Israeli ads spark controversy

December 1, 2011 1:46:29 PM PST
The Atlantic magazine tonight making news and water cooler gab time.

There's a Israeli government campaign these days, asking Israelis to not marry Americans - and urging expatriates to basically return home ASAP so they don't lose their identities.

The ads, running in a handful of communities, use Christmas as the launching pad for Israelis becoming Americanized and losing touch with their Judaism. One ad shows a Israeli grandparents sitting with a menorah and video-chatting with the American granddaughter. They ask her what holiday they're celebrating, and she says, "Christmas."

The reaction has been strongly against all this - from Jews here in the U.S. Interestingly, the liberal and reform Rabbis we reached out to today to interview were hesitant to go on camera with their disagreements. Keep in mind that they're usually quite outspoken about broadening the reach of Judaism. In fact, it was the reform movement that led the way in changing the rules about who is Jewish.

Orthodox and many Conservative Jews believe that only if the mother is Jewish can a child be Jewish. But with many American Jews marrying outside the religion - in some congregations, it's not unusual for anywhere from 33 to 50 percent "mixed" religion couples - Reform Jews quickly did the math and realized that their population pool would soon evaporate. So the rule for them is - as long as one parent is Jewish, the child is Jewish.

Now comes the Israeli ads, and what is sparking anger is that Israel so depends on the U.S. and on American Jewry for financial support. So the message, they say, that it's wonderful for Americans to give Israel money - just don't marry them - come with, pardon the Yiddish, a lot of Chutzpah.

Today, one of New York's most outspoken supporters of Israel, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, led the charge against these ads.

It's a big deal, and these ads have unveiled a hornet's nest of emotions.

Of course, the desire by religions and ethnicities to keep tradition alive isn't new. It was a particularly thorny conundrum for American immigrants, who wanted for their children to both keep ties to the homeland and to embrace the new opportunities the U.S. offered. So anyone with an immigrant background anywhere in their family history understands this. But the melting pot that is the U.S. - and New York especially - confronts all that.

We'd like to know what you think. Subscribe to my page on Facebook at CLICK HERE to weigh in on this Israeli campaign. You'll be clicking to my Facebook page, which has this blog.

The melting pot of the tri-state is what we cover - and we'll be doing that, tonight at 11. We'll have any breaking news of the night on this World Aids Day.

Plus Nina Pineda has the story about the potential pitfalls of homeowners signing up with private businesses that promise to save you on your property tax bill. It's an eye-opening 7 On Your Side report.

Meteorologist Lee Goldberg will have his AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers will have the night's sports - it's all coming up when I get together with Sade Baderinwa, tonight at 11.


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