Israeli and American Jews know little about each other, new study finds

AJC poll also shows 60% of US Jewish community find being connected to Israel important to their identity, 75% of Israelis see Diaspora as vital to future of Jewish people

Illustrative: Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, New York, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Illustrative: Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, New York, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

JTA — American and Israeli Jews don’t know much about one another, according to a study released Monday.

Still, both groups expressed an affinity for the other in the poll by the American Jewish Committee.

Among American Jews, a total of 40 percent said that their knowledge of Israelis was either nonexistent or weak. Another 21% ranked their knowledge of Israelis as medium, while 37% said they received a “strong” education about Israel.

Among Israeli Jews, a total of 69% said they did not receive any education about Diaspora Jews or it was “not comprehensive,” while 20% said it was “so-so” and 11% said it was comprehensive.

The survey comes as Israel sees its first new prime minister in 12 years after Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party, was ousted by the right-wing Naftali Bennett and the centrist Yair Lapid, who came together in an unusual coalition.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on a video from Israel to the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, at Washington Convention Center, in Washington, March 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Officials of the new government led by Bennett say that Netanyahu damaged relations with the Jewish Diaspora through his close alliances with right-wing leaders overseas and his policies catering to the ultra-Orthodox. They have vowed to repair ties, in part by educating Israelis about Diaspora Jews.

Among American Jews, 60% said being connected to Israel is important to their Jewish identity. Among the Israelis, 75% see a thriving Diaspora as vital to the future of the Jewish people.

Those Israelis who had learned more about Diaspora Jews in formal settings showed a greater interest in learning more about Diaspora Jews than those who had learned less.

The survey of Americans was conducted March 25-May 9 and the one in Israel in May. Both had 1,000 respondents. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

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