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The Mainstream Jewish Leadership is out of Touch with Progressive Young Jews

February 29, 2012 – 5:48 pm32 Comments

We think this challah is meant to read: צדק צדק תרדוף (Justice, justice shall you pursue)

By Max Kaiser

Research recently commissioned by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society shows the mainstream community is seriously out of step with the views of many Jewish young people.

In the research report, 13 people under the age of 45 years provide a snapshot of the views of politically progressive young Jews. Speaking frankly, they raise concerns about the exclusive nature of the Melbourne Jewish community and its domination by right-wing Zionists who block open debate about Israeli Government policy.

As one participant expressed “Why can’t we oppose the Israeli Government without being labelled as self-hating Jews?” This participant also wants to hear “a fresh voice that is not centred on the experience of 1939-45 and is free from the self-centred, insular focus on Israel”.

These sentiments were echoed several times over, with the young research participants unanimously valuing a socially progressive Jewish voice in the Jewish community to counter conservative and “myopic” views of the Jewish mainstream.

The ECAJ’s (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) recent 31 page complaint to SBS about the television series ‘The Promise’ illustrates this growing divide well. In my view and the view of my peers, it is not a good look for the Jewish community in the 21st century to seek to censor television programs because they are critical of Israel. The ECAJ pretends that it is a representative organisation of Australian Jewry when in actual fact they only represent a small segment, and reflect a very conservative set of politics.

Many Jews of my generation want to challenge the idea that Jews in Melbourne speak with one voice. We want to challenge mainstream Jewish positions on the Israel/Palestine conflict. We want to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people in Australia and their struggles for land rights and justice. We oppose the vilification and detention of asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia. We support urgent action to combat catastrophic climate change. We want to build a feminist world and create spaces that are open to people of all sexualities.

The young people interviewed for the AJDS research project placed a lot of value on an organisation like the AJDS existing in order to provide ‘A Jewish voice amongst progressives and a progressive voice amongst Jews’. Progressive young Jews are crying out for organisations that reflect their values.

There’s a large vacuum that exists in the Jewish community for young people concerned about social justice and environmental sustainability. We aspire to fill it.

To provide an opportunity to further explore what kind of Jewish community young Jews want, the AJDS is hosting a forum called ‘Re-imagining the Jewish Community: A forum for Young Jews’.  The forum will be held on Sunday March 4 at 3pm. Young people interested in attending should contact Max Kaiser at co.ajds@gmail.com

The AJDS research report, ‘Enhancing the AJDSEngagement with Young People’ was researched and written by Dr. Helen Rosenbaum. Max Kaiser (aged 24), comes from a social activist background and became the AJDS’ Community Organiser in October 2011.

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