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Young American Jews Are "Walking Away from Judaism Because Its Only Content Is Pro-Israelism," says Eric Alterman

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2022

Speaking at Tel Aviv University in May, Eric Alterman, a prominent American  
Jewish liberal voice, declared that Israel has lost American liberals and that  
Judaism itself is in crisis because its only content is “pro-Israelism.” He  
declared: “Israel has lost the left, no question about it, and it can’t get it  
back as long as it has the occupation… It’s building 4,000 new settlements.  
It’s doing terrible things each day… Israel has lost American Jews and liberals  
because it has no content to offer besides stale ‘Everyone hates the Jews’  
propaganda that is meaningless to young Jews.” (Mondoweiss, June 20, 2022)  
Alterman, for many years the media columnist for The Nation and now a professor  
of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College (CUNY) told his Tel Aviv audience  
that, “Israel has a hasbara program, and all of these groups are attempting to  
reach out to American liberals, but they have nothing to reach out to them with  
anymore. Because the argument that I was given that made sense to me when I was  
growing up and maybe made sense to my daughter; that there was a Holocaust and  
Jews have never been safe, and Israelis were invaded and are at risk every  
minute–that argument doesn’t hold water anymore. American Jews are still being  
given the exact same argument by Jewish organizations... but they’ve learned  
something very different on the news…What they see, they don’t like… American  
Jewish youth are walking away from Judaism. They’re either turning away from  
Israel or they’re walking away from Judaism entirely. Because Judaism has no  
answers for them.”  
What young Jewish Americans are told, said Alterman, is, “Be pro-Israel, watch  
out for anti-Semitism. There is no content…American Judaism is dying on the  
vine. It’s been replaced by nothing, but pro-Israelism and pro-Israelism  
doesn’t work anymore.”  
Alterman has a new book coming out. "We Are Not One,” about the chasm between  
American and Israeli Jews. He argues that to save Judaism, the money spent on  
programs like Birthright Israel, to send young American Jews on free trips to  
Israel, should be spent, instead, on “the wonders of Jewish history and culture,  
so as to rejuvenate American Jewish institutions and social justice  
institutions…I feel like Israel has said to American Jews, ‘We’re going on our  
way, and you can take it or leave it.’ And more and more American Jews are  
going to leave…Since the ‘80s, Israel has forced liberals to choose between  
liberalism and Zionism…Because the occupation is forever… Liberals don’t like  
the idea of a ‘Jewish state.’ What is the reason that people living next to  
each other have such different rights. Israel answers, ‘Arabs are going to  
destroy us. Shut up and sign the check.’ The American liberal response is to  
walk away.” **

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