Israel, the Dias­po­ra and Jew­ish Identity

Dan­ny Ben-Moshe; Zohar Segev, eds.
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012

This work explores attach­ment to Israel by Dias­po­ra Jews as a mea­sure of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty. It is pub­lished at a time when there is evi­dence of dis­tanc­ing” from Israel by Dias­po­ra youth, a time of demo­graph­ic tran­si­tion, as Israel moves clos­er to becom­ing the world’s largest Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. Essays that ana­lyze present day real­i­ties in light of Zion­ist the­o­ries and goals are instruc­tive, pre­scrip­tive, and thought­ful. Con­cerns about assim­i­la­tion and the sur­vival of Jew­ish peo­ple­hood haunt the dia­logue. The over­rid­ing ques­tion is, Will Jew­ry be best served by one cen­ter of cul­tur­al and reli­gious cre­ativ­i­ty in Israel or by sev­er­al cen­ters in the Dias­po­ra and Israel?” A few con­trib­u­tors, such as Steven Bayme, Reuven Ham­mer, and Alice Shavli are well known; most are not. Many con­trib­u­tors reside in both Israel and the Diaspora. 

The book’s orga­ni­za­tion is some­what con­fus­ing. Part one deals with issues; part two, with sur­veys of the Dias­po­ras of France, the Unit­ed King­dom, Latin Amer­i­ca, South Amer­i­ca, Rus­sia, Cana­da, and the Unit­ed States. Issues and var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties are described, fol­lowed by com­men­taries by Dias­po­ra and Israeli rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Two con­clud­ing essays sum­ma­rize the argu­ments. There is a sense that the edi­tors have tried to include too many views, mak­ing the work unwieldy. 

Giv­en the rich­ness and use­ful­ness of the mate­r­i­al, it’s unfor­tu­nate that errors in print­ing and edit­ing are notice­ably present. For exam­ple, the name of the anti-Israel aca­d­e­m­ic Tony Judt is spelled in sev­er­al ways. Also, the bib­li­ogra­phies for the Dias­po­ra sur­veys are not espe­cial­ly recent for a 2007 pub­li­ca­tion. Still, this col­lec­tion of obser­va­tions leaves the read­er with much to ponder.

Lib­by K. White is direc­tor of the Joseph Mey­er­hoff Library of Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty in Bal­ti­more, MD and gen­er­al edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries Newsletter.

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