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What Can We Learn from the DC Rally?

Yesterday (Tuesday), the Washington Mall became a sea of solidarity as an estimated 300,000 American Jews and allies gathered in what may be the largest assembly of its kind to support Israel. This staggering turnout represents more than a collective outcry against the recent horrific attacks in Israel and the alarming surge in global antisemitism. It symbolizes the unity of a community coming together in a moment of truth.

washington march for Israel

This can not be taken for granted. The attitude of North American Jewry towards Israel shifted along history. The pre 1948 ambivalence of North American Jewry towards Zionism gave way to robust support following the establishment of the State of Israel and reached its peak after  the Six-Day War in 1967. 

However, the passage of time has seen a waning of this once-unquestioned support, not due to a single factor but to a complex interplay of social, demographic, and ideological changes that have especially affected the younger generation.

One such factor is the perceived shift in Israel's character. In the past, majority of NA Jewry perceived Israel as a beacon of collective pride and it became entwined with their Jewish identity. However, Israel’s perception as pluralistic, democratic and peace-seeking has been eroding within the mainstream of American Jewry. This has led to a dissonance within the community, where support for Israel is no longer a given, particularly among  the more progressives segments.

Yet, when faced with existential threats to Israel and a corresponding rise in antisemitism, the vast American Jewish community has demonstrated a resilient sense of peoplehood. The attacks not only reawakened a dormant majority but also highlighted the symbiotic connection between the security of Israel and the well-being of Jews worldwide. 

The Washington rally thus stands as a potential inflection point for Jewish identity and the diaspora's relationship with Israel. 2023 is one of the most difficult years in Israel’s history, but it is also the great year of peoplehood.

The rally also succeeded in encompassing the full spectrum of Jewish and pro-Israel support – from the Jewish left to the right, liberal Reformers and conservative Orthodox, non-Jewish progressives like Congressman Ritchie Torres to evangelical Christians. This diversity underscores a broad base of support for Israel, reflecting a very wide American mainstream.

In this, Jews should find both security and pride in their connection with Israel, choosing not to overemphasize the marginal voices but rather to celebrate the strength and breadth of this collective endorsement.


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