Thursday, December 28, 2006

Normalize, not assimilate

Obadiah Shoher

To normalize, a person must be like others. When the Jews lived isolated in their own communities, they were normal: each Jew was culturally like others. In the nineteenth century, superficial liberalism opened outside world for Jews. Gentiles were still contempt of the Jews, but called us their equals. Jews saw the world and its opportunities, and realized that they are not normal – like others. Nineteenth-century German discussion about Jews is instructive: liberals countered anti-Semites by asserting that the Jews could eventually become like other Germans. Gentiles did not imagine that Jews are decent people in their own right. Jews accepted that attitude and rushed to assimilate.

It’s hard, very hard to be different. The Jews wanted to be normal. Israel offers us a chance to normalize without Gentilizing. To be similar to our neighbors, yet different from the world that eats dogs and pigs, engages in incest and homosexuality, and dislikes us at best.

It’s hard, very hard to believe yourself right when the world is against you. And so the Jews suppose that Gentiles are right, their customs are better. That anti-Semites have a point. And the Jews hate their Jewishness, and take it for a stain, and clear it. Deep in their minds they know that their betrayal is bad, that they betray generations of Jews who went up on stakes and died in pogroms to pass on the spark of Judaism. The Jews hate the bug that makes them uneasy. They hate their Jewishness. They hate other Jews because they implicitly remind them that they are not Americans, left, or whatever other group they want to belong to, but Jews. Religious and nationalist Jews that proudly wear their Jewishness are constant reminder to the assimilationist Jews of their moral bankruptcy, of their betrayal. And Gentilized Jews hate the religion, and take pleasure in suppressing it. They brainwash Israeli schoolchildren with stories of Judaism’s borrowing from neighboring religions; the children don’t understand the qualitative differences of superficially similar rites. They ridicule the religious people, their habits and their wardrobe without telling the children that those funny-looking religious guys for centuries stood tall in the face of persecutions, tortures, and murder. They discriminate against Jewish religious schools in the Diaspora and ostracize their sponsors.

Gentiles have religion, culture, empires. Gentilized Jews reject Judaism, Jewishness, and Eretz Israel (oh, they concede to the ghetto-sized Israel). Gentilized rootless Jews realize their inferiority to Gentiles who have the roots. Jews used to be proud of themselves, and the inferiority breaks their mental health. Rootless Jews hate their parents and their compatriots who deceived them about the Jewish pride; as they see it now, Jews have nothing to be proud of. Rootless Jewish leaders hatefully oppress common Jews, sadistically choose the policies detrimental to them, and divert their money to irrelevant and even anti-Judaic causes. Many Jewish families forgo having more children because they cannot pay skyrocketing costs of education, but fat American Jewish organizations refuse to finance Jewish schools to make the education free.

The rush of the Jews to strip themselves of Jewishness confirms Gentiles in their contempt for the Jews. “Even the Jews realize that their ways are wrong,” think the hereditary anti-Semites, “and we’re right to dislike them. Let them become like us, if they could.” Educated and wealthy modern Gentiles are no less anti-Semites than their poor and ignorant ancestors. The difference is, they don’t want the violence. The Germans detested unorganized violence of pogroms; Nazis listened and switched to planned extermination in death camps.

Eugene G.

Hi. My name is E. G.

Perhaps we have met online, but more probably you don't know me from (:::). I monitor blogs for SamsonBlinded, and came across your post.

I'd like to welcome you to look at Obadiah Shoher's blog. Obadiah - an anonymous Israeli politician - writes extremely controversial articles about Israel, the Middle East politics, and terrorism. Shoher is equally critical of Jewish and Muslim myths, and advocates political rationalism instead of moralizing.Google banned our site from the AdWords, Yahoo blocked most pages, and Amazon deleted all reviews of Obadiah's book, Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict.

Nevertheless, 170,000 people from 78 countries read the book.Various Internet providers ban us periodically, but you can look up the site on search engines.
The mirror currently works.

Please help us spread Obadiah's message, and mention the blog in one of your posts, or link to us from I would greatly appreciate your comments.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Lisa Goldman

Uri my dear,
Over the past three days almost every thought has begun with the word “no”. No, he won’t come back. No, we won’t talk, and no we won’t laugh. No, there won’t be another boy like that, with the ironic look in his eyes and the fabulous sense of humour. No, there won’t be the young man who was so wise beyond his years, no there won’t be that warm smile and healthy appetite. No, there won’t be that rare combination of determination and gentleness, no there won’t be his straightforwardness and his wise heart. No, there won’t be any more of Uri’s infinite gentleness, and no there won’t be his inner quiet that calms every argument. And no we won’t watch The Simpsons or Seinfeld together, and no we won’t listen to Johnny Cash. And no we won’t feel your strong hugs. And no we won’t see you talking to Yonatan as you gesticulate wildly, and we won’t see you hug your beloved sister Ruthie.
Uri my love, throughout your short life we all learned from you. From your strength and your insistence on going your own way. For choosing your own path even if there was no chance you would succeed. With astonishment we watched your struggle to be accepted to an officers’ training course. You knew you would be a good officer, and you were never satisfied with being anything but the very best you were capable of. And when you succeeded I thought, Here is a man who has such a simple, sober understanding of his own abilities. He is completely free of pretension and arrogance. He is completely unaffected by what others say about him. His source of strength lies within himself.
That is the way you were from the time you were a child. You were a child who lived in harmony with himself and his environment. A child who knew he belonged, who knew he was loved, who knew his limitations and understood his uniqueness. And truly, when you forced the army to submit to your will and accept you as an officer, it was clear what kind of an officer and human being you would be. And now we hear from your friends and your soldiers about the officer and the friend, about how you would wake up before everyone else to arrange everything and go to bed only after everyone else had fallen asleep.
And yesterday, at midnight, I looked at the house that was quite a mess after hundreds of people came to visit and comfort us, and I said, Well, now we need Uri to help us tidy up.
You were the leftist of your battalion, and they respected you, because you stood by your beliefs while carrying out all the missions you were assigned. I remember your telling me about your “checkpoint policy,” because of course you spent a lot of time at the checkpoints. You said that if there was a child in the car you stopped, you always started by trying to calm him down and make him laugh. And you always reminded yourself that the child was about Ruthie’s age, and that he was very afraid of you. And how much he hates you, and that he has reasons to hate, but in spite of that you would do everything in your power to make that terrible experience easier for him, while simultaneously doing your job without compromising.
When you entered Lebanon, Mum said that the thing she feared most was your “Eliphelet’s Syndrome.” [Eliphelet is the hero of a poem by Nathan Alterman, about a naïve soldier who unquestioningly sacrifices himself for others; the poem was set to music and sung by Arik Einstein, amongst other famous Israeli singers. According to the Hebrew bible, Eliphelet was the name of one of King David’s sons]. We were very afraid that, like the Eliphelet in the poem, if it was necessary to save a wounded soldier, you would run straight into the line of fire, and you would be the first to volunteer to “restock the supply of ammunition when it ran low” [a line from Alterman’s poem]. And that just as you were your whole life, at school and at home and during your army service, just as you always volunteered to give up your furloughs because another soldier needed the break more than you did, or because someone else’s situation was more difficult – so you would behave there, in Lebanon, in the terrible face of war.
You were my son and also my friend, just as you were to your mother. Our souls are connected to yours. You were a person at peace with himself, a person whose company was a pleasure. I cannot express properly the extent to which you were someone to run with [reference to the title of Grossman’s novel for teenagers, Someone to Run With]. On each of your furloughs you would say, “Dad, let’s go talk." And we would go out together, usually to a restaurant, and sit and talk. You told me so many things, Uri, and I was so proud to be the keeper of your secrets. That a man like you chose me as your confidante.
I remember how you deliberated once whether or not to punish one of your soldiers who had committed some disciplinary offense. You really suffered over that decision, because you knew it would enrage your soldiers, and also other officers who were more forgiving than you of certain offences. And you did pay a high price for your decision to punish that soldier, but afterward that event became one of the legends of your battalion – a sort of measuring stick for proper behaviour and sticking to the law. And on your last furlough you told me with bashful pride that your commanding officer held up your decision as an example of correct behaviour for an officer.
You lit up our lives, Uri. Mum and I raised you with love. It was so easy to love you with all our hearts, and I know that your short life was a good one. I hope that I was a fitting father for a boy like you. But I know that to be your mother’s son means that you were raised with generosity and kindness and infinite love, and you received all of that in plentitude. And you knew how to appreciate that, to be grateful and not to take any of it for granted.
For now I am not going to say anything about the war in which you were killed. We, your family, have already lost this war. The State of Israel will have to do its own self-examination. We will retreat into our own pain, surrounded by our good friends, enveloped in the enormous love that we feel today from so many people, many of whom we didn’t even know, and I am grateful for their boundless support.
I only wish we all knew how to provide this kind of support and solidarity in different times. This is perhaps our greatest and most treasured national resource. I wish we knew how to be a little gentler with one another. I hope that we succeed in extricating ourselves now, at the very last minute, because even more difficult times are waiting for us.
I would like to say a few more words.
Uri was a very Israeli boy. Even his name was very Israeli, very much a Hebrew name. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I like to see it. The kind that has been almost forgotten, that is sometimes considered almost a curiosity. Many times I looked at him and thought that he, like Ruthie and Yonatan, was almost an anachronism. Uri with his uncompromising directness and acceptance of complete responsibility for everything that happened around him. Uri who was always the one to take initiative, who was always completely reliable. Uri with his deep sensitivity for suffering, for all emotional pain.
Uri was a man of principle. That word has often been mocked over the past years. Because in our mad, cynical, world it is no longer “cool” to be principled. Or to be a humanist. Or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of others, even if the Other is your enemy on the battlefield.
But I learned from Uri that it is possible to be both principled and cool. That we do need to uphold our values and defend ourselves simultaneously. We have to insist upon upholding our values in the face of temptation to give in to power and simplistic thinking, to give in to the corruption of cynicism and contempt for humanity, which are the true, great curse of those who have lived their whole lives in our disaster-prone region of the world.
Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always, in every situation, and to find his own voice in everything he did and said, and that is what protected him from the destruction, pollution and constricting of his soul.
Uri was also incredibly funny and witty. It is impossible to talk about Uri without mentioning his hilarious brilliance. For example, when he was 13 I once told him: “Imagine if you and your children were able to fly to outer space just as people fly today to Europe.” And he smiled: “I’m not so attracted to outer space, you can find everything on planet earth.”
Or another time, we were driving in the car, and his mother and I were discussing a new book that was attracting a lot of attention and talking about various authors’ reviews, and Uri who was 9 years old piped up from the back seat: “Hey, you elitists, remember that there are simple people back here who don’t understand a word of what you’re talking about!”
Or for example Uri, who really did not like figs, once held a bunch of dried figs in his hand and said: “Remind me, aren’t dried figs just regular figs that sinned in a previous life?” Or when I once hesitated over accepting an invitation to Japan, Uri said: “How can you not go? Can you imagine what it’ll be like to visit the only country in the world where there are no Japanese tourists?”
Dear friends, on the night between Saturday and Sunday, at twenty minutes before three in the morning, our doorbell rang. The voice at the intercom said it was from “the municipal officer,” and I went to open the door and I thought to myself, “That’s it. Life is over.”
But within five minutes, when Michal [Grossman’s wife] and I went into Ruthie’s room and woke her up in order to tell her the horrible news, Ruthie, after her first tears, said: “But we will live, right? We will live just as before, and I want to continue to sing in the choir, and that we will continue to laugh as always, and I want to learn to play the guitar.” And we hugged her, and we told her we would live. And Ruthie also said: “What a fantastic threesome we were, Yonatan, Uri and I.”
And you really were a fantastic team. Yonatan, you and Uri were not just brothers, but soul mates, with your own world and your own private language and your own sense of humour. And Ruthie, Uri loved you with all his heart and soul. He always treated you with such gentleness, and I remember how during our last phone conversation, when we were so happy that the UN was about to declare a ceasefire, he insisted on speaking with you. And how you wept afterward. As if you already knew.
Our lives are not over. We have just suffered a very hard blow. We will draw the strength we need to absorb the blow from one another, from our togetherness, from Michal and from me and from our children and also from the grandparents who loved him with all their hearts – “neshumeh,” they called him, because he really was all soul – and from your aunts and uncles and cousins and from all your many friends from school and from your comrades in arms who accompany us here with such concern and deep affection.
And we will also draw our strength from Uri. He had such a plentitude of strength that it will serve us for many years. He radiated such strong vitality and vibrancy, such warmth and love, and his light will continue to shine on us forever – even if the star itself is extinguished.
Our beloved one, it was our great privilege to live with you. Thank you for every moment you were ours.
Mom, Dad, Yonatan and Ruthie

