Op-Ed: Are We Missing the Mark?by Iliana Glovinsky and Dr. Larry Kutler February 27, 2017
Pro-Israel organizations work hard to promote support for Israel and the security and future of the United States-Israel relationship. They strive to encourage positive activism across the political, religious and social spectrums. The San Diego branch of AIPAC, along with 10 regional offices and seven satellite offices, tirelessly advances the mission of the organization. As a forward-thinking organization, they also work with the next generation of America’s pro-Israel leaders on campuses in colleges and secondary schools.
Their effort is laudable and vital to the interests of the Jewish community. However, is it enough? Sadly, the answer is no.
According to the Pew Report “More older Jews than younger Jews say they feel ‘a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.’” This seems to be reflected in their attitude toward Israel. Fifty-three percent of Jews aged 65 and older believe that caring about Israel is essential to being Jewish. In contrast, only 32 percent of Jews under 30 share the same belief.
Another finding shows that Jews who make charitable contributions are more likely to support non-Jewish organizations than Jewish ones. According to an article that appeared in JewishIdeasDaily.com, the wealthiest Jews allocate less than 25 percent of their total contributions to Jewish causes.
As current and future generations of apathetic and assimilated Jewish school children grow up to become apathetic and assimilated Jewish adults, pro Israel organizations, will have a harder and harder time raising the millions in funding that assures the continuation of American support for the Jewish state.
So what can be done?
A key finding of the Pew Report shows that there are significant differences in the level of involvement in Jewish organizations between Jews who care to some extent about Judaism as a religion and those who don’t. Those who identify themselves as Jews on the basis of religion are nearly five times more likely to say being Jewish is very important to them, compared with Jews whose identity is not based on religion (56 percent vs. 12 percent). Most Jews by religion also say they have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people (85 percent) and that they feel a responsibility to care for Jews in need (71 percent). Far fewer Jews who do not identify themselves with Judaism as a religion share these sentiments.
Clearly, unless a strong understanding and love of Judaism and the land of Israel is instilled in our children throughout their primary and secondary education, at best, they’ll be apathetic toward Israel. At worst, they may actually embrace incipient ideas like BDS that are proliferated by the enemies of Israel and free democracies. Such ideas are frighteningly prevalent in our secular education system. And most young Jews today are woefully unprepared to deal with them.
There can be no doubt that the future leadership of Jewish organizations will come from knowledgeable and educated young leaders, many of whom are current Jewish Day School students. These students feel Jewish and understand Israel. This pride and bias toward action in support of Israel engenders the capacity to respond to disinformation movements like BDS with rational, persuasive and fact-based arguments.
All who care about the sustainability of pro-Israel organizations have no choice but to recognize the future roots that will nurture the goals of such organizations. These roots are in the Jewish Day Schools, especially at the middle and secondary level. To this end, the Jewish community of San Diego and elsewhere, must re-double its support of their local Jewish Day Schools by providing the funding and inspiration to assure that a new and vibrant generation of Jews will step up and effectively advocate for the mutual security of America and Israel for many years to come. Failure to act, will leave open the question of long term sustainability for many Jewish organizations and the unique and mutual bond between two great democratic countries.
Iliana Glovinsky, MFT is a member of the Board of Directors at Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School and Torah High School. Dr. Larry Kutler is Head of School for Talmud Torah/Herzliah in Montreal, Canada.