Uninspired Youth


By Eli Ajzenman

How do you know you have been a successful Jewish parent? The answer, I am told, is if your grandchildren are still Jewish.

The other night I attended a community meeting sponsored by Jewish action group Achdut Halev along with the JNF and Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The theme of the night was ”Israel 2009 and Beyond in a World of Uncertainty”. A panel of guest speakers included Etan Dorey (Friends), Jamie Hyams (AIJAC), Joe Krycer (JNF Victoria) and Ginette Searle (State Zionist Council of Victoria).

The theme seemed adequate enough, given the situation in which Israel and Jews around the world find themselves — the highest level of attacks on Jews since those in Germany before 1939.

The constant barrage from academia, NGOs, UN committees, usual enemies of the Jewish state such as Syria and Iran and ashamedly many so-called Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, makes for a frightening sense of a world intent on remedying its ills with a good old-fashioned pogrom.

Although this time around it’s about destabilising and eliminating Jewish influence around the globe for the most part, and in the Middle East specifically.

I digress. What did this eminent panel of speakers come up with to present to a full house (average age of 50) expecting to hear some deeper insight into the future of Israel and Jews in general?

One would expect an audience attending this type of meeting would undoubtedly be, for the most part, well read and informed.

One would have expected the speakers to provide some unique perspective, some allegorical evidence, perhaps an unexplored vision of possibilities with a smattering of post-2009 scenarios.

But what was delivered was a banal, stereotypical, uninspired and, worse still, unprepared set of speeches. Etan Dorey insulted us by reading most of his speech from a Jerusalem Post op-ed piece directed at new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before her arrival in Israel.

Jamie Hyams was no more inspiring or prepared as he provided us with an assessment that was mostly from published material on the JAC website.

Joe Krycer, in a paid political advertisement, blatantly used the night as a promotional vehicle for the work of the JNF, sneakily bridging the night’s theme with reference to the co-operation between Jordan and the JNF on water, stressing economic inter-dependence as a unifying force for peace and stability. A nice segue twixt the two, but only just.

Ginette Searle rounded off the pedestrian evening with an exploration of relationships between Israel and its diaspora. There was some reference to what inspired her as a youth (the Entebbe rescue) and the work the Zionist Council has been doing with youth. But I can’t remember much more of what she said because it had so little relevance to the night, and I switched off.

Finally, it was at question time that something stirred the grey matter — a question from a concerned mother. It had nothing to do with the theme specifically but what it did do was highlight an immense, hidden problem in our community and, I suspect, all Jewish communities.

Directing the question at Searle, she asked what the Jewish organisations were doing to support students, specifically at universities, in combating constant verbal attacks by left-wing political, but not necessarily Palestinian, agitators.

Her daughter was unable to fend off these well-versed and highly motivated students with a knowledgeable response she could confidently rely on. She had for two weeks asked for guidance from Jewish organisations. But the only help she had received was from two non-Jewish students in the students’ union.

Growing up at a time when Israel was seen as the miracle of the Mideast, and post 1967 and certainly after Entebbe, being a Jewish youth was a very proud place to be. I remember how active and steadfast the Australasian Union of Jewish Students on all campuses were well organised and active.

When in 1973 and onwards Jewish “refuseniks” sought to emigrate to Israel, the calls of “let my people go” bellowed from campuses around the world,it seemed that standing and being counted as Jew was as natural as waiting in line for a tram.

Sadly those days of high expectations are gone. Many of our children go through school, even Jewish day schools knowing very little about Israel, and even less about the politics of the conflict and the history behind it.

Like most of the world their views on Israel are tarnished by the biased media onslaught, so much so they question their own allegiances.

When you have prominent Jewish writers and academics supporting calls for Israel to be classed as a racist state, when the news is consistently filled with untruths and half truths, it is understandable that our youth are at best embarrassed and worst unable to defend themselves and Israel’s policy.

Despite the programs which send some on trips to Israel and Europe in the hope of inspiring their identity, many others never get the opportunity and seem to have fallen into an identity void.

Why, in only 2 or 3 generations, have our Jewish youth gone from standing up and not only being counted but being able to verbalise and demonstrate a knowledge of the events, to finding themselves on the back foot, seeking help.

Somewhere we,  the previous generation, have failed to instill in them a passion that was once so part of our social character.


2 thoughts on “Uninspired Youth

  1. I’ve just arrived back from Israel after spending four weeks very much as a resident and not a tourist. You wonder if all the men you see disabled physically and emotionally are the result of being involved in protecting Israel. There is alot of unseen damage that trauma had caused to so many there. You see pain in peoples faces and wonder what has happened in the past to cause it.
    What made my two sons passionate about Israel and not my daughter? I believe it is in their nature, and religious tendencies. Apart from sending them to a religious zionistic school where they made friends with others who shared their passion for Israel. It was in their personalities to make a difference and care for the future that would be disastrous without Israel. As parents we can only guide them towards being loving, unselfish, caring adults, and I believe that happens in our example of doing just that ourselves. As a grand parent so far of Jewish grandchildren I suppose I must have done something right.

  2. Much of what is described actually has little to do with Israel. Israel, per se, hasn’t changed, but new ideologies driven by political correctness have. Tragically, these ideologies also infect the same strata of Israelis as around the world, thanks to mass communication like the internet. So Israeli academics may become academics first, sharing prejudices that are as driven by ideologies as other academics. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Ha’aretz newspaper. Once the mouthpiece of the Mapam/Hashomer Hatzair/kibbutz Artzi zionist movement, it is today the paper most often quoted by Israel’s enemies, with many of its journalist harbouring a virulent hatred for the very concept of a Jewish state … and it is all reflected in the work they produce and in their efforts to discredit Israel.

    In a world driven by anti-nationalist sentiment, by support for the underdog, for colour against white, for narrative against truth, that is all wholly divorced from context, and by a level of antisemitism that hasn’t been seen since Europe of the 1930s, somehow, I don’t know how, despite the media, despite the academics, the truth, a little tarnished, seems to shine through. On the blogs I don’t feel alone. So many who aren’t Jewish take on the ratbags with knowledge and context that they have clearly gone to a lot of trouble to glean.

    Perhaps the old saying is true, and truth will ultimately win out, but that will only happen if people don’t stand idly by … and clearly so many don’t.

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