On Israeli Jews and American Jews

We Jews come in many shapes and flavors (well, maybe not THAT many shapes). Not mutually exclusive, there are French Jews, Israeli Jews, American Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Orthodox, Reform, you name it!

One can actually imagine a three-dimensional matrix based on ethnicity, denomination and geography. In America, the dominant coordinate in the matrix would be American obviously, then Reform, then Ashkenazi. In Israel, the dominant coordinates would be (Israeli, Orthodox, Ashkenazi) and (Israeli, Orthodox, Mizrahi), in equal parts. I consider secular Israelis to be very light Orthodox.

Here’s a little visuzalization (note: I lump together all non-Orthodox Jews as Reform):

As an Israeli Jew living in the US, the differences between the dominant Jewish populations in Israel, and the dominant Jewish population in America could not be more apparent to me.

First, a few surface-level differences: American Jews are by and large an urban people. Israeli Jews, by contrast, display a more conventional distribution of urban and rural. In fact, Israel has a thriving agricultural sector, operated and owned by Jewish farmers. Jewish American farmers, on the other hand, are a non-existent breed.

Then there’s the occupational distribution. Israeli Jews, by virtue of being the majority in their land, do all sort of things: Many are engineers, many are soliders, some are car mechanics, many are teachers, many are farmers, some are even street cleaners and janitors. American Jews by contrast are largely concentrated in the services sector (I was not able to get any reliable statistics, but I think the anecdotal evidence is indisputable). This difference results in a few other differences, mostly a certain “softness” and volubility that is almost immediately apparent to Israeli Jews, when encountering their American brethren.

On a deeper level, there is a major difference in how the two populations (again, through the lens of the dominant sub-populations) perceive themselves in relation to their own country. Israeli Jews, by and large, see themselves as the organic inhabitants of their land. They embrace their country’s heritage and legacy, its outdoors, its founders, its thinkers, and its history. No Israeli Jew would ever dream of demanding a change to the name of the city of Herzliya (named after Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism), to “Transgenderville,” due to Herzl having been a “dead white male.” No Israeli would ever campaign to re-name Ben Gurion airport, named after the country’s first prime minister, to “Lesbo-port.”

American Jews, however, tend to possess a position of permanent critique towards their homeland. Rather than embracing America’s legacy, there is a tendency to view it with contempt and to rejoice in attempts to repudiate it. Guns, families, traditional liberty, and Anglo-Western values are not for city-dwelling-service-sector Jews, but for imbecilic Walmart shoppers from fly-over states!

Calls for open borders (because this is “who we are!”), calls to rename schools and deface monuments, campaigns to impose “diversity and equity,” are all mainstream for American Jews. Most Jewish American organizations (the ADL being a case in point) of the non-Orthodox kind, basically dedicate their entire existence to an on-going campaign of denouncing and repudiating America’s heritage (see the “ADL Watch” series on this website). How easy it is to find a Jew amongst the ranks of Black Lives Matter or “social justice” activists. Try to find one in the pro-life movement or the NRA.

Meaning, whereas Israelis have become completely enmeshed in the soil and history of their land, the dominant component of American Jews has maintained a flotsam-like status. A population floating on top of its great nation, without completely assimilating into it.

Are these differences here to stay? Perhaps not. Intermarriage amongst Reform Jews is at an all-time high, therefore pushing that population into non-existence. The one group that does not intermarry? Orthodox Jews. And they tend to be much more conservative. So within a generation or two, the gap between Israeli Jews and American Jews may narrow. Or at least, American Jews will no longer be synonymous with the woke hordes or vengeful Furies.

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