cover image The New American Zionism

The New American Zionism

Theodore Sasson. NYU, $39 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8147-6086-4

Social scientist Sasson contends, in his discussion of American Jews’ relationship to Israel, that Americans’ engagement has not decreased but instead has evolved to accommodate a realistic and more direct experience of Israel as a nation.  Most Americans’ view of Israel had been one of what he calls “idealism,” rather than experience or knowledge of the country. Sasson labels idealizing engagement as the “mobilization” model, in which centralized fundraising and advocacy groups worked as a unified front for Israel’s survival and well-being. While “mobilization” fit the post-Holocaust era, the complex life of an actual country cannot sustain a sole focus on “general” funds, or interest only in advocacy that toes the line of governmental positions. The shift to the internet and increased travel now yield real knowledge of Israel. Direct engagement such as that arising from trips like Birthright Israel, Sasson contends, will sustain future attachment. Sasson’s well-documented report may be a partial antidote to the recent Pew Report showing decreased religious affiliation among Jews. Despite the drop in centralized funding, overall giving to Israel has increased, and engagement by Americans with Israel is alive and well. (Dec.)