belo amor estranho

The First Herzliya Conference

Took place in December 2001.

The proceedings, summaries and task force papers of the conference were published and are available at the IPS. These publications include:

"The Balance of National Security" Edited by Dr. Uzi Arad, Yedioth Ahronoth Books and Chemed Books, Tel-Aviv, 2001. The book includes all the first annual Herzliya Conference documents: Executive Summary, Conference Proceedings, Task Forces Reports, and General Information about the Conference. (Hebrew).
"Conference Working Groups Papers" Papers and Task Force Reports prepared and presented at the first annual Herzliya Conference, December 2000 (Hebrew).
Executive Summary of the Herzliya Conference Executive summary of the main issues and ideas conveyed at the conference. (Hebrew and English).

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The Sixth Herzliya Conference

On The Balance of Israel’s National Security

January 21-24, 2006

* Double click on the name of the speaker in order to read the lecture

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Yael German, Mayor of Herzliya

Opening Remarks: National Resilience in the Face of Risks and Opportunities
Prof. Uzi Arad, Chair, Herzliya Conference; Head, Institute for Policy and Strategy

Assessing Israel's National Security and the “Herzliya Indices 2006”

Chair: Israel Trau, Assistant General Manager, First International Bank of Israel

Prof. Rafi Melnick, Dean, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya

Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, Head of the National Security Council

Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor, Director, National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa


Lt. Gen. (res.) Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defense

20:00 Dinner

Opening Ceremony

Chair: Prof. Uriel Reichman, President, IDC Herzliya

Prof. Israel (Robert) J. Aumann, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics; Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Prof. Haim Harari, Chairman of the Board, Davidson Institute for Science Education, Weizmann Institute

Sunday, January 22, 2006

08:00 Morning Sessions

National Security Policy as Risk Management

Chair: Maj. Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, CEO, Sentry Technology Group

Prof. Paul R. Kleindorfer, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Prof. Paul Bracken, School of Management and Department of Political Science, Yale University


Strategic Trends on the Global Landscape

Chair: Prof. Jerry (Yoram) Wind, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Stanley Roth, Vice President for Asia, International Relations, Boeing Company

Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Dr. Robert Trice, Senior Vice President, Business Development, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Prof. Jacob Frenkel, Vice Chairman, AIG and Former Governor of the Bank of Israel


Dr. Dan Schueftan, Deputy Director, National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa

Dr. Shmuel Bar, Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya

Lt. Gen. Dan Haloutz, Chief of General Staff, IDF

The Nuclearization of Iran – Strategic Implications

Chair: Maj. Gen. (res.) David Ivry, Chairman, Board of Directors, Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies

Philippe Errera, Directeur adjoint, Centre d’Analyse et de Prévision, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, France

Sir Michael Quinlan, Consulting Senior Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Maj. Gen. (res.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, Head, Security Studies Program, Tel Aviv University


MK Dr. Ephraim Sneh, Chairman, Subcommittee for Defense Doctrine, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

MK Prof. Arieh Eldad, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Chairman, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee


14:00 Afternoon Sessions

Amb. Ron Prosor, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

MK Silvan Shalom, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

Israel’s Standing in Europe and Future Relations with the EU and NATO

Chair: Amb. Dr. Oded Eran, Ambassador, Head of Mission of Israel to the EU

Dr. Josef Joffe, Herausgeber/Publisher-Editor, Die Zeit, Germany

Ana Palacio, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Spain and Chair of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, Parliament of Spain

General the Lord Charles Guthrie of Craigiebank, GCB, LVO, OBE

Dr. Kenneth R. Weinstein, CEO, Hudson Institute


Discussant: Col. (res.) Uri Naaman, Coordinator for NATO and European Defense Organizations, Political-Military Bureau, Ministry of Defense

Israel’s Standing in the United States and Future Israeli-American Relations

Chair: Amb. Zalman Shoval, Chairman, Board of Directors, Export Investment Corp., Ltd.

Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor in Chief, U.S. News and World Report

Dr. Frank Luntz, Consultant, The Israel Trust

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (HaKeren L’yedidut Israel)

Dr. Boaz Mourad, Brand Israel Group

Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Dr. Robert Danin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, US State Department


Discussant: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, Director, Israel and Middle East Office, American Jewish Committee

20:00 Dinner

MK Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the Likud Party

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden

Monday, January 23, 2006

08:00 Morning Sessions

An "Atlas" of Road Maps and Options for the Israeli-Arab Process

Chair: Maj. Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, Director, Political-Military Bureau, Ministry of Defense

Adi Mintz Member of Yesha Council

Jacob Keidar, Director, Multilateral Peace Talks Coordination Department and Water Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chair: Prof. Uriel Reichman, President, IDC Herzliya

Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States

Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy


Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, Visiting Military Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Amb. Dr. Daniel C. Kurtzer, Visiting Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Eyal Megged, Author

Defensible Borders for Israel

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Head of the Defensible Borders Project and the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon, Former Chief of General Staff, IDF

Amb. Dr. Dore Gold, President, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs


Discussant: Brig. Gen. (res.) Oded Tyrah, President, Phoenicia America-Israel

Demography, Borders and Palestinian Statehood

Chair: Dr. Israel Elad-Altman, Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya

Gideon Grinstein, Founder and President, The Re’ut Institute

Prof. Gideon Biger, Department of Geography, Tel Aviv University

Prof. David Newman, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

MK Dr. Ahmad Tibi, Knesset Economics Committee


Bennett Zimmerman, Project Leader, “Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million Person Gap”

Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt


Chair: Poju Zabludowicz, Chairman and CEO, Tamares Group

Tzipi Livni, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice and Minister of Immigrant Absorption

14:00 Afternoon Sessions

Jerusalem - The Capital of Israel and the Jewish People

Chair: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

Prof. Ruth Lapidoth, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies
Israel Kimchi, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies
Nir Barkat, Council Member, Municipality of Jerusalem
Eitan Meir, Director General, Municipality of Jerusalem


Dan Halperin, CEO, IFTIC

Dr. Moshe Amirav, Head of Public Policy Studies, Beit Berl College

The Galilee - A National Priority and Challenge

Chair: Yehiel Leket, World Chairman, Hakeren Kayemet L’Yisrael, Jewish National Fund

Amb. Prof. Aliza Shenhar, President, Emek Yezreel College

Brig. Gen. (res.) Eival Gilady, Chairman, Western Galilee College

Efrat Duvdevani, Director, Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee

Dr. Faisal Azaiza, Head, Jewish-Arab Center, Haifa University; Head, The Gustav Heinemann Institute for Middle Eastern Studies

Shlomo Bohbot, Mayor, Maalot-Tarshicha


Discussant: Prof. Alean Al-Krenawi, Department of Social Work, Ben-Gurion University

The Viability of Democracy: The Rule of Law and the Rulers’ Law

Chair: Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, Provost, IDC Herzliya

Adv. Elie Goldschmidt, Israel Corp.

