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Jews in the United States and Israel: A Comparative Look upon Israel’s 70th Anniversary

Part of the American Jewish Year Book book series (AJYB,volume 119)

Abstract

The creation of the State of Israel 70 years ago was a tectonic turning point in modern Jewish history. It was followed by dramatic changes in world Jewry’s patterns of geographic distribution, demography, and religio-ethnic identification. It also fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between the Jewish communities inside and outside the Land of Israel. The new political status of Israel as a pivotal player in Jewish affairs is dynamic. This requires occasional assessment of the characteristics of various Diaspora Jewish communities, especially the large and central ones such as that of the US, in comparison to Israel. Indeed, Israel’s 70th anniversary is not more special than any other decennial jubilee; but, as we advance in time, scholars have a richer and better empirical infrastructure for exploring these two communities. Accordingly, and as much as data allow, this chapter has traced the socio-demographic, Jewish identification, and political characteristics of Jews in the US and Israel between 1948 and 2018, as well as the relationship between these two largest Jewish communities. The empirical observations have several implications and directions for policy.

Keywords

  • Geography
  • Demography
  • Nativity
  • Fertility
  • Age structure
  • Education
  • Political orientation
  • Religio-ethnic connectivity

The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this research from the Nachum Ben-Eli Honig Fund.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Throughout this article, and for the sake of simplicity, we refer to the data from both the US and Israel Pew surveys as being collected in 2013 although the later survey is from 2014.

  2. 2.

    The first author wishes to thank Sylvia Barak-Fishman for her thoughtful insights in a discussion held at the Jewish People Policy Institute, January 14, 2019.

  3. 3.

    The index of dissimilarity is the percentage of American Jews who would have to be in a different age group so that the American age distribution looks exactly like the Israeli age distribution.

  4. 4.

    Note that, in New York, where most ultra-Orthodox in the US reside, recent controversy has arisen as the state tries to enforce the requirement about secular education in ultra-Orthodox schools https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-ultra-orthodox-in-new-york-threaten-war-after-state-demands-more-secular-education-i-1.6744784.

  5. 5.

    https://nces.ed.gov/programs/statereform/tab5_1.asp.

  6. 6.

    See, in particular, Contemporary Jewry 2–3, October 2010.

  7. 7.

    See Gold (2016) for a range of estimates.

  8. 8.

    Sheskin (2012) has shown that the relationship at the national level is not true in some local Jewish communities.

  9. 9.

    As noted earlier, the surveys were completed while Barack Obama was President. American Jews overwhelmingly were supportive of Obama, mostly for reasons unrelated to Israel, while Israeli Jews were overwhelmingly anti-Obama.

  10. 10.

    See also Cohen and Liebman (2019) and the response by Dashefsky and Sheskin et al. (2019).

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Rebhun, U., Beider, N., Waxman, C.I. (2020). Jews in the United States and Israel: A Comparative Look upon Israel’s 70th Anniversary. In: Dashefsky, A., Sheskin, I. (eds) American Jewish Year Book 2019. American Jewish Year Book, vol 119. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-40371-3_1

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