a Jew, similarly does not consider patrilineal Jews to be Jews.

What that amounts to, at a time of rising anti-Semitism in America and across the globe, is nothing short of horrifying. For if anti-Semitism were to become imminently threatening such that emigration to Israel was absolutely necessary, many of the Jews targeted by anti-Semitism would not be Jewish enough for the Jewish State. This would result in a scenario in which matrilineal Jews by birth and Jews of choice with the correct rabbi's name on their conversion documents would flee to the State of Israel, abandoning those Jews who aren't "Jewish enough" to fight anti-Semitism alone.

And yet, horrifying as this scenario is, it is also the truth buried in the statements rabbis across America make when they embrace political Zionism: Though we may claim autonomy over who is a Jew in our own synagogues, we defer the actual definition of who is a Jew to a foreign government.

Posted by at April 20, 2019 5:23 PM


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