Forward Thinking

The Jewish Left is Alive and Vibrant

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Lital Eliyauh, an Israeli left-wing demonstrator, runs from Israeli tear gas in the West Bank

Earlier this week, Jay Michaelson wrote that the Jewish left is in decline and may be dying. As proof, he cited data and statistics, and then went on to provide very few data or statistics. But even if Michaelson had written that 68.27% of Jews between the ages 18-31 in the greater Brooklyn area believe that the Jewish left is either Dead, Dying or N/A, I would still be unconvinced. And that is because there are no data or statistics that can sufficiently tell the story of the Jewish left — past, present or future.

In fact, except for voting patterns (which still show Jews voting liberal; while the 30% that voted Romney in 2012 was indeed a bit higher than the 22% that voted McCain in 2008, it is less than the 35% that voted for Bush Sr. or the 39% that voted for Reagan), statistics and data tell us very little about the vibrancy, creativity, efficacy or essence of the Jewish left.

I’m a young Jewish leftist, and I’m very optimistic about the future of the Jewish left. Now, I’m an activist and an organizer, not a sociologist or a statistician, so the best arguments I can make are based on the very anecdotes that Michaelson dismisses as “eddies against the current” of Jewish-left-death. Take that as you will. For good measure, though, I’ll try to throw in a few numbers to show how numbers actually show us very little about the world.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: liberal, left, Jay Michaelson, Freedom Riders, American Jews

Seeing Alan Gross in a New Light

By Gal Beckerman

Courtesy of Gross family
Alan and Judy Gross

I’ve been following the Alan Gross saga for the past two years now and have often felt alone. The story of the seemingly hapless technology expert who found himself jailed in Cuba for trying to help the miniscule Jewish community connect to the internet has never gotten much pickup among American Jews and has elicited only a handful of stories in the mainstream press.

I thought I wouldn’t hear more about Gross’s case until the day a deal was struck for his freedom — he was put on trial last March and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. And then an AP story came out this weekend providing more detail on what got Gross in hot water in the first place, based largely on his own reports of his five trips to Cuba in 2009.

The big revelation of the piece is the extent to which Gross knew he was engaged in, as he put it in one report, “very risky business.” He was bringing in a large number of sophisticated electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment in order to help set up uncensored wifi centers for Cuba’s Jews. And he was doing so in covert ways, including dividing up the equipment among his traveling companions, described in the article as unnamed “American Jewish humanitarian groups.”

In short, he was not the “trusting fool” he described himself to be in his trial, someone who was “duped” and “used.” The article strongly suggests that he was fully aware of the danger involved in what he was doing and took great risks to carry out his task, which still seems to have been the setting up of internet access for Cuban Jews — that part of the story has not changed.

How does this alter our understanding of the Gross case?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Castro, American Jews, Alan Gross, Cuba, Jewish prisoners, USAID

A Piece of Hasbara Aimed at Alienating Me

By Gal Beckerman

Usually when another blogger sufficiently channels my own anger about something that has me piqued, I tend to just try and let it go and give them the last word. And that was my first reaction this morning when I read, with increasing agitation, Jeffrey Goldberg’s post about a new Israeli ad campaign targeted at yordim, those ex-pat Israelis who have made their home in the States. He managed to capture the utter absurdity of its scare mongering approach. Even if you marry an American Jew, your children won’t know the difference between Chanukah and Christmas! They will never call you Aba! Goldberg also pointed out something that should have been apparent to the geniuses who came up with this idea: that these ads might just alienate American Jews a bit. And, also, if Israel is concerned about losing its citizens to the West — not an illegitimate concern — then maybe they could think of a more positive way of calling them back home than telling them they will be responsible for erasing the Jewish people.

I guess I’m not done.

You see, I am the child of yordim, the fearful spawn that the ads refer to, those “who will not remain Israeli.” And it’s more than a little offensive to see my entire Jewish (and, yes, Israeli) identity dismissed as irrelevant because of my parents’ decision to emigrate before I was born. Not only do I speak Hebrew fluently, know just a little bit about the Jewish holidays, and, yes, call my father “Aba” — but so does my two-year-old daughter!

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: american jews, hasbara, israel, yordim, zionism

Forward Editor Reveals Herself!

By Jane Eisner

Okay, I will come clean. In Daniel Gordis’s latest column for the Jerusalem Post, he writes about meeting “one of America’s leading Jewish journalists” whom he describes as “extraordinarily smart” and who cares a lot about Israel.

Imagine my surprise to read about myself. Not that I mind his characterization (thank you, Daniel!), but I mind having what I thought was a private conversation publicized without my knowledge or consent.