Shelly Yechimovitch

MK Gideon Sa’ar, Likud Parliamentary Group Chairman

MK Yossi Sarid, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee


Law Enforcement: Putting Democracy to the Test

Chair: Prof. Moshe Barniv, Radzyner School of Law, IDC Herzliya

Dan Margalit, Ma’ariv

Justice Micha Lindenstrauss, State Comptroller and Ombudsman

Commissioner Moshe Karadi, Inspector General, Israel Police

MK Michael Eitan, Chairman, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee

Amb. John R. Bolton,
Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations (via video conference)

Chair: Alan B. Slifka, Founder and Chairman, The Abraham Fund

MK Amir Peretz, Chairman of the Labor Party

Chair: Hermann Bünz, Director, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Israel Office

Laurent Fabius, Former Prime Minister of France

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

08:00 Morning Sessions

Social Policy and Economic Growth

Chair: Prof. Amir Barnea, Founding Dean, Arison School of Business, IDC Herzliya

Dr. Karnit Flug, Director of Research, Bank of Israel

Prof. Arie Arnon, Department of Economics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Director, Center for Employment Policy, Hudson Institute

Daniel Doron, Director, Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress


Prof. Yehezkel Dror, Founding President, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

The Socio-Economic Interface: Sectors, Initiatives and Policy

Chair: Yossi Rosen, President and CEO, Israel Corp.

Itsik Danziger, Chairman, Education Initiative in the Galilee, IVN

Prof. Ezra Sadan, Managing Partner, Sadan-Lowenthal, Ltd.

Dr. Aziz Haidar, Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Sir Ronald Cohen, Chairman, The Portland Trust


Investment to Spur Economic Growth and Reduce Poverty

Chair: Yossi Hollander, Chairman, Jacada

Prof. Stanley Fischer, Governor, Bank of Israel

Dr. Yacov Sheinin, CEO, Economic Models

Prof. Sean Barrett, Trinity College, Dublin


Discussant: Shraga Brosh, President, Manufacturers Association of Israel


Lord George Weidenfeld of Chelsea, Weidenfeld & Nicholson

14:00 Afternoon Sessions

Patriotism and National Security in Israel

Chair: Prof. Uzi Arad

Gal Alon, Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya

Prof. Herbert London, President, Hudson Institute

Prof. Ephraim Yaar, Head, Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel Aviv University

MK Prof. Yael (Yuli) Tamir, Department of Philosophy and School of Education, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Eilat Mazar, Institute of Archeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Col. (res). Ahuva Yanai, Executive Director, Matan

Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz

Judaism as Culture in the Age of Globalization

Chair: Prof. Moshe Kaveh, President, Bar-Ilan University

Prof. Menachem Brinker, Faculty of Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Prof. James Young, Chair, Department of Judaic and Near East Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Discussant: Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Rector, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem: The Academic Center for Jewish Studies and Leadership

Chair: Felix Posen, Founder and President, Posen Foundation

Prof. A. B. Yehoshua, Author

Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem


The Jewish World in 2025

Chair: Zeev Bielski, Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

Amb. Dr. Dennis Ross, Chairman, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute


The Diaspora Communities and Israel

Chair: Shula Bahat, Associate Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

Arcadi Gaydamak, President, Congress of Jewish Communities of Russia

Prof. Yedidya Stern, World Jewish Forum

Dr. Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director, The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council


Discussant: Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Director General, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

Summary: Policy Challenges - Invigorating the Jewish; Democratic; State
Prof. Uzi Arad

19:30 Dinner

The “Herzliya Address”

Chair: Prof. Uriel Reichman

Ehud Olmert, Acting Prime Minister; Minister of Finance; Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment

Prof. Uzi Arad

Da Rinatush

Little notes from a large night Yesterday I spent the whole day trying to find a way of expressing all the good and the odd moments of Christmas eve in Bethlehem and I'm afraid I can't do it with the rich details I would like to, as feelings are not an easy stuff to describe. Decided I'll write short notes of the biggest moments hoping you can taste a little bit of what happened there. I'm not a good writer in English as you know, but you can check in with Lisa later. I'm sure she's gonna describe the whole mess much better than me.* I'm posting it without re-reading.
Everything just went through my heart. I'm tired, please don't mind if you find many stupid mistakes. I'll correct them later on.* Pictures of the journey are in my Flickr.

The Human Challenge, Part II - Desafio Humano

Chapter 6, Mishna 6, Ways 34-36 (b) (34-36(b))

Rabino Dovid Rosenfeld

"Torah is greater than priesthood and kingship, for kingship is acquire dwith 30 qualities, priesthood is acquired with 24, whereas the Torah is acquired with 48 ways. These are: ... (34) distancing oneself from honor,(35) not being arrogant in one's studies, (36) not enjoying instructing others..."Last week we began to look at the qualities of our mishna, all of them relating to the Torah scholar's avoidance of honor. As we saw, not only does the scholar not actively pursue honor, but he does not even take pride in his learning -- for he feels he is not doing more than required of him. Finally, he does not even *like* his position or the responsibility of admonishing others and rendering decisions in Jewish law. We also noted some of the sharp criticisms the Talmud levels against the arrogant person, how he is compared to an idolater and how G-d Himself states, "He and I cannot dwell together in this world." Arrogance seems to be the antithesis of everything Judaism stands for, and must be completely wiped out from our way of thinking and behaving. We then asked if arrogance is really so altogether bad. Don't people have a natural need for recognition, to be noticed, for a little positive reinforcement? Any good teacher or parent knows what a valuable tool positive reinforcement is -- especially in the presence of others. Is that just feeding on the child's negative tendencies? And what about the simple desire to feel good about ourselves -- at least for our religious accomplishments? The scholar of our mishna is not even proud *to himself* for his Torah study! Is self-pride really so negative and unjustified? Isn't it human nature? In fact, how could the scholar *not* feel just a little bit proud of his achievements? We quoted further the incident with R. Elazar son of R. Shimon who *was* overly proud of his Torah study and had nothing but a nasty remark for the ugly (read: sinful) individual he chanced upon. How was it that the rabbi -- for the perfectly understandable "fault" of being proud of himself -- slipped all the way down to nastiness and condescension -- the absolute reverse of the qualities true Torah study is supposed to engender? We read in Jeremiah (9:22-3): "Thus says the L-rd, 'Let not the wise manpraise himself for his wisdom, nor the strong man for his strength, nor the rich man for his wealth. But rather for this shall he praise himself: comprehend and know Me... for this is what I want,' says the L-rd." The simple understanding of these verses, based upon the context, is that one should not reassure himself that his wisdom, strength or wealth will save him from G-d's exacting justice. There is a deeper idea, however (heard from R. Berel Wein). One should not "praise himself" -- brag or feel pride -- because of his religious accomplishments. Don't think you're G-d's great gift to mankind because in your wisdom you mastered the entire Talmud, because in your strength you conquered your passions, or because you have a wing of a Jewish institution named after you. Don't think you've done G-d any great favors by doing just what He created you to do (if even that). Don't use your achievements to pump yourself up, becoming high and mighty in your vanity. That is a form of self-worship -- what the Sages call idolatry -- using even your good deeds to serve yourself rather than G-d. And there is no room for such an attitude in Judaism. For one thing alone can we feel pride: for "knowing" G-d. How do we know G-d? By getting closer to Him and building a relationship with Him. If we use our mitzvos (good deeds) to pump ourselves up -- to make ourselvesfeel good, then in a way we are serving ourselves at the expense ofserving G-d. If *I* am proud for what *I* have accomplished then I am self-centered, and if that is my primary focus it drives me away from G-d's presence rather than drawing me closer. If, however, I perform the mitzvos because it is G-d's will -- in order to get closer to Him -- then I may feel pride. My pride lies in the ecstatic knowledge that I have connected with my G-d, the ultimate and infinite source of existence, and that I have *annulled* myself before His infinity. I feel great, but it is not *my* greatness; it is G-d's greatness which I have become a part of. And standing in G-d's presence is both humbling and crushing. Although it is an exhilarating and invigorating experience -- the one our souls truly crave above all else --we enter G-d's presence with the submissive sense of our own smallness and insignificance. And in our emptiness and humility, we can be truly proud. The Hebrew word for "honor", as used in our mishna, is "kavod". This relates closely to the word "kavaid" or heavy. One who seeks honoris "heavy" or full of himself. Rather than connecting himself to G-d, he weighs himself down -- increasing the distance between himself and G-d -- attempting to fill an empty soul with a selfish sense of independent worth. This is not possible. The soul's true worth is in that it stems from G-d and can condition itself to reconnect with its source. If a human soul feels its emptiness and insignificance, it can become truly great -- and be proud of itself as well. This is one of the great human challenges. There is an enormous and inborn human drive for honor -- not so much to lord over others (though that's apretty darn strong one too) but just to feel we *exist*. As human beings who want to express our existence we need to accomplish -- to feel we are *real* people who create and make a difference in the world beyond. Yet doing for our own sakes is selfish and pulls us away from G-d -- towards what the Sages call idolatry. G-d instead challenges us: do it for G-d's sake. Use your deeds to move closer to G-d, humbling and negating yourself before His grandeur, rather than pumping up your own ego. If you do so, you make the ultimate sacrifice -- exchanging empty pride with humility and closeness to G-d. And by submitting and humbling yourself -- by swallowing your pride -- you have made the greatest sacrifice achievable -- and you have achieved eternity. And this can be your greatest source of pride.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Nossa História Sionista

