Podcast: Daniel Gordis on the Rift Between American and Israeli Jews

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The occupation. The Western Wall. The nation-state Law. The warm bonhomie between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The rift between American and Israeli Jews grows daily. How did this happen? Wasn’t Israel an issue of consensus in the American Jewish community until just recently? Wasn’t Israel the rare cause that could unite Jews across the political and denominational spectrum?

Against the conventional wisdom, Daniel Gordis of Shalem College believes that this growing divide is decidedly not about what Israel does. It is, rather, about what Israel is. In a series of insightful articles as well as a forthcoming book, Gordis argues that the two largest Jewish communities in the world are animated by different attitudes about the purpose of Jewish life, and what it takes for the Jews to prosper. And these more fundamental differences, not the policies of the Netanyahu government or the Chief Rabbinate, are the true cause of the widening rift between the Jews of Israel and the United States.

In this podcast, Daniel Gordis and Jonathan Silver sit down for a discussion about the complex relationship between American and Israeli Jews. They review the long history of American Jewish ambivalence toward Zionism, explore the different theories that motivate the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel, and try to define what it means to be a Zionist living in America.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.

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