And it was a great conversation – for nearly two hours, Gordis spoke with me and Dan Friedman, the Forward’s arts and culture editor, about a range of topics, from his plans for expanding the Shalem Center, which he heads, to politics in Israel, to the challenge of raising children both here and there. He’s an interesting, articulate thinker, and while we don’t agree on certain key issues, he was a civil sparring partner.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: American Jews, Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Terror Attacks

New Poll: Israel Is Not the Deciding Factor

By Nathan Guttman

Getty Images

It is polling season in the Jewish world and after Gallup’s poll and the controversial Dick Morris and the just as controversial McLaughlin and Caddell surveys it is now J Street’s turn to weigh in.

The group released yesterday its own national survey of American Jews which reinforces the main findings of the Gallup poll — that Barack Obama still enjoys significant support among American Jews.

According to J Street’s poll, conducted by pollster Jim Gerstein, Obama has a 60% approval rating among Jews, a number consistent with previous polling done by the group. When faced off against potential Republican candidates Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachmann, Obama easily wins a large majority of Jewish votes.

The survey also dispelled claims that Jewish donors are turning away from Obama and the Democrats because of the president’s rocky relations with the Israeli government. A huge majority of those who made political contributions to Obama’s campaign in 2008 intend to do so again, just as a similar majority of Jews who gave money to John McCain in ’08 will contribute to the Republican candidate in this election cycle.

But not all is rosy for Obama with Jewish voters. The poll found that a majority of American Jews (56%) disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Arab–Israeli conflict. But despite this number, still a large majority of the American Jewish community, based on this poll, will vote Obama in 2012. According to Gerstein, this finding proves what Jewish Democrats have been saying all along — Israel is not a deciding factor for American Jewish voters.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Polling, J Street, Election 2012, Barack Obama, American Jews

Who Said Jews Are Leaving Obama?

By Gal Beckerman

Getty Images

A new Gallup Poll out today confirms that President Obama’s strong Jewish support has not evaporated following his May 19 speech on the Middle East. In fact, it hasn’t moved a bit. Sixty percent of Jews approved of Obama’s job in June, while 32 percent disapproved. In a poll of the general public, Obama gets a 46 percent approval in June. That fourteen percentage point spread between the general public and American Jews is, according to Gallup, “identical to the average gap seen over the past two and a half years.”

Now I say that this confirms what we already knew because our June 29 story, “Despite Tension, Obama Wooing Jewish Donors,” by Washington correspondent, Nathan Guttman, made it clear that there had been no exodus of Jewish voters and that whatever dust the speech kicked up had settled. Here’s the lead:

It may be early in the presidential election cycle, but President Obama’s newly established re-election campaign is moving quickly to address Jewish concerns following the president’s clash in May with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

So far, despite the fireworks between the two leaders, the Democrats are pleased with the results of their approach. Based on their own internal polling and on lessons from the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats believe that the issue of Israel will not play out significantly with Jewish voters. And pointing to a glitzy pro-Israel Washington donor event with Obama held on June 20 that raised more than $1.5 million, supporters of the president believe that the important constituency of Jewish donors is safe.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: 2012 Election, American Jews, Barack Obama, Ben Smith, Nathan Guttman

Measuring the American Jewish Population Today

By Lillian Swanson

Oy, the perils of random telephone dialing, one of the tried and true methods of accurately measuring population trends. Sometimes, you hear the most unexpected replies.

“We have 50 women all married to the same Jew,” said the respondent who answered the phone in St. Petersburg, Fla., during a demographic survey. What?!

“We had called a convent,” explained Ira Sheskin, a national demographer who presented a comprehensive look at recent trends in the American Jewish community this morning at the American Jewish Press Association conference in Dallas. Sheskin, a professor of geography at the University of Miami, helped create the National Jewish Population Survey in 1990 and 2000, and has researched the makeup of dozens of Jewish communities across the nation.

Funny anecdotes aside, the absence of the NJPS since 2000 has meant demographers who try to paint a picture of the American Jewish community today have had to rely on multiple sets of data.

Sheskin says the research shows there are between 6 million and 6.4 million Jews living in America today, representing about 2.1 percent of the U.S. population. But no one knows the exact number.

He believes there has been relatively little change in the number since the 2000 NJPS, which found 5.2 million American Jews. Sheskin thinks this figure may have been too low, and that 6 million to 6.4 million Jews is most likely the correct number today, which is about the same over the last decade.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: American Jews, NJPS, American Jewish Press Association




Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.