Es difícil imaginar cuán lejos hemos llegado

¿Puedes imaginarte no poder reservar un pasaje aéreo a Tel Aviv, porque Tel Aviv ni Israel existen?

El Primer Congreso Sionista se reunió en Basilea, Suiza, del 29 al 31 de agosto de 1897. El Congreso no marcó el comienzo del pensamiento sionista, ni fue la primera asamblea realizada en nombre del sionismo. Tampoco marcó el inicio de la colonización en Palestina. Fue el principio de una intensa actividad, organizada y centralizada, a escala internacional, que representaba todo el espectro del pensamiento sionista, en un intento de proyectar los objetivos sionistas hacia el centro de la agenda judía y de la política mundial. El centenario que será conmemorado en agosto de 1997 se refiere a este evento. Mirando hacia atrás, al recorrido del sionismo y de sus líderes, queda claro que los esfuerzos del Movimiento Sionista fueron coronados por el éxito.

El Estado de Israel existe desde hace ya casi 50 años. Su existencia fue aprobada por las Naciones Unidas el 29 de noviembre de 1947 en New York y su independencia fue declarada por Ben Gurión el 14 de mayo de 1948 en Tel Aviv. Desde entonces el Estado Judío no sólo ha crecido y prosperado. Israel ha revolucionado la existencia judía colectiva. Ha tenido la más profunda influencia sobre la política y la economía del Medio Oriente; ha reestructurado las relaciones judeo-cristianas y continua ejerciendo una indescriptible atracción sobre la mente y los corazones judíos (y no judíos) que están búsqueda de su identidad. Las raíces de esta revolución se encuentran en el sionismo.

La manera más clara de juzgar el éxito del Sionismo es tal vez tomar conciencia de como Israel se convirtió en un hecho natural: cuán difícil (¡imposible!) nos es hoy imaginar un mundo en el que Israel no existiera. Sin dificultad ninguna (si haz realizado tu reservación) se puede volar a Israel en una de las muchas docenas de aerolíneas que llegan a ella. Para aquellos que viven en Jerusalén (una ciudad de alrededor de medio millón de habitantes) es común pasar por el Muro Occidental, o por la Torre de David o pasar cerca de la Knesset en su camino al trabajo. Quienes viven en Tel Aviv, una ciudad que no existía hace 100 años atrás, luchan todas las mañanas, tardes y noches con el tráfico del Ayalón, que se parece a lo que es, una carretera en una centro urbano contemporáneo que avanza rápidamente hacia el siglo XXI.

La población de Israel es de 5.400.000 personas, de las cuales 4.500.000 son judíos. Es la segunda concentración de judíos más grande del mundo (los EE.UU. son la más grande con alrededor de 5.700.000 de judíos). La población judía de Israel ha crecido siete veces desde la independencia (la población judía de los EE.UU. ha disminuido desde entones incluso si uno incluye los cientos de miles de “Nuevos Judíos Americanos”, que llegaron de la ex-Unión Soviética y de Israel). Hay sociólogos y demógrafos que pronostican que la población de Israel será la más grande del mundo judío en un lapso de veinte años. El idioma hebreo usado por siglos sólo para la plegaria y el estudio, se convirtió en el idioma de Israel.

La economía de Israel prosperó, junto al crecimiento de su población, alcanzado un nivel similar al de muchos de los países de Europa Occidental. Israel es una superpotencia científica y de alta tecnología, en la que existe, por ejemplo, la mayor cantidad de computadoras per capita en el mundo; sus métodos agrícolas son modelos para otros, sobre todo para los países en vías de desarrollo; es un centro crucial para la investigación y el desarrollo de las más grandes corporaciones mundiales en el área de las comunicaciones y la computación. Israel necesita personal tecnológico capacitado más allá de lo que pueden producir su sistema educativo o del aporte de los nuevos inmigrantes (generalmente de la ex-Unión Soviética). Muchos israelíes que dejaron el país para establecer exitosas carreras en EE.UU. o en Europa, están ahora retornando dadas las nuevas oportunidades ocupacionales que se abren. El crecimiento económico ha sido tan notorio que los índices de desempleo de Israel son mucho más bajos que los de la mayoría de los países de Europa Occidental, incluso si tomamos en cuenta la inmigración masiva de la década del noventa. Más aún, las necesidades laborales de Israel son tan grandes que provee empleo a cientos de miles de trabajadores temporarios de países tales como Rumania y Tailandia.

Cuán diferente es todo ésto del mundo judío de hace 100 años. Entonces había 11 millones de judíos en el mundo y aproximadamente el 75% de ellos vivían en el Este y Sudeste de Europa. El idioma predominante era el yiddish, una mezcla de hebreo con alemán medieval. Millones de estos judíos de Europa Oriental vivían en la más profunda pobreza y muchos comenzaron a abandonar sus ciudades y aldeas hacia el Occidente, fundamentalmente hacia los EE.UU. Muy pocos llegaron a Palestina, un rincón aislado del Imperio Turco.

Israel es hoy, como la ha sido durante décadas, la potencia militar más poderosa de la región. Los éxitos militares del Ejército de Defensa de Israel son legendarios y son minuciosamente estudiados por los organismos militares de muchos países.

Cuán radicalmente diferente es esta situación a la de hace 55 años atrás, cuando durante el Holocausto, los padres judíos fueron negados de la posibilidad de defender a sus propios hijos, cuando el pueblo judío no tenía fuerza política ni militar. ¿Qué hubiera sentido un espíritu sensible como el de Jaim Najman Bialik acerca de esta transformación colosal, habiendo criticado como él lo hizo, la pasividad del pueblo judío, después de la masacre del pogrom de Kishinev, Besarabia, en 1903? En su poema En la Ciudad de la Matanza, Bialik puso en boca de Dios las siguientes demandas:

¡Déjalos elevar sus puños contra Mí y demandar recompensa por su humillación,
La humillación de todas las generaciones desde el principio hasta el fin,
Y déjalos destruir los Cielos y Mi Trono con sus puños!

La autodefensa, esa demanda histórica y social que se convirtió en uno de los principios centrales del sionismo, es tan clara hoy que muchas veces no le damos la importancia adecuada. Los logros del Sionismo reflejan una transformación radical en la identidad judía.

Existen muchos otros ejemplos de cambios que vivió el pueblo judío como resultados del sionismo. Mientras hablamos aquí de “sionismo” y damos ejemplos de sus logros, debemos destacar que muchos de los más grandes líderes del sionismo y sus más destacados pensadores estaban profundamente en desacuerdo uno con los otros acerca de que es el sionismo realmente. Veían los problemas que confrontaba el pueblo judío o los del Estado Judío en gestación desde perspectivas tan diferentes, que las soluciones que proponían podrían fácilmente ser consideradas como diferentes sionismos. Cada uno de estos líderes se confrontó con los peligros que amenazaban al pueblo judío y su existencia futura. Ninguno de ellos rechazó los peligros que los otros veían, pero sus énfasis eran diferentes, veían un problema, fuera cual fuera, con un gran sentido de urgencia. Para cada uno de estos líderes, el retorno a Sión era la llave para sus respuestas.

El escritor Amos Oz escribió una vez a este respecto:

Podemos estar de acuerdo sin dificultad, en que el sionismo significa aquello que es bueno para todo el Pueblo Judío: retornar a la Tierra de Israel y que lo malo para este pueblo es estar disperso entre las naciones. Pero a partir de ese punto en adelante, estamos en desacuerdo. Muchas veces he dicho que sionismo no es un nombre sino un apellido y ese apellido está dividido en torno a la cuestión del “plan maestro” de la empresa: ¿Cómo viviremos aquí? ¿Aspiraremos a reconstruir el Reino de David y Salomón? ¿Construiremos un paraíso marxista? ¿Una sociedad occidental, un estado de bienestar social y una social-democracia? ¿O crearemos un modelo de la petite bourgeoisie diluido con un poquito de Yidishkeit?

