The joyful, upbeat community celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday last spring was a brief respite from the growing division and unease over the recent political decisions by the Jewish state. Whether it was the controversial passage of the nation state law, the lack of movement toward healing the relationship with diaspora Jews, particularly in the United States or the attempted crackdown on the liberal-leaning Israeli film industry, many Jews in Atlanta had reason for concern.
In February, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta sponsored a high-profile trip to Israel that brought together a broad lineup of 70 community leaders, including many rabbis, that was intended to “build bridges” in the community. But despite an upbeat Federation-produced video of the trip and generally good reviews by the participants, results, so far, have not produced much reason for optimism.
One of the consultants for the trip, Avraham Infeld, the well-regarded Israeli expert on the diaspora, is convinced, that, “Israel has become the most disunifying force in the Jewish community today.”
Infeld, scholar-in-residence earlier this year at Conservative Congregation Shearith Israel, traces some of the discord to last year’s decision to shelve plans for non-Orthodox Jews to have more access to the Western Wall.
“What people have been telling me since is that it’s obvious to them Israel doesn’t give a damn about them, and all it cares about are Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians,” he told the Israel newspaper Haaretz.
Nevertheless, big national Jewish organizations with strong ties to Israel continue to rack up strong financial support here and across the nation. The Friends of the Israel Defense Force, which has a robust fundraising operation in the Southeast, raised $32 million in a single October evening in New York.
During Giving Tuesday, the international social media fundraising event last month, the Jewish National Fund brought in more than $3 million in one day, and the Israel American Public Affairs Committee, which raises tens of millions each year for its lobbying campaigns, accomplished most of its ambitious goals in Congress in 2018 with strong bipartisan support.
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