There have been several articles in recent days reporting on criticism of Israel by American Jewish groups for placing some Hebrew ads in the U.S. whose goal was to encourage Israeli expatriates to return home. The ads highlighted some negatives of the American diaspora such as the ignorance of some American Jews about Judaism, Israel, and the Hebrew language, and concerns about intermarriage. The ads were not placed in any public medium available to the majority of American Jews and certainly not to the non-Jewish U.S. public.
The critics saw the ads as insensitive to the feelings of American Jews and unappreciative of their support for Israel. While affirming Israel’s right to bring back its expatriates, the critics felt that the campaign should highlight the positives of Israel and not the negatives of the American diaspora. The ads were seen as “heavy handed, demeaning, and insulting.”
I do not agree. The ads highlighted the tragic realities of a large segment of secular American Jewry. Our numbers are dropping because of assimilation, acculturation, integration and intermarriage in America. Too many Israelis are getting lost here.
The problem with the ads for some American Jewish leaders is that the truth hurts. It highlights our failures to stem the tide of assimilation. The Israelis found the Achilles heel of U.S. Jewry. Some of our leaders do not like it.
Our reaction should be, “We agree with you. Let’s work together harder to fix things in America. We are one people and share your concerns.” Instead some leaders of American Jewry chose to take a Hebrew message directed to Israelis and not Americans and get insulted. They denied Israel its independence to choose how to address its citizens. And worse, chose non-Jewish venues like the Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times to embarrass Israel in a far worse way than Israel insulted them.
My regret is that the Israelis pulled the ads and yielded to the heavy-handed tactics of some U.S. Jewish leaders.