Los logros del sionismo y del Estado de Israel no pueden entenderse sino gracias a sus verdaderos líderes. Es suficiente mencionar a Ben Yehudá y Bialik, Hertzl, Weizmann y Jabotinsky, Ruppin, Katzenelson y Ben Gurión, el Rabino Kuk, el Rabino Berlín (Bar Ilan), así como a Buber, Begin, Rabin, para tener presente los rasgos característicos del liderazgo que el pueblo judío tuvo desde los últimos 100 años. Todas estas personas, diferentes como eran, fueron llevadas a sus esferas de actividad sionista por ideas y pensamientos, por sus percepciones acerca de la condición judía de ese momento, como por las condiciones relativas al pasado judío y qué es lo que éstas indicaban en relación al futuro del pueblo; y por el lugar central que esta ideas y percepciones ocuparon en sus propias personalidades. La manera en la que sentían y pensaban acerca del ser judío y el continuar siéndolo es lo que los transformó en sionistas. La manera en que actuaron los convirtió en líderes.

Mirar hacia atrás, hacia el ideario sionista y observar algunos líderes, nos exigirá utilizar la imaginación para entender el pasado. Nosotros vivimos en los resultados de los logros y algunas de los fracasos de esa conducción. Poder hacer ese salto en la imaginación tiene un valor muy grande. Las soluciones, ideas y acciones, de estos líderes, nos podrán servir como modelos para la identidad judía de hoy. Sin duda uno de los asuntos cruciales que aún permanecen en la agenda judía de nuestros días, es cómo construir una identidad judía, qué contenidos deberá tener y cómo influenciará en la vida judía del futuro.

Contemporary Jewish Demography


1. Events In Russia At The End Of The 19th Century
1881 is a key date in modern Jewish history: in the wake of the events of that year, enormous changes – both demographic and ideological – began to develop that would alter the Jewish world forever. Strong tremors began to ripple through the Eastern European Jewish community centered in the ‘Pale of Settlement’, the immense area in the west of Russia to which the vast majority of its Jewish population was restricted.
The reason most commonly given for these changes is the 1881 pogroms that occurred in the wake of the assassination of Tsar Alexander the Second, which was largely blamed on the Jews. While it is true that the pogroms provided the immediate catalyst for the intense soul-searching that underlay the new winds beginning to blow through the Jewish community, it is often not understood that these events also stemmed from a significant demographic cause.
The pogroms were aimed against a Jewish community that was in the process of starving to death. Eastern Europe in general, and the Pale of Settlement specifically, were among the most economically -undeveloped regions of Europe, and the Jews were particularly hard-hit. Restricted as they were by their inability to own land in almost the entire area; forced into a number of marginal occupations in which they were supposed to make a living, and generally discriminated against by the regime, they would have been in trouble in any circumstances. In addition to all these circumstances, however, the 19th century witnessed a population explosion among the Eastern European Jews that has never been completely explained.
The Jewish population had been expanding for many generations, but the first eighty years of the century saw an extraordinary increase in population. In these two generations their numbers rose by over 500%: from around one million at the beginning of the period to over five million in 1880. Their position had been very difficult to start with. Predictably, in these new circumstances, the material circumstances of the Jewish population drastically deteriorated, resulting in widespread poverty and starvation. The community and its institutions collapsed.
It was against this background that the pogroms struck the community. Is it any wonder that the two expressions of the crisis in which the community now found themselves were ideological and demographic? The response was ideological, on the one hand, because it was obvious to many of the youth, in particular, that there was no future for them in Eastern Europe unless they started to take fate into their own hands in some way. They had to change their situation by their own efforts, rather than wait passively in the blind hope that their situation would improve by itself. Increased numbers started to enter the ranks of the socialist and revolutionary camps, while others began to turn to what would soon become fully-fledged Zionism. These responses were not long in coming. The demographic response, however, was immediate.
The Eastern European Jews reacted to the new situation created by the pogroms by deciding to leave Russia and Eastern Europe altogether. Starting in the immediate wake of the pogroms, thousands, then tens of thousands and, finally, hundreds of thousands and millions of Jews left the region. They struck out for lands of more promise in the modern world. Most of them wanted to settle in America.
The Jews considered America to hold the greatest potential. This was the ‘Goldene Medina,’ the golden state where the very streets were said to be paved with gold, and where immigrants would be able to improve their economic situation and work their way upwards within a short time. It was this myth of America, rather than the concrete reality, that attracted such a stampede.
Although America was the goal of the majority of Jews leaving Eastern Europe, many emigrants ended up in many entirely different parts of the world. For a variety of reasons, including the unscrupulous practices of ship agents, shortage of funds and the efforts of certain philanthropists who had other plan for these Jews, some never got to their desired destination. Many went to Western Europe, especially to Britain; others went to South America. The vast majority, however, did emigrate to the United States, where they soon formed the numerically dominant stratum of local Jewish communities there.
They were the third stratum of the American Jewish community, a situation not dissimilar in many of the other communities in which the new immigrants found themselves. The veterans were almost all Sephardi (Spanish) Jews whose ancestors had escaped Spain and Portugal in centuries past and had struck out for the New World in the hope of escaping religious persecution. An additional layer of Jewish immigrants had come mostly from Central Europe in the mid-19th century, propelled by a host of economic, religious and political motives. In the 1870s several thousands of East European immigrants had made their way to the United States, but this was only a prelude to the floods that came in the decades following 1881. Altogether, over two million Jews made their way to the new ‘Promised Land’ in subsequent years.
Most of the immigrants encountered a very difficult – and sometimes horrific – reality on their arrival there, startlingly different from the dreams they had envisioned while still in Russia. Brutal proletarianization was the lot of many in the sweatshops of the big American cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Large Jewish ghettos, centers of sordid poverty and social ills, developed in these and other cities (paralleled by similar developments in cities in other countries. The Lower East Side was in many ways only a larger version of London’s East End).
It is important to remember that, despite the vast exodus from Eastern Europe, the net effect was merely to drain off the ‘surplus’ population. The Jewish population of the Pale stayed fairly stable, remaining at around five million on the eve of World War I, despite the exit of some two-and-a-half million Jews in the preceding thirty years. In these years, many of the remaining Jews were pulled to the big cities that were developing as a result of industrial investment and other economic forces. Cities such as Odessa, Bialystok, Lodz, and particularly Warsaw, now developed large Jewish proletariats. Warsaw became a giant – the largest Jewish community in the world – before it was finally overtaken by New York. The experience of urbanization and proletarianization was thus not restricted in these years to the Jews who left Eastern Europe for the cities of the New World: many of those who stayed behind underwent the same experiences.
In the Jewish world it can generally be stated that – at least among the Ashkenazi Jews (the vast majority of the total Jewish population at this time) – these were years of great difficulty but also of strong dynamism and change. In the cities of the New World, the often brutal conditions encountered by the immigrant generation would largely give way, within less than a generation, to a much better economic and social reality. These Jews were generally upwardly-mobile. In the large Jewish cities of Eastern Europe, on the other hand, upward mobility was the experience of only the minority. The vast majority stayed down in the working classes, due to the limited economic growth of the entire area and the equally limited opportunities for Jews, in particular, to progress economically.

2. The Holocaust
For all the horror associated with the Holocaust, it is relatively simple to sum up its demographic effects. The most obvious effect was plainly the destruction of almost all of Central and Eastern European Jewry. The two exceptions were Hungary – where some 100,000 Jews are estimated to have survived because of specific circumstances – and the interior of Russia – never conquered by the Nazis, and thus a haven to hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled to the east during the war years. The heart of European Jewry was utterly destroyed and the map of the Jewish world altered forever. The global Jewish population fell from around 16.6 million in 1939 to around 11 million after the war.
The number of Jewish survivors who wished to leave their land of birth forever far exceeded the number of those who wanted to return to their pre-war homes in Central and Eastern Europe. Another factor influencing the potential emigrants was the pogroms that broke out in the immediate post-war period in those areas to which the Jews did return. It is difficult to quote precise numbers, but hundreds of thousands now followed in the wake of previous generations, turning either to Palestine/Israel on the one hand or to the new centers of western Jewry in America (including South America), Western Europe, Australia and South Africa. Some 150,000 are estimated to have arrived in Palestine/Israel in the post-war years. The effect of the Holocaust survivors on all of the communities in which they arrived was enormous, especially in the middle-to-long term, as certain communities emerged with consciousness of the Holocaust at the center of their Jewish identity.

