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Major Concerns of U.S. Jews Probed

The major concems of American Jews on the domestic scene are crime and inflation and “in the area of foreign affairs… by far the greatest Jewish anxiety involves the future of Israel,” according to Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, who delivered the keynote address at the AJCommittee’s 72nd annual meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel today.

Gold based his analysis on the responses by about 1100 American Jewish adults from all regions of the United States to a questionnaire administered by the AJCommittee last winter to determine “what concerns them most as Americans and as Jews.” He stressed that the survey was not a scientific sampling of the entire Jewish population.

He reported that in foreign affairs “90 percent–30 percent more than on any other Jewish issue–were very concerned about Israel’s security and 93 percent considered Israel’s survival essential to the American-Jewish community.” Yet. Gold reported, “while Israel has become a major focus of Jewish peoplehood and has done much to strengthen our sense of identity and belonging, it has also generated same strains and tensions. For it must be acknowledged that a number of the premises and assumptions of Zionist ideology have not been sustained.”

He listed, among the assumptions not yet realized, the belief that the existence of a Jewish State “would once and for all legitimize us as a people,” that it “would fashion the Jewish people in the image of all other people” and that the “existence of a Jewish State would help eradicate anti-Semitism in the world.”

In connection with the latter, he noted: “Instead, we have seen anti-Jewish hostility transferred to the State of Israel and back again to Jews in other lands…The current syllogism reads: Zionism is racism, all Jews are Zionists; therefore all Jews are racists.”

Another assumption not borne out was that the Jewish State would bring “an ingathering of Jews to Israel and a gradual withering away of the diaspora. This too has not happened. Only 20 percent of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel and both the American Jewish community and the communities of Western Europe are flourishing.”

ISSUE OF DISSENT

Gold said the survey showed that Jews “seem to have few qualms about dissenting from any number of American policies, including those that affect Israel.” But, “when it comes to public disagreement or differences with Israeli policies, we are much less sure-footed,” he said. “Yet, as the concept of peoplehood has sharpened and the inter-relationship and inter-dependency of Israeli and diaspora Jewry have intensified, the responsibility on our part to be honest–and critical where necessary–has increased accordingly,” Gold said.

He said he was disturbed “by those who view public dissent from any Israeli policy as ‘treason’ and by those who consider such dissent ‘courageous’ and ‘heroic.’ Both groups, it seems to me, perceive the American Jewish community as rigid, controlling and monolithic and such a perception, if there is any substance to it, must be thoroughly resisted.”

Gold warned: “The more we see ourselves as besieged and beleaguered, the more impatient we become with those who disagree, and the more angrily we lash out at them. We must be careful not to make the same mistake that the Black community did in the ’60s when the prevailing doctrine that all whites were racists left them no choice but to try to go it alone.”

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