There's a Crisis Between U.S. Jewry and Israel, Says Jewish-American Journalist Thomas Friedman

'You can't tell American Jews: We want you to come to Israel, but your form of Jewish-religious expression is unacceptable to us,' the Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times columnist tells Israeli weekly Makor Rishon

Thomas Friedman, author and columnist for the New York Times, in New York, U.S., September 22, 2010
Bloomberg

There is a crisis between Israel and American Jewry, Pulitzer prize-winning Jewish American journalist Thomas Friedman said in an interview with the Israeli weekly newspaper Makor Rishon.

Friedman, a senior columnist for The New York Times, who also served as the paper's Jerusalem and Beirut correspondent in the past, said he believes Israel does not recognize the Jewish community he is a part of.

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Giving an example for the widening fissure he sees between Israel and the world's second largest Jewish community, Friedman told how his shul unanimously decided to stop its annual fundraising for Israel Bonds after the controversy surrounding the egalitarian prayer space in the Western Wall, which was meant to allow Jews from different streams of Judaism to pray in a mixed environment.

Last month, a plan to expand the mixed-gender prayer area was approved under special regulation after much debate and controversy

"This wasn't the rabbi's decision, but ours," Friedman said. "There was no one resistance against it in the [shul] management."

Friedman said he supported the move because "If Israel doesn't respect what we do in the diaspora, and our way of life, why should we raise money for it?" claiming that similar decisions were made in many other shuls across the U.S.

"We weren't the first and were very much not alone in that situation," he said. Friedman insists, however, that he is not boycotting Israel, and noted he and his wife donated a scholarship to three Jewish Stanford students so they could visit it.

Friedman said he wanted Conservative and Reform rabbis to be officially recognized by the state, so that "their weddings and conversion be recognized."

"I think the Kotel settlement should have been respected. You can't tell American Jews: We want you to come to Israel, but your form of Jewish-religious expression is unacceptable to us," he said.

When asked if he thinks that will happen, Friedman said "No way. Not in this government."