3. Zionism And The Rise Of The State Of Israel
The rise of Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel have had an enormous impact on most aspects of Jewish life. Among these, the demographic revolution wrought by Zionism is especially noteworthy.
The emergence of an influential new Jewish center in the old/new land of Palestine is far more than a significant demographic change for the Jews: the demography itself is striking in a number of different ways. In 1800, the total Jewish population of Palestine was only a few thousand. This number had risen to just over 25,000 before the beginning of the ‘Zionist’ Aliyah that followed the 1881 pogroms.
In contrast to the mass immigrations of millions to the west – and especially to the United States – in the decades after 1881, the Zionist Aliyot (waves of immigration to the Land of Israel) were small. By 1914, at the end of the second Aliyah, a mere 65,000 are estimated to have joined the Jewish community of Palestine and to have stayed. Numbers increased considerably from the mid-1920s: at the end of the 1930s the Jewish population was estimated at over 425,000. The next decade brought slightly fewer than 200,000 Jews so that, on the eve of independence, the Jewish population stood at over 600,000.
Equally important in the developing picture was the ethnic background of the Jewish population. Before the waves of Zionist Aliyah started to change the country, a large proportion of the Jewish population consisted of Sephardim, many of whom traced their families back for generations in the Land. With the exception of some significant groups of Yemenite immigrants, however, the pre-State immigrants were predominantly of European background.
This comes as no surprise as, ideologically, Zionism came out of a Europe in the grip of fierce nationalist excitement throughout the 19th century. The eastern world was less touched by these factors, having fallen on fairly sleepy times centuries earlier; it would only wake up to new ideas in the 20th century. As a result, the new State of Israel was a creation, almost exclusively, of Zionist Ashkenazi Jews who had largely revolted against their native European way of life.
One of the first decisions of the new state was to reverse the policy of the British, who had seriously restricted Jewish immigration in the pre-war years. Consequently, new immigrants poured into the country. In those years, immigration came mainly from two sources: Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, many of whom had been interned by the British in camps on Cyprus, and the masses of Eastern Jews who – until that point – had played only a marginal role in the Zionist narrative. These communities were now on the move due to a mixture of Zionist propaganda, Messianic enthusiasm and the anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish feelings that had recently flared up in many Arab countries.
In the years following independence, the character of the Jewish State as a European creation of ideological Zionism began to be challenged with the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Asia and Africa. The three largest migrations at that time came from Iraq (by far the largest), Yemen and Morocco. They joined the Jews arriving simultaneously from post-Holocaust Europe, spearheaded by large groups from Rumania and Poland. As Israel began to fill up, absorbing some 680,000 immigrants between 1948 and 1952, once-large Jewish centers in Eastern and East Central Europe were being emptied of their Jews after centuries – in some cases, millennia – of Jewish communal existence. For example, the roots of the Iraqi (Babylonian) community and the Yemenite community were some 2,500 years deep. These years saw the beginning of the end for those communities, and their relocation on their original soil, the Land of Israel.
The Jewish population of the young state more than doubled in the years following its establishment, causing intense social tensions and problems which continue to influence the country today. After that, however, immigration settled down to more manageable proportions for the next thirty years. Many Jews continued to arrive in the 1950s, especially from countries like Poland, Rumania and Morocco. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, there was substantial immigration from western countries, especially the English-speaking world and Western Europe.
Soviet immigrants began to appear in the early 1970s as Russia, under intense pressure from the western world, allowed Jews to leave for Israel. By the end of the decade, some 140,000 had arrived in Israel. This Aliyah, hailed as a triumph by Jews throughout the world, included many prominent figures such as former ‘Prisoners of Zion’ who had become famous in the years of their struggle. Yet it caused much social tension in Israel, as resentment towards the newcomers developed among many of the more disadvantaged population. This was a prelude to the far larger Russian immigration that occurred in the late 1980s in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet state. Peaking in 1990and 1991, immigration from the former Soviet Union reached 375,000 by the end of the century.
Other noteworthy waves of Aliyah included those from Ethiopia, principally in1984 (Operation Moses) and 1991 (Operation Solomon). These brought an almost unknown new element into the State of Israel and, indeed, to the consciousness of world Jewry. It was simultaneously a source of great pride to Israel and a cause of great frustration and difficulty due to the difficulties in absorption that are still being felt in large parts of the community today. Most recently the number of immigrants from the troubled communities of Argentina and France increased significantly. Altogether, millions of immigrants have come to Palestine/Israel, reinforcing the perception of the last century as one of Jewish migration, by far the greatest in Jewish history.
‘Push factors’ and ‘pull factors’
Why have all these people come to Israel? This subject is of far wider relevance than just the Zionist context. In order to understand why people move from place A to place B, two sets of dynamics – ‘push factors’ and ‘pull factors’ – need to be analyzed.
‘Push factors’ are the things that make a person want to leave their home; ‘pull factors’ are the things that attract them to a specific new place. It is not enough to explain that a person feels pushed out of place A. It is necessary to understand why they have chosen place B rather than place C. Applying these ideas to the question of the Olim (new immigrants) who have come to Palestine/Israel, the complexity of the issues involved becomes evident.
The early Zionist immigrants were mainly people who felt that they could not continue to live in Eastern Europe and were ideologically attracted to the idea of a Jewish society or state. For many of them, the reasons for their unwillingness to continue to live in Eastern Europe were connected with their concept of what it meant to live a Jewish life, influenced in turn by Zionism. There were others, however, who wanted a geographical, rather than an ideological, change. Many of these came to Eretz Yisrael in the same period as the Zionists, but did not come for Zionist motives. Most of this last group was attracted by the idea of a life in the Land of Israel, but wanted no part of the Zionist idea of a Jewish society or state.
All of these immigrants were drawn in some way to the idea of living in Israel; however, there were many different concepts as to what the country was to which they wanted to come. This alone laid the basis for many conflicts in subsequent years. Even after the establishment of the State of Israel, there were Jews who immigrated not because of the State but rather despite it.
Many came to Palestine/Israel because they were pushed out of their native lands and had no other viable option. This is true for many of the Central European Jews who came to Palestine as refugees from Nazism and Fascism in the mid-1930s. Most of them did not come as active Zionists. They would far rather have stayed in their native communities and would indeed have done so had they not been forced out. They came to Palestine because there were very few options open to them. Furthermore, Palestine was more accessible than other places until the British severely limited Jewish immigration.
When these people arrived in Palestine, however, and encountered the reality of the country in those times, many of them became strongly Zionistic. In this way, the ‘pull factors’ acted on them largely after they had already moved. Some groups – e.g., Yemenites in the early years of the 20th century and Ethiopians at the end of the century – came to Palestine/Israel knowing very little about the reality of life here, but attracted by Messianic dreams harbored for thousands of years.
Many moved to Palestine/Israel for economic reasons, e.g. from Poland in the early 1920s; from the F.S.U. in the 1990s and, most recently, from Argentina. Large numbers of these immigrants were transformed once they got to Israel, while others moved on when better economic chances subsequently opened up.
A compelling aspect of this part of the Zionist narrative is the interaction between the different groups that came to constitute Israeli society. Given both the multiplicity of different groups who immigrated and the diversity of their reasons for doing so, it is not surprising that the relations between these groups has been anything but smooth. There more reasons for this than can be discussed here. Suffice it to say, however, that one of the most interesting and important results of this was the reinforcement of separate group identity among many of these sectors of the population long after their immigration to Israel.
The founding fathers of the Zionist state tried to establish a melting pot into which each citizen would jettison their separate group identity, subsuming it in the common one of the new Jewish nation. However, the diverse aims of members of different groups, and the antagonism aroused by the troubled interaction between them, had the opposite result. This was particularly true for those groups who felt that the establishment disparaged their identity in some way. Their response was often to preserve their group identity along with an aggressive resentment against those in the mainstream whom they perceived as purveyors of the idea of a uniform culture.
Thus, while the fascinating phenomenon of a Jewish Diaspora has largely vanished in many regions, the specific identities of many members of those cultures have been preserved to some extent – albeit in much altered form – in Israel. Unquestionably, one of the most important questions that Israel is dealing with internally is to what extent these separate cultural identities will be meaningful in another generation. It is too early to tell.
Balance between the Jewish community of Israel and the rest of the Jewish world.
One of the critical issues in modern Jewish demography is the balance between the Jewish community of Israel and the rest of the Jewish world. As mentioned earlier, around the end of the Second Temple period the Jews became a Diaspora-based people. This process occurred in three stages. The majority of Jews had already established themselves in the Diaspora before the destruction of the Temple. Nevertheless, in terms of influence and direction, the center of the Jewish world was still in Judea. The events of 70 C.E. drastically changed the balance of these two elements, although the rabbinic leadership that then began to emerge still provided a center around which Jewish life was organized.
At some point in the third century C.E., after the Mishnah was written down, Diaspora Jewry finally began to assume more centrality. With the help of scholars who had left Eretz Yisrael, the great community of Babylon – already existing quietly for many centuries – finally began to gather strength. The Land of Israel became an emotional and theological – rather than a living – center, remaining as such until the beginning of the Zionist movement.
At that point, the balance began – slowly, but surely – to change again. From the 1880s onward, increasing numbers of Diaspora Jews began to relocate in Palestine/Israel. As more and more Diaspora communities began to empty out, the Jewish population in ‘Zion’ rose. The picture is clearly reflected in the following statistics, which are based on developments since the late 1930s. While some of the statistics for the world Jewish population are disputed, we have taken those that seem most acceptable.
World Jewish Population
Israel Number
Exact numbers not available
What do these numbers imply for the general balance of the entire Jewish world? Given that the transition from the hegemony of the Eretz Yisrael community to the dominance of the Diaspora was accomplished gradually over several centuries, it would be unwise to rush to conclusions.
Dry statistics do not convey the whole picture. Eretz Yisrael still exercised leadership and centrality in the Jewish world when the Diaspora communities were already a majority. Perhaps the present situation can be viewed as the same process in reverse. The Jewish population of Israel now stands at a little over 5,250,000 out of a total population of some 6,500,000. According to the statistics, it will still be a number of generations before Israel has numerical superiority over the whole of the Diaspora. Israel is expected in the near future to surpass the largest Diaspora community, that of the United States. However, in most significant aspects, it can certainly be argued that practical leadership passed to Israel at some undefined moment in the past. It remains to be seen to what extent these trends continue; it seems clear, however, that unless there is a turnaround due to some dramatic development, the ‘diasporization’ process that began thousands of years ago is currently being reversed.

