I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months thinking about my relationship to Israel. Those of you who followed my blog posts while I was in Israel know that my attitude is complicated–it’s not that Israel is not a value in my life, it’s just not the only value, and I often feel guilty for feeling the way I feel, like I’m somehow failing the Jewish people by not making aliyah and not sending 1/10th of my already meager income to support the Jewish state.

But now ROI120-nik Matt Lebovic indicates in a new article in the JPost that–even aside from fundraising–there is a role for Diaspora Jews who aren’t moving to Israel. The article was prompted by a statement by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski, who told reporters at the GA that “the penny will drop for North American Jews and they will realize they have no future.” These comments, Lebovic notes, were “more charitable” than those made by author A.B. Yehoshua earlier this year: “If you do not live in Israel your Jewish identity has no meaning at all.”

Lebovic writes:

Anyone in touch with reality knows most North American Jews will never settle in Israel. Instead of employing fear tactics to promote Aliyah, Israeli leaders should partner with all Jews committed to Israel, regardless of where they pay taxes.

North American Jews have made impressive contributions to Zionism, even beyond AIPAC and their checkbooks. The community brings several key “cards” to the table of Jewish state-building – cards somewhat lacking from the current Israeli deck.

He cites sharing Jewish heritage, Israel 21C, partnering between Israeli and American cities to address social issues, and of course, birthright, as examples of structures created by the American Jewish community that actually work.
Look, I still feel guilty. I’m a single American Jewish woman in my thirties who had a yeshiva education, who has very little money and doesn’t live in Israel, and therefore I have much to feel guilty about. (I even wrote about it for the new issue of PresenTense, and will add the link as soon as it’s online.) But it’s good to know that there are other people who think that aliyah, while important, isn’t the only option a committed American Jew or Jewish American has. And having participated in a birthright trip, attended a GA, and having been involved in the organized Jewish community for more years than I care to count, I do think he’s right.
Still, I do enjoy a good limonana. And how great a PR move would it be if we could get all remaining Diaspora Jewish posters to move to Israel? Hmm.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.


  • “If you do not live in Israel your Jewish identity has no meaning at all.” This is just about the silliest suggestion I’ve seen made on the topic in quite sometime. And that’s really saying something! Enough of this ‘not good enough’ for you Jew BS. Jews have been living outside of Israel for millennia. Does all this rich cultural history have no meaning? The entirety of Yiddish literature & theater for example? Do we condemn in the same breath as those ugly rich Americans all the Russian Jews we fought to free in the 70’s & 80’s? How about ignoring the lessons and sacrifice from German Jews, without which the state of Israel would certainly not exist? Tell all the Jews of the world to give it up and decamp for a small patch of land we may all want to know & love, but certainly can’t really co-exist in if not only too foolish for words, it’s counter productive in the extreme. And that’s the point. When will this war between the Jews end, and why does it continue? Who are all these very learned yet profoundly silly people, and why can’t they just try and fix the things they can have some good effect on, where they stand? What’s wrong with trying that for once, eh? Just wondering… Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • so its everything who get tax money?
    americans should think more about jewish future and less about money …
    During history, there is a single place in the world where jewry grew – this place is Israel (land, state, whatever your attitude is). Abroad, in the worst case will assimilate and disapear (simple as that) or will become a small core extremist people who doesn’t tolerate anything slightly different from them.

  • The ‘disgusting’ fact for many of these people is that there exists more Jews living outside of Israel than inside it, and indeed this probably has been true for many thousands of years. So should we just up & destroy, ignore or reject all this real & true history of the Jews? For what & why? What earthly or spiritual purpose would this serve?

    To claim that ‘During history, there is a single place in the world where jewry grew…’ This is silly & ahistorical & severely counter productive. If there can be no ‘real’ Jews but for the ones who live inside Israel, and who obey Orthodox ritual, then not only is Israel lost as a nation & a national cause, but the Jews as a living, vital & growing presence in many lands are as well. It is perhaps the most singularly yet profoundly foolish proposition I’ve heard on the topic in many, many years, perhaps decades. It’s just that simple, yet dramatic. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • Yeah, there is history of Jews everywhere before Israel existed…I should know, I was born in the Soviet Union. And we did great stuff, blah, blah, blah.

    But because we now have a country to live in, we should live there. That’s the whole point. That the Diaspora should slowly be becoming less. Of course it’s hard for Jews in America to make aliyah. But that’s the whole point. Because at some time, we will be discriminated against, no matter how financially comfortable we are. Don’t believe me? Watch anything by Borat, especially “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” Mass ignorance and racism is already happening.

    Just because you live in Israel doesn’t make you a “real” Jew, because there are millions of definitions of what that is. But, because you live in Israel, I admire you and praise you for helping to keep the core of the Jewish nation alive.

  • I know feeling guilty is the distinguishing mark between an awake human being and a catapillar contentedly munching leaves, but, I think people should be careful around guilt, just as they should be careful around alcohol. Just drink a tiny sip, very carefully. It is strong stuff, and can be poisonous. We are not a bunch of criminals. Go do what needs doing, and don’t think too much, say I.

    The great thing about the mitzvot is they are a tested plan of action.

    We need to really believe that they make us holy, as promised.