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.