4. The Fall Of Communism In Eastern And East-Central Europe
As mentioned earlier, the Holocaust all but wiped out Jewish life in Central, East-Central and Eastern Europe. Substantial communities continued to exist potentially only in Hungary (essentially Budapest) and in the central and more easterly parts of the Soviet Union. The word “potentially” is used to stress the problematic nature of Jewish existence in the lands that remained under Communist control until the late 1980s.
Communism made any kind of meaningful Jewish life untenable. Jewish culture was recognized only in the most limited way. Furthermore, members of the Jewish communities of Communist Europe always felt themselves under suspicion by the various regimes and society in general. For all but the hardiest and most determined of Jews, survival as human beings in these countries was felt to be threatened by openly living a Jewish life.
This feeling was certainly reinforced by the awareness that millions of Jews had died recently because regimes had viewed them as inimical. In such circumstances, hiding one’s Jewish origins was less an act of paranoia than of prudence. Consequently, in many places, Jewish life either went underground or simply ceased to exist, as parents found themselves unable or unwilling to pass on to their children anything positive about Jewish life. For many, Jewish identity became a stigma. Many consciously worked to dissociated themselves from any suspicion of being Jewish.
The results were inevitable: an almost complete attrition of Jewish life in the communities living under Communist regimes. A few older people, too old to change, kept up some vestigial connection. Regimes saw them as essentially harmless and, in some cases, actually co-opted and used them. These people could not provide any model for the younger generations, however. As a result, Jewish life essentially came to a standstill all over Central and Eastern Europe, as much in places where there was still a Jewish population as in those where the population had been wiped out by the Holocaust.
There were some exceptions to this trend, however. This was particularly true in areas of the Soviet Union where – in the late 1960s – Jewish and Zionist identity became connected in some aspects with dissident opposition to the current regime. Some young, brave Jews set up underground circles in which Jewish culture and language were studied. These were noteworthy but, by their very nature, minority creations: there was no way in which they could surface as large-scale manifestations of Jewish identity.
When the Iron Curtain finally fell, it was unclear what would happen with the Jewish population in that region. No-one knew how many people would be prepared to define themselves as Jews. Even after the fall of the various Communist regimes, people were unsure whether it would be either wise or beneficial to reveal their identity in a society where Jews would not necessarily be much more accepted than before.
One thing that did change, however, was the ability of western organizations to operate in the new vacuum that had been created. Some – such as the American Joint Distribution Committee – had quietly been operating underground for many years. They were now able to emerge and start working more openly and efficiently. Other organizations that had not been active in the communities could now publicly set to work as well.
It is difficult to know what exactly would have happened had there been no attempt by world Jewish organizations to galvanize dormant communities. The result – largely through the these organizations’ activities – was clear, however: with the use of hefty sums to stimulate Jewish life by the provision of welfare activities and cultural/religious services, communities began to revive.
With time, increasing numbers of people – including many who had never acknowledged their roots before – began to emerge and connect themselves in some way with the Jewish community. Predictably, the main arenas of activity were in Hungary and the former Soviet Union. Other smaller communities, however – including Poland, the Baltic states and the new states that came out of the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – also showed stalwart renewal of activity for their size.
Estimates of the size of the Jewish communities today are still very speculative. No-one is sure, even now, how many Jews there are in these countries because some are still emerging. There is also a serious dilemma regarding the definition of Jewish identity. Nevertheless, informed people offer the following rounded statistics:
550,000 Jews in Russia
400,000 in the Ukraine
80,000 in Hungary
60,000 in Belarus
35,000 in Uzbekistan
30,000 in Azerbaijan
30,000 in Moldova
17,000 in Georgia
15,000 in Kazakhstan
15,000 in Latvia
14,000 in Rumania
8,000 in Poland
6,000 in the Czech Republic
6,000 in Lithuania
6,000 in Slovakia
and some six more countries each with a Jewish population of 1,000-1,500 Jews.
There is the distinct possibility that – in the next generation at least – these regions are going to provide unique examples of an expanding Diaspora population. This is because schools and informal educational/ cultural networks are working to change the negative image of Jewish identity that became so entrenched in people’s minds just a few decades ago. Large amounts of money will continue to be spent in these places in the foreseeable future, which could well cause increasing numbers to reveal their identity. However, these populations may decide to migrate at some time in the future.
As mentioned earlier, hundreds of thousands of those who identify themselves as Jews, or who can prove some marginal connection with Jewish blood, have made Aliyah to Israel. Equal numbers have moved to the West, a phenomenon that will now be examined here. It remains to be seen whether the demography of these communities will stabilize as their community life develops. Perhaps the main issue here is the economic prospects of each community.

5. Economic Factors Causing Migration
In analyzing the reasons for migration throughout Jewish history, two main reasons for community spread and the movement of Jews to different areas in the world can be noted: the desires to escape persecution and improve one’s economic prospects. These factors have both operated constantly to re-arrange the Jewish map of the world, often with considerable interdependence.
Where Jews were needed for economic reasons, there was less likelihood of their being actively persecuted. Jews inevitably gravitated to such places. Examples of this trend can be seen in their migration into Ashkenaz (the German lands) around the early 9th century, the eastwards push of that community into the Polish lands from the 13th century onwards, and then into the Ukrainian lands in the late 16th century.
This does not mean, however, that safety and prosperity at any given period can be defined by looking at a map of Jewish communities. Some communities lived in marginal economic situations and remained very vulnerable; few, however, had alternatives. Fifty years after the terrible mid-17th-century pogroms in the Ukraine – which decimated the Jewish community of the area, causing tens of thousands of deaths and causing most of the community to flee – the Ukraine was full of Jews once again.
Nevertheless, economic factors have been among the main causes of many large-scale Jewish migrations, including those that have occurred in modern times. Sometimes these factors are the sole motive for a move; more usually, however, they combine with other causes to dictate both the timing and the new destination. Some examples of this have already been mentioned here. A significant factor in the stampede at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to the United States – and to a lesser extent to Western Europe and South America – was the concept of the ‘Goldene Medina’ whose streets were said to be paved with gold. Similarly, groups have been noted among the new immigrants to Palestine/Israel whose motivation was primarily economic. For instance, immigrants from Poland in the 1920s and those from the former Soviet Union in more recent years moved because of a combination of economic troubles and the necessity of leaving a harsh social and political reality.
In other cases, however, economic considerations have been central. This phenomenon can be demonstrated through the stories of four different communities. These are meant to be representative rather than exhaustive. When discussing the North African’s move to France, the Russians’ move to Germany, or the South Africans’ move to Australia, the fact that many Jews moved to Canada, the United States or England is not being ignored. However, each of these stories is meaningful because it is indicative of general trends.
A. The North African migration to France.
When most North African Jews moved to Israel in the 1950s, an estimated 200,000 moved to France instead. They had identical reasons for leaving North Africa, but had drawn different conclusions. Being familiar with the French language and culture from the colonial dominance of France in their region, they elected to move to a place where they could better their standard of living. These pragmatic, rather than ideological, considerations certainly proved themselves. An tremendous influx of energy transformed the tired post-war Jewish community in France; the new immigrants themselves demonstrated the classic immigrant model of rising fortunes through the generations.
This contrasted starkly with the North African immigrants to Israel. Bereft of the community leadership that had mainly moved to France, and at a disadvantage in the Hebrew-speaking, spartan environment of the early Zionist state, they continued to struggle through most of the second and third generations.
B. The Russian Jewish migration to Germany.
A similar phenomenon has occurred with regard to the tens of thousands of former Soviet Jews who have moved to Germany in the last decade or so. In this case, also, practical economic considerations were the first priority. This narrative is a little different, however, because those who moved to Israel generally did not do so for ideological reasons: most were searching for a new start in a different land. For many, Israel was simply the easiest place in which to be accepted. Nevertheless, there is still a considerable stigma attached to the idea of Jews’ living in Germany. Only those determined to ignore all but purely practical considerations could settle there so soon after the Holocaust. Of the 60,000-odd Jews living in Germany today, the vast majority are former Russians whose presence, in recent years, has begun to transform the community.
C. The Israeli move to Germany.
Here a stratum of the German Jewish population needs to be discussed that represents another side of the same phenomenon: many thousands of Israelis left Israel for Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. In those decades large numbers of Jews left Israel, seeking a better economic and social reality in the western world. Most moved to the main cities of the English-speaking world, but the presence of a considerable community in Germany highlights the Jews’ motives precisely because of the stigma associated with living in Germany.
Israelis live in the one Jewish community that perceives moving to it or away from it in ideological terms. The mere choice of the words Aliyah (‘going up’) to denote the act of Jews who immigrate and Yerida (‘going down’) to describe the act of those who leave, implies clear moral judgments: those who come are good and those who leave are bad This demonstrates the attitude that there is a right or a wrong place for Jews to be. This Zionist interpretation of the old theological category of Galut (‘exile’, i.e. the wrong place) to denote all places outside of the Land of Israel, made it difficult for many years for people to leave. Today, there is much more tolerance; in the 1970s and 1980s, however, when hundreds of thousands eventually left the country, the stigma attached to such an act was enormous.
Those who moved to Germany, then, were doubly stigmatized. Many of them were clearly sufficiently highly motivated personally, and prepared to ignore all ideological considerations. On a symbolic level, therefore, their move to Germany represents the wider act of Israeli Yerida in its starkest and most problematic form.

