The potential in the 99%: the American Jewish community and Israel’s society and economy
Author: Maya Dolgin

According to a recent Pew Research Center study comparing the American and Israeli Jewish communities, only 1% of the American Jewish community believe that economic problems are the biggest long-term threat facing Israel.

A recent Pew Research Center study compared the American and Israeli Jewish communities, and the report opened with a finding that immediately caught my attention. When asked to describe, in their own words, the biggest long-term problem facing Israel, the answers were vastly different. Israelis were split between security threats/violence/terrorism and economic problems (38% to 39%) with social, religious, or political problems coming in a clear third place with 14%. American Jews, on the other hand, answered as follows – 66% gave an answer related to Israel’s security threats, violence, or terrorism, 18% on social, religious, or political problems. So how many believe that economic problems are the biggest long-term threat facing Israel? 1%.

That’s a huge gap. 39% of Israelis see economic challenges as their country’s long-term well-being, while only 1% of American Jews agree. This gap can either be explained by American Jews not caring, or not knowing, about Israel’s economic challenges. I believe strongly that it’s a knowledge gap, and one that the Taub Center is working to close.

It seems that my life so far has been defined by this gap. As an Israeli child growing up in the American Jewish day school, youth group, and camp systems, and then later as an adult working in these various settings, I sensed a gulf between the “real” Israel and the one presented in educational settings. Sometimes it felt like we were speaking about two different countries. With youth ranging in ages from 5 to 18, I worked to paint a realistic picture of life in Israel, beyond the “kibbutz in the sky.” In my years at the Taub Center, I have put the skills I developed as an educator to a slightly different use in my strategic partnerships role – this time educating the leaders of the American Jewish community on the burning, most urgent social and economic issues facing our homeland.

One of the goals of the Taub Center is essentially to change the Pew statistic mentioned above. We look at that 1% and see potential. We are committed to sharing our research with the leaders of the international Jewish community just as we do with Israel’s highest ranking policy makers from across the political spectrum through private briefings and opportunities to have conversations with the top researchers in the field. This year Taub Center researchers have presented in numerous forums to the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Funders Network, and the JDC, among many others.

The diaspora Jewish community is one of the Israeli government’s strongest partners, filling in gaps to address problems that it will take years for the government to solve systemically. With the serious investment made in Israel’s future, all parties – federations, foundations, and other institutions alike – should be basing their philanthropic decisions in the same data-driven research as those who govern this country. We know from experience that a well-educated Jewish community is a stronger long-term partner for Israel.

We invite you to visit us for a briefing on your next trip to Israel, or contact us to find out when we will next be in your local area. The Taub Center’s flagship publication, the State of the Nation Report 2016, is set for release in just two weeks, so now is the time to set up your 2017 briefings on our latest material.

Lastly, as our book release coincides with Chanukah this year, we invite you to join us for our first ever online campaign by supporting the Taub Center during this holiday season. We strongly believe that decisions should be rooted in evidence-based research, and that our materials should remain free and accessible to anyone who seeks to learn more about Israel’s society and economy. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

 

Maya Dolgin is the Taub Center’s strategic partnerships officer. She can be reached at mayad@taubcenter.org.il.