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BREAKING: Many American Jews Are Rich

More seriously, their wealth is crucial to Israel’s well-being

Marc Tracy
October 26, 2011
From the Yediot Ahronoth article.(Ynet)
From the Yediot Ahronoth article.(Ynet)

A new, epic Yediot Ahronoth article about the importance of rich American Jews’ donations to Israel—headline: “How Did American Jews Get So Rich?”—is further proof that anti- and philo-Semitism are frequently twin impostors that can quite easily shade into each other. The article contains the complete story of Jews Making It In America, just the way your father told it to you when you were eight (“Jews Always Studied More”); the history of Jewish immigration to the United States; and copious listing of Jews Who Are Rich. There is also much sociological theorizing that will be familiar to readers of, say, The Jewish Century. “The Jews were the first people to undergo globalization,” argues Federation’s Rebecca Caspi. “They had a network of global connections way before other nations, and a strong and supportive community.” Finally, there are great subheadlines and captions, including, “Jews in all centers of power,” and, “Hollywood: Many Jews.” So many.

Lurking amid all this hilarity, however, is important reporting about Israeli Jews’ dependence on the largesse of their wealthier, American co-religionists.

Many Israeli adults used to receive a parcel from “the rich uncle in America” during their childhood. Thousands of organizations, including hospitals and universities, receive billions of shekels in donations from the U.S. A Hebrew University study found that they make up about two-third of all donations in Israel.

Each new immigrant receives aid from the Jewish Agency, whose budget is mostly made up of donations from the U.S. Many of us live on lands the Jewish National Fund bought from Arabs for Jewish-American money. A haredi yeshiva student gets NIS 1,000 ($295) a month from the Israeli government, and another NIS 3,000 ($885) from haredi American donors. This does not include the federal aid, a significant part of which comes from taxes paid by Jews.

But this may not last, the article concludes. Stateside, dissatisfaction with Israeli politics—some of which, of course, is the result of the American right-wing-ification of Israeli politics—as well as higher rates of intermarriage, the receding memory of the Holocaust, a down economy, and other factors are likely to lead to less money. “Israel would have been established and would have survived even without the American aid, but it would have been poorer,” a former Israeli economic attaché tells the paper. “There are areas, like higher education, in which the aid is critical—and if it suddenly disappears, things will be difficult.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.