D. The South African move to Australia.
A fourth group of Jews who have left their native country largely, although not completely, for pragmatic economic and socio-political reasons are the Jews of South Africa. For the last twenty years, they have mainly been settling into the English speaking world, and Australia in particular.
Socially and politically, they felt increasingly uneasy in a society being revolutionized by the native Africans’ accession to power. Many Jews were uncertain about the future of both the country and their own families. Furthermore, the rising wave of crime that swept through most of South Africa, victimizing the middle class – of which the Jews are a prominent part – left them feeling particularly vulnerable. Additional economic considerations connected with the devaluation of the South African rand caused many to decide to get out before it became financially impossible.
These Jews are totally different from the smaller group of South African Jews who left the country in the previous generation because of their unwillingness to live under apartheid. Many of the latter made their way to Israel, backing one ideological decision with another.
Largely because of the difficulties of submerging themselves in the Afrikaners’ world, South African Jews have tended to develop a very strong Jewish and Zionist identity. Many have been prepared to work to improve and influence whichever community in which they have found themselves. The recent emigrants from South Africa have thus made a strong impact on the Australian community, transforming its institutions and injecting considerable talent and energy into its leadership.
These four examples indicate an important factor in modern Jewish demography: in an increasingly mobile world, there is a growing awareness of the potential for transforming one’s economic and social circumstances by changing domicile. This idea has not been lost on the Jews. As a direct result, entire new communities are being formed on the basis of migration, and old communities are being transformed.

6. Assimilation And Intermarriage
Contrary to popular belief, neither assimilation nor intermarriage are new phenomena among the Jewish people. 2,500 years ago, returning to Jerusalem to lead the community of Jewish returnees to Eretz Yisrael, Ezra was shocked by the amount of intermarriage among the local Jews and forced them to divorce their non-Jewish partners. Nevertheless, we have comparatively little information concerning the phenomenon in the pre-modern period. It is clear that it occurred in some places and times, although we can only assume that religious taboos and social isolation would have restricted its frequency.
The situation changed, however, with the modern age, one in which the traditional boundaries that had separated Jews and non-Jews started to crumble in the Christian lands of the west. At this time, there was a perceptible weakening of traditional religious belief among many Jews, who were encountering the ideas and realities of the outside world. The temptation to convert to another religion grew strong. In the 19th century, in particular, hundreds of thousands of Jews converted and married ‘out’.
In earlier generations, there was a small number of Jews who married ‘out’ but wished to maintain a Jewish life. However, Jews were increasingly being accepted outside their communities, and laws limiting their participation in general society were slowly being eliminated. The temptation to convert weakened, as a result, while the number of intermarriages started to increase. Already by the mid-19th century, some of the leaders of Reform Judaism were rethinking the traditional ban on intermarriage and beginning to accept the idea of marriage to non-Jews as long as any children were raised as Jews. The early decades of the 20th century saw intermarriage soaring in most parts of Western and Central Europe, causing it to become a very serious global issue for Jews and their leaders.
It is possible that the decimation of European Jewry amid the massive rise of anti-Jewish hatred throughout the western world (including the situation in England in the 1930s and in America in the 1940s) slowed down the rate of intermarriage. Many moralists have tried to draw the following lesson from the Holocaust: that Jews who assimilate and intermarry can never avoid being considered and judged as Jews.
Despite this, many believe that the current situation is different. The last generation has seen a return to the pre-war situation of widespread, continually increasing rates of intermarriage. The main reasons for this phenomenon are easily identifiable: a relaxation of communal prohibitions and sanctions; the irrelevance of Jewish religious theology to many contemporary Jews; ignorance of tradition and history, and a belief in romance, which upholds emotional connection as the sole criterion for a relationship.
The Conservative movement has followed Reform in consciously deciding to accept non-Jewish spouses into their congregations. Their main argument is that it is preferable to try to win new adherents for Judaism and the Jewish people from among the circle of the intermarried. Encouraging them to re-enter the community and to find their place there is likely to create for some the basis for a strong, meaningful Jewish life. They contend that this is a productive way of dealing with the problem. Pushing such people out of the community will eventually weaken world Jewry.
It needs to be stated clearly that there no Jewish movement actually encourages intermarriage. The question that they are all being forced to deal with, however, is how to respond to the present reality. Thus in the non-Orthodox world, this stance – with its important practical implications – has tended to replace the response of outrage and collective shunning that was usual until fairly recently in the more traditional circles. One could state that outrage has given way to outreach. The Orthodox world, on the other hand, has generally maintained traditional attitudes and sanctions in this regard. The issue remains controversial for most of the Jewish world.
Intermarriage and assimilation are clearly of great significance to Jewish demographers. Apart from the theological considerations of their effect on Judaism and the sociological considerations of their consequences within the Jewish community, demographers need to define the criteria for counting Jews in places where these phenomena are rife.
At one time, it could be safely assumed that there was – more or less – a complete overlap between the number of Jews living in a particular area, and the number of those actually involved in the community. This is no longer the case. Only a certain percentage of Jews actively participate in some way in the community, however the community’s institutional lines are drawn. This raises a series of new – and very contentious – questions that have no really ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers:
How do you relate to children of mixed families if they are not raised as Jews?
Do you make decisions based on halachic criteria of matrilineal descent, even if some communities have embraced patrilineal descent as an equally valid criterion?
Are people who do not consider themselves Jews, despite their family antecedents, to be counted ‘in’ or ‘out’?
Should subjective considerations be the main criteria for demographic counting?
Should more objective criteria such as synagogue attendance or involvement in cultural and social activities to be the deciding factors?
Despite the development of increasingly sophisticated survey techniques, the demographers’ job is becoming ever more difficult due to serious difficulties in making ‘correct’ decisions on such complex issues. Statistics are important mainly insofar as they support the evidence for trends within the specific community being examined.
For example, a debate has developed around the recently published figures for American Jewry. According to the National Jewish Population survey, taken once a decade as the main official study of this demographic sector, the current size of the Jewish population of the United States is 5.2 million. However, the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research has published recent estimates that reach 6.7 million. The difference results less from differences in surveying techniques and more from the criteria that have been used to determine “Who is a Jew?”. Furthermore, the latter study reported that there are another 2.5 million Americans who are ‘socially or psychologically’ connected with Judaism. This includes people who practice Judaism together with another religion; who were raised Jewish but who now practice another religion, or who have a Jewish partner or spouse.
This issue is by no means restricted to the west, however: it is just as pertinent in the communities of East Central and Eastern Europe, discussed earlier in this paper. For example, the Jewish community in Hungary is generally estimated at 80,000. However, a number of contemporary surveys of Hungarian Jewry reveal astonishing discrepancies: the numbers quoted vary between 50,000 and 200,000. Some of the difference can be explained by the specific reality of the community in which people have hidden their identity and are not necessarily hurrying to reclaim it through open connection with the community. A significant part of the discrepancy, however, is due to the question of defining a Jew. The question is relevant for almost every Jewish community around the world.

7. Summing Up The Issue: Suggestions For Meaning
Jews are not disappearing, they are transformingA recent magazine article (Jerusalem Report 21.10.2002) quoted the demographer responsible for the above-mentioned San Francisco report as saying that “Jews are not disappearing, they are transforming… The kinds of language we used to describe populations in the past are useless and self defeating… We have to be more open to the idea that the Jewish community is broader and probably disconnected from Jewish life. I think that the potential for a larger and even more vibrant Jewish community, is huge”.
This opinion has been quoted here because of its far-reaching implications for the way in which see the Jewish community is perceived today. Among other things, it raises the question of the meaning behind the raw figures:
What are the implications of a Jewish population, a large part of which is alienated and “disconnected from Jewish community life”?
Can there be any meaning to the definition of Jews who live outside of a Jewish community? Judaism and the meaning of Jewish life have always been based around community and the individual Jew’s interaction with it.
When demographers and statisticians begin to speak of large numbers of Jews disconnected from any community as being a meaningful part of world Jewry, it is time to go back to the beginning again, and to ask basic questions about the meaning of being a Jew today. It is not enough to talk about numbers: demography must also be able to discuss the meaning of those numbers for a living Jewish community. This paper has surveyed the forces that have created the present Jewish world; analyzed the meaning of the main demographic trends, and attempted to define the contours of the Jewish world today.
The official statistic for the global Jewish population stands at a little over 13,000,000. Some say that, in providing these figures, the demographers have completed their task. In effect, however, their work has only just begun: assessing the meaning of the figures for the Jewish present and, thus, for its future.