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Beyond Distancing

Beyond Distancing

What it Means if American Jews Detach from Israel

Sunday, May 17, 2009 2:00 pm

Major sociological and demographic surveys have shown clear signs that young American Jews (those under 40) are growing increasingly “distanced” or disconnected from the State of Israel. Simply stated, after six decades of nearly universal support, the relationship between American Jews and Israel is no longer guaranteed. Because the distancing revealed in these studies does not correlate with political attitudes, it suggests something deeper about American Jewish identity.

In this unprecedented symposium, we explored the intricacies of this issue with a panel of distinguished experts. Among the questions we examined were: Is criticism of government policies tantamount to lack of support for Israel? Can American Jews retain connection to Judaism while detaching from Israel? How do these attitudes impact Jewish institutions? And, as a new generation assumes leadership in the American Jewish community, what does this mean for the future?

Keynote speaker Dr. Ari Y. Kelman was joined by panelists Elisa Albert, Dr. Michael Kotzin, and Carl Schrag.

Dr. Ari Y. Kelman is assistant professor of American Studies at UC Davis, where he serves on the Jewish Studies program committee. He is the co-author, with Steven M. Cohen, of Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and Their Alienation From Israel. Widely published in academic and popular journals, he speaks internationally about historical and current Jewish culture.

Elisa Albert is a founding editor of Jewish media and entertainment outlet www.Jewcy.com. Author of How This Night Is Different and The Book of Dahlia, she also teaches creative writing at Columbia University and is a contributor to a wide range of journals, magazines, and anthologies.

Dr. Michael Kotzin is executive vice president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, in which capacity he oversees the Federation’s communications and community relations activities. He was a faculty member at Tel Aviv University for 11 years. A frequent spokesman for Chicago’s Jewish community, he is a respected authority on many facets of Jewish communal affairs and has published widely on these topics.

Carl Schrag, former editor of The Jerusalem Post, is an award-winning journalist, teacher, and Middle East analyst who shares his expert insights on Israeli affairs with audiences across North America. He is senior mentor of Write On For Israel, an Israel education and advocacy program for high school students, and an associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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