U.S. Israeli in Tellectuals Differ with Traditional Concepts on Future of Zionism, Israel
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U.S. Israeli in Tellectuals Differ with Traditional Concepts on Future of Zionism, Israel

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A group of about 100 Zionist academicians and intellectuals from the U.S. and Israel looked into the future of Zionism, the Jewish State and the Jewish people and expressed views at variance with certain traditional concepts about all three. The scholars were participants in a symposium hosted by the Zionist Academic Council of the American Zionist Federation and the Herzl Institute held at 515 Park Ave. yesterday.

The theme was “Toward the Year 2000.” AZF president Faye Schenk, who greeted the assemblage, said it was necessary to extricate American Zionists from their “armed camp mentality” and accentuate the positive by looking ahead to an Israel in peace when the new century begins. But Prof. Shlomo Aaronson, an Israeli political scientist, said that given world tensions today, “the question of the year 2000 when peace prevails is not relevant.”

Prof. Melvin I. Urofsky, chairman of the history department at Virginia Commonwealth University and chairman of the Zionist Academic Council, touched a controversial issue when he observed that Israel’s place in Zionist thought must be re-evaluated because “the purpose of Zionism is the regeneration of the Jewish people and Israel is means to that end–not an end in itself.”

Urofsky rejected “the current Zionist position that aliya is the only criterion for true Zionism.” He said that concept “is rooted in the present Israeli establishment’s European origin and their Zionism is a result of persecution at home. Americans had no such pressures. American Zionists who know they cannot go on aliya should develop new areas in which their abilities could be utilized.” Urofsky said. He noted that “the only successful Zionist organizations were those which had specific projects in Israel.”


Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, professor of Jewish history at Columbia University and president of the American Jewish Congress, stated that “time is not on our side.” He noted that intellectual emigrants from problem countries do not go to Israel if they have any Western alternative. “This was an eventuality not assumed by strict Herzlian Zionism,” he said.

He urged a “massive rescue operation, biologically, intellectually and spiritually” because “the center of Jewish life is in us, not in what the gentiles do and not in simply sitting back and indulging in “Israel-watching.”

Milton Himmelfarb, an editor of Commentary Magazine and the American Jewish Yearbook, said “We are breeding ourselves out of existence. Jewish denasality is resulting in a loss of Jewish numbers and a loss of American Jewish political clout and this will not be good for Israel.”

Observing that the Jewish birth rate is rising only among the ultra-Orthodox, Himmelfarb predicted that in 50 years the Jewish “center of gravity” would shift so far to the right that the Jewish community’s ultra-liberal wing would be the Habad (Lubavitch) Hasidim.

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