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American Jews Are Not In "Exile," And Israelis Have Much To Learn From Them, Writes Anne Roiphe

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 1999

Israelis have much to learn from the Jewish experience in America, writes Anne Roiphe in The Jerusalem Report (Dec. 6, 1999).  

She notes that, "Our Jewish experience America has strengthened our confidence in our brains and in our ability to achieve on a level playing field. It has made us comfortable. . .among other peoples of the world.  

And although this confidence may sometimes gall our Israeli mates, it has something to offer as we go into the next millennium. We are no longer the poor, threatened Jews of the galut (exile). We are the Jews of Hollywood and the Senate and the academe." Whatever the knowledge level of American Jews in the area of Hebrew and Jewish’ history, she writes, ". . .we all do know the heroes of the Revolutionary War. We can recite a line or two of Paul Revere"s ride. We hear in our heads the words of Lincoln at Gettysburg. We can recite the names of most of the presidents...and we know what truths were self-evident in Philadelphia...It affects who we are, what we believe and what we share in common with Americans of the prairie and of the inner city. We have a cultural bond with the Americans of Italian, Irish and Scottish descent, just as we do with the African, Asian and Hispanic Americans."  

Roiphe points out that, "The Americanness of our souls shows in our ability to get along with peoples of very different religious and cultural habits...We can be firmly and proudly Jewish, but we know about First Communions and fanciful celebrations of a girl’s 15th birthday. We learn not to be offended by symbols of others’ devotions, like crosses around the neck and creches in front of churches. We develop a live-and-let-live attitude about the variety and styles of human expression...We are committed to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and we expect ultimate benefits from free speech, even when it is used to attack us."  

She concludes: "The American myths we have absorbed will cross-fertilize with our Jewish legends and enable us to enrich the culture of both Jews in Israel and Americans of all kinds by our imaginations. As the global village becomes more and more of a reality, American Jews will play their part in sustaining the Jewish peoplehood, interpreting it to non-Jews and maintaining a truly democratic impulse; a commitment to the Bill of Rights within the Jewish world, as well as assuring that America the powerful will continue its friendship with the Jews gathered in Israel."  

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