R. Dr. Jeffrey Woolf was interviewed by JPost blogger Shmuel Rosner regarding the Rotem bill fiasco. At one point in the interview, Woolf explains the central reason for the perennial conflict between non-Orthodox American Jews and Israel. He clearly and succinctly identifies the very root of the problem:
...we need to face the fact that there is a significant disconnect between the way many (if not most) non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews define Judaism and their relationship to it [as opposed to the way most Israelis define it]. American Jews are characterized by a Post-Modern, absolute individualism. Most, as a result, bristle at the very idea that any person or institution can decide who is or who is not Jewish. On the other hand, the over 80% of Israeli Jews who describe themselves as either Orthodox or Traditional (including many Israeli Conservative Jews) see things very differently. Their conception of Judaism is not totally subjective, and their obligation to the Jewish people, as a whole, and their strong connection to Jewish collective history and memory is obligating and formative.If I can take the liberty of boiling Woolf's point down to its bare essense:
In other words, here, the seamless combination of Jewish nationhood and Judaism, which has characterized Judaism from time immemorial, is very much alive. As a result, conversion is not simply a matter of religious self-expression.
For most non-Orthodox American Jews, being Jewish is primarily a personal lifestyle choice. For most Israelis, being Jewish is primarily being part of a nation.
And therein lies the rub.
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