JERUSALEM – Sixty percent of Israelis oppose the American Jewish community influencing decisions related to religion and state in Israel, according to a new survey released today by the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Perhaps even more alarming, 57 percent of Israelis have little or no knowledge of American Jewish organizations and only 9 percent know those organizations well. Of these respondents, 45 percent said they had zero exposure to the organizations’ work, 44 percent said they were rarely exposed to that work, and only 2 percent said they were exposed regularly.
The survey was conducted by the Dialogue polling company among 500 respondents from a demographically representative sampling of Israel’s adult Jewish population. The Ruderman Family Foundation, which works to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, commissioned the survey in order to better assess Israeli public opinion towards various aspects of U.S. Jewry.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents noted they did not actively follow Jewish organizations’ work on any traditional or social media platform. Only 22 percent said they had an excellent or very good understanding of the differences between the religious streams of U.S. Jewry, with 32 percent reporting somewhat of an understanding and 26 percent little to no understanding.
Among the Israeli public’s criticisms of leading American Jewish organizations, 35 percent said those groups are not sufficiently diverse and do not incorporate various voices such as younger Jews, women, and the LGBTQ community.
When asked how much would they would like to see a new Jewish organization established to make Israel’s relationship with American Jewry “relevant to the 21st century,” 40 percent said they would very much like to see such a move and only 10 percent opposed the idea.
On a more upbeat note, 89 percent said they saw a moral importance in Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community, and 51 percent stated they trust U.S. Jewish organizations and believe those groups represent Israeli interests in America.
Respondents also ranked the areas in which they felt the strongest connection to U.S. Jewry, with 38 percent identifying the Israeli media as their main source connection, followed by family ties (30 percent), Jewish holidays and Americans visiting Israel (25 percent), Jewish culture and art (17 percent), American and Jewish media 16 percent, and business ties (12 percent).
“The Israeli public openly admits to not knowing enough about the American Jewish community and its organizations. We must work to change this, especially among Israeli leaders and decision-makers. Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community is important for both sides and affects all areas of life – as this poll showed once again,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
“While our Foundation works to expose Israelis to the role of American Jewish organizations, Israelis’ instinct that these organizations are often not representative of their interests behooves American Jews to examine how we can address that issue. Perhaps Israelis would better identify with American Jewish organizations if these organizations better represented the broad diversity found in the American Jewish community. This is a two-way relationship, and both sides must work to strengthen it.”