James Besser, the Washington correspondent for the New York Jewish Week, is retiring. Besser, who had spent 24 years writing for the paper, used his final column to talk about modern trends in the Jewish community and call for greater cooperation and involvement among younger generations of Jews.
Increasingly, the fight over the best route to peace in the Middle East has an overtly religious dimension, and is intimately bound up in the endless “who is a Jew” fight – our version of the Hundred Years Wars, although the time frame of that label is undoubtedly an understatement.
Overall, the Jewish community is more powerful than ever, but I see that power in jeopardy as it becomes harder to work in coalition with other groups because of disagreements over Israel and because of the narrowing of the official Jewish agenda to include just Israel.
The pro-Israel cause in Washington benefited hugely from the myriad connections created through coalition efforts on a wide range of domestic issues: civil rights, immigration, health care, education…the list is pretty much endless. That coalition focus is diminishing even as Jews shrink a proportion of the U.S. population. That bodes ill for Jewish political power in the future.
The good news is that new generations of Jewish activists are taking a fresh look at what it means to be Jewishly involved and what it means to support Israel – in many cases aided by the same amazing technologies that have polluted our politics and made urban legends truly global.
The bad news is a Jewish grassroots drifting away from affiliation and involvement, a communal leadership that is less and less in touch with the community as a whole and a growing inward, defensive posture that may undermine the coalition-building focus that was a major pillar in the great infrastructure of Jewish and pro-Israel clout.
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