NEW YORK (May. 3)
An erosion of confidence in American Jewish institutions, paralleling that visible in American society at large, has been taking place for the past five years. This view will be presented tomorrow by Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, at the opening luncheon session of the organization’s 68th annual meeting which will be held at the Americana Hotel through Sunday.
“The Jewish community has also experienced a crisis of confidence,” he states in an advance text of his address, “a serious questioning of established Jewish organizations, their selection of priorities, their openness to change, their very right to lead. New anti-establishment groups have sprung up, some activist, some of a more purely intellectual bent, all claiming to speak for the Jewish interest.”
Just as a populist movement has arisen in the general society that offers “quick, simplistic solutions” to the nation’s problems, Gold points to a parallel mood within the Jewish community, citing as illustrations the rise of Rabbi Meir Kahane, head of the Jewish Defense League, and “the widening gulf between the leaders and the led.”
The differences in American Jewish life show themselves, Gold explains, in a growing rift between rich, upper-class heterodox and poor, middle and lower class orthodox; and between inner-city urban Jews and suburban Jews. Much of this dissent from Jewish consensus, he adds, come from what an AJCommittee task force on “The Future of the Jewish Community” has identified as “the neglected Jewish constituency”; the poor, the trapped population in the inner city, and the non-affiliated Jews. Gold pays tribute to the enthusiastic manner in which Federation and their affiliated agencies, in cities across the country, had been responding to these newly identified concerns.
DIASPORA-ISRAEL DIALOGUE NEEDED
In his address, seeking to answer, “Who Speaks for the Jews?”, Gold also urges creation of “voluntary Israeli organizations” us a way of creating new kinds of dialogues to address themselves to differences between Israel and Jewish communities in the US and elsewhere in the world. “Differences between Israel and Jewish communities in other parts of the world are inevitable,” he is scheduled to tell the 500 delegates from all sections of the country. “They can be lessened, not by discouraging dissent but by encouraging an airing of differences; not by unilateral action but by authentic consultation; not by denying the independence and creative future of diaspora Jewry but by affirming it.”
In that context, he adds: “What is desperately needed is the emergence of voluntary Israeli organizations to which the voluntary organized Jewish communities of the world can relate, instead of addressing themselves, as they do now, primarily to Israeli government spokesmen.” Gold launches his discussion of Israel-Diaspora relations with what he calls “four assumptions on which, I believe, there will be little disagreement”:
“Israel plays a vital symbolic role in Jewish conscious and unconscious self-perception, and is today a basic component of identity formation for Jews everywhere in the world.”: “There is an interdependence between Israel and other Jewish communities, and the behavior and actions of a particular community may have a direct bearing upon what happens to Israel, and vice versa.”; Israeli decision-makers view Israel as a defender and representative of Jews who are in trouble anywhere in the world….” and “The majority of American Jews affirm the viability of Jewish life in the diaspora. They reject the classical Zionist ideology that predicts a continuous and irreversible erosion for Jewish life outside of Israel….”
Gold notes that some strains between Israel and diaspora Jewry have arisen, particularly in the five years since the end of the Six-Day War in the Middle East. He singles out several areas of tension: containment of criticism of Israeli policies and practices, which, he says, is galling to many idealistic, committed young Jews”: the growing tendency on the part of young Israelis to look upon American Jewry as “a service community” whose function is to support the State of Israel; and differing perspectives on Issues affecting Jews in other countries.