Surveys contrasting the political and religious views of American and Israeli Jews are produced with such frequency as to make them a polling industry staple. In recent years -- meaning the past decade or so -- the surveys have generally shared the same oy vey iz mir (Yiddish for “woe is me”) attitude toward their findings, which consistently show widening differences between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.
Well, sure, you may be thinking.
Compare, for example, the vast differences on moral and cultural issues between the institutionally liberal American Episcopal Church and the traditionalist Nigerian Anglican church leadership. That, despite both national churches belonging (at this moment in time) to the same worldwide Anglican Communion.
Why should the Jewish world be any different? It's like the old real estate cliche, location -- meaning local history and circumstances -- is everything.
Religion is just not the broad intra-faith connector some would like it to be. Often, if fact, it serves to fuel intra-faith rivalries rooted in strongly held theological differences.
Judaism even has a term for it; sinat chinam, Hebrew for, translating loosely, a “senseless hatred” that divides Jews and can even lead to their self-destruction.
Intra-faith Jewish differences, however, take on an added layer of global importance because of the possible geopolitical consequences they hold for the always percolating Middle East.
The bottom line: Minus American Jewry’s significant political backing, Israel -- a small nation with no lack of enemies, despite its military prowess -- could conceivably face eventual destruction.
Despite that, Israel’s staunchly traditional Jewish religious and political hierarchy -- believing it alone represents legitimate Judaism -- continues to hold its ground against the sort of liberal policies embraced by the vast majority of American Jews.
Journalists seeking to make sense of the political split between American Orthodox Jews’ general support for President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s domestic policies, and American non-Orthodox Jews’ significant rejection of both men, would do well to keep this intra-faith religious struggle in mind.