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Young Jews Are Leaving Judaism Because Their Rabbis Will Not Criticize Israel

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2018

In a letter to The Forward (Feb. 14, 2018), Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of the Shalom Center and a leader in the Jewish Renewal movement, assesses the reason for the alienation from Judaism of increasing numbers of young people.  
He writes that, “The point about the decline of religious/spiritual connection between many younger Jews and the Jewish community is that almost all the ‘religious’ institutions refuse to apply the prophetic vision to the government of Israel even when they apply it to the U.S. Government (and even that is weak).”  
Rabbi Waskow, who has taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary and at Swarthmore College, Temple University, and Vassar College, points out that, “Many younger Jews — J Street, Open Hillel, especially IfNotNow — are affirming and strengthening their Jewish identity, even drawing strongly on religious symbols and festivals, when they criticize Israel and its lackeys and toadies in the U.S. Their distancing from ‘official’ religion in the synagogues is connected with those synagogues’ kow-towing to the Israeli government.”  
He asks: “Where are the rabbis who urge their congregants NOT to give to the federations that funnel money to support of the Netanyahu government and its Occupation, but to give it instead to the New Israel Fund and its support of gutsy critical Israelis — or to put their would-be gifts to Israel in an escrow fund to be released only with the end of the Occupation and the emergence of a viable independent Palestine alongside Israel?”  
Rabbi Waskow concludes: “Where are the rabbis who say aloud that obeisance to the Israeli government is idolatry — a religious category — and denounce it as such? The failure of religion as a Jewish focus for many young Jews is precisely because most of the official religious institutions will not denounce the Occupation as a violation of Torah the way they denounce Trumpery in the U.S.” •

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