Jews living in the United States profess a strong sense of care toward Israel, but are they as deeply invested in Israeli politics?
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 80% of U.S. Jews said that caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Yet only 57% said they follow news about Israel somewhat or very closely.
Given the recent turmoil in Israel — with the coalition government dissolving and a fifth round of elections in the past three years on the horizon, the Jewish Exponent contacted several Philadelphia Jews and asked a few general questions to gauge the level of interest in Israeli politics locally.
“I’m an immigrant, the son of Holocaust survivors. I know what happened without Israel,” said Richard Tems, a Jewish Doylestown resident, retired business owner and veteran.
Tems expressed concern about American Jews debating and judging policy in Israel while being uninformed and not putting in the energy necessary to staying up to date.
According to Tems, people don’t need to look very hard for information if they want to stay involved: “It’s there if you want it. It’s on the internet. Left and right Israeli newspapers, in English!”
Only one person said they followed politics in Israel closely, although most knew and regularly interacted with at least one person who did so.
But is it a problem if U.S. Jews don’t follow Israeli politics?
According to Theodore Kosin of Bucks County, it is.
“If you don’t know history and the news, the news is history — you’re destined to repeat it. And knowing our history, we don’t want that,” said Kosin, who added that he tries to address the issue by making sure his own family is educated and involved.
“Just talk about it (with your family),” Kosin said.
Kosin said the way young people consume news is changing, and many don’t follow it because they are too busy.
Some news platforms have adapted to that by adding TikTok — its users are primarily between the ages of 16 and 24 — to their list of social media accounts. Videos on TikTok can be as long as 10 minutes, but it’s rare for one to be longer than 3 minutes.
Why are some Jews in the United States less attached to Israel?
Research indicates that the level of attachment to Israel varies primarily by age and religion.
Jews ages 50 and older are more attached to Israel than younger Jews are, according to the 2020 Pew study. Attachment to Israel also varied by religion, with Orthodox Jews having the highest number of participants saying they are very attached to the Jewish state. About 60% of Jews with no particular denominational affiliation say they are either “not too” or “not at all” emotionally attached to Israel.
The same survey reported that Jewish Americans who were 65 and older reported the strongest emotional attachment to Israel. Most (90%) Jews reporting a very or somewhat strong attachment to Israel had been there more than once.