Nerdy American Jews. Pushy Israelis. Last week, I went to a Yom Ha’atzmaut party with over 3000 New York area Jews and Israelis of all political and religious stripes. That party, which ran in co-sponsorship with most of the Jewish organizations in New York, was created and planned by Dor Chadash, a relatively new organization founded by David Borowich, 35, who was “troubled by the lack of contact between American Jews and Israelis living in the United States.” (Quotes and information from Ha’aretz)
“Dor Chadash is an expression of who I am and the identity crisis that is part of my life,” he says. “When I’m here, I feel Israeli, and when I’m in Israel, I feel American. So I thought: Why not combine the two?”
“Actually, both sides are to blame,” he says. “American Jews have this negative stereotype of Israelis, and Israelis have this negative stereotype of American Jews. The Jews here make a distinction between Israel and Israelis. Israel is considered an ideal, the homeland of the Jewish people. A lot of them are very supportive of Israel. They’ll give money. But Israelis are perceived as pushy and aggressive. Not that there isn’t some truth in that. All these Israelis who came to New York and got jobs as movers gave the community a bad name. For the Israelis, the Americans are nerdy. They’re perceived as too polite, too law-abiding. So when you have two groups that have such negative ideas about one another, how can you expect them to connect?” he says.
Borowich, an MBA and former tech guy, also makes some interesting suggestions:
“For some people in Dor Chadash, Israeliness is a substitute for Judaism,” says Borowich. “I don’t agree with that. Israeliness is not what kept the Jewish people alive for thousands of years.”
“I think it’s important that American Jews and Israelis living in the States do a kind of reserve duty. If Israel is criticized at their workplace, they need to get up the courage to explain what Israel means to them. That is a more important service than anything Arieh Mekel and [Israel U.N. ambassador] Danny Gillerman are doing, combined.”
The idea of American Jews and Israelis living abroad doing a “reserve duty” as PR people for Israel is a really interesting one. As American Jews, we’re told by Israeli citizens (or we feel it ourselves) that we have no right to express opinions for or against Israeli political policies unless we live there. While that still may be true in the strictest sense, regardless of where we live, we should feel an obligation to Israel.
It seems like a new expression of that song many of us learned as kids: “Lo alekha ham’lakhah ligmor, v’lo ata ben horin lehivatel mimenna…” The task is not yours to complete. But that doesn’t mean that you’re exempt of all responsibility.
Miluim (reserve duty) in North America to create an “Americani Brigade,” a veritable army of information officers and PR gurus who can help boost the image of Israel. Creating a nation of “Ambassadors” for Israel is very Jewlicious. And Isralicious.