Some Jews are more Jewish than others

The Israeli government pulls a controversial ad campaign warning Israelis in the U.S. their Jewish identity is at risk


We expect the Israeli government to warn its citizens against the dangers of intermarriage. But the Netanyahu government has been warning Israelis against marrying or associating too closely with other Jews–American Jews. One of the 30-second television ads, pulled from U.S. TV after an outcry among American journalists and bloggers, shows a young Israeli woman living in a U.S. city with a man who is implied to be Jewish-American. The guy, an American hipster if there ever was one, doesn’t understand why his girlfriend is sad on Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli memorial day. “They will always remain Israelis,” the announcer says in Hebrew. “Their partners may not understand what they’re talking about.” Steven Weiss, who first reported on the campaign for The Jewish Channel, summed up the message as “Marrying American Jews could make Israelis lose their sense of identities.” Or as the Netanyahu government sheepishly put it when announcing the cancellation of the project, they “clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”

After receiving tips from viewers across the U.S., Weiss collected together several of these ads last month, announcing that “a concerted effort is targeting Israeli expatriates in at least five cities to convince them that their heritage will be lost if they don’t soon leave America to go back to Israel.” The campaign, created by the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, uses every technique imaginable to make Israelis feel that their identity is in danger. One billboard urges people to leave America before their children start calling them “daddy” instead of addressing them in Hebrew. In another TV commercial, an Israeli couple is appalled to discover that their American-raised granddaughter thinks that she’s supposed to celebrate Christmas. The message is clear: Jews born and raised in America might just as well be goyim.

The Atlantic’s Israel specialist Jeffrey Goldberg, who translated some of the ads for his blog, was appalled at finding an anti-American message emanating from official Israeli productions. “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” he fumed. But Sofa Landver, the minister who runs the department responsible for the ads, thinks that American critics are showing “foolishness” by taking offense, and that the response has been great from its target audience of expatriates: “We managed to touch all the right emotional buttons,” she enthused.

Talking to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., Landver said that she has “the highest respect” for American Jews, but that the campaign had nothing to do with Jewishness. “Minister Edelstein is the one who needs to communicate with the Jewish Community,” she said, referring to the Minister of Information and Diaspora. “I’m in charge of returning Israelis.” In other words, these ads aren’t saying that American Jews are less Jewish than Israelis; that’s someone else’s bureaucratic department. They’re just saying, as Landver put it, that “Israelis who linger too long in the Diaspora risk losing their Jewish roots.”

But some observers find it ironic that at the same time the Netanyahu government demands maximum American cooperation and respect, it is signing off on advertisements that portray America as an alien country, sapping the uniqueness of Israelis. “The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid,” Goldberg wrote, “but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.”


Some Jews are more Jewish than others

  1. Macleans, this article is an embarrassment to your organization and to journalism in general. It is completely misleading and contains false information. The article is wrong from the title all the way to the last sentence. The ads have nothing to do with Judaism or American Jews. None of the ads mention the word Jewish or Jew at all. What they do mention is the word Israeli. The ads are about Israeli identity, not Judaism or religious practice. You claim that the boyfriend in the clip is “implied to be Jewish-American”. I can’t even begin to imagine how you can bring yourselves to publish this outrageous claim. There is nothing that implies that he is Jewish – just that he is not Israeli. So no, these ads have nothing to do with some Jews being more Jewish than others. They have to do with some Americans being less Israeli than Israelis.

    • Wow. Great spin job. Pure Zionism truly does trump logic and reason.

  2. Wasn’t this nationalist attitude suppose to have been discarded after WWII?
    Seems odd that the Israelis are implying eugenic superiority.

  3. Ah…I see…the ads aren’t saying that Israeli Jews are better than American Jews, it’s saying that Israelis are better than Americans.  Thanks for clearing that up. 

    • Oh please, give me a break! As if Americans aren’t nationalists that are proud of their identity and think they are the greatest country in the world. And as if Canadians don’t look down at Americans and believe Canada is the best. Israel is not the only country that makes efforts to fight against brain drain. It’s a big concern in Canada too – ask the doctors. It’s not about Israelis being better than Americans. It’s about Israel wanting Israeli expats to return home. If you’re still having trouble understanding, I’m afraid I can’t make it any more clear than that. Best of luck.

      • Out of curiosity, how many unicorns and rainbows in the world you live in Brian?

        No Brian, it is not about Israeli expats returning home. This is a continuation of the guilt trip that Israeli Jews dump on Jews outside of Israel since 1948. Most of it is pretty moderate, but this particular campaign borders on the disgusting, and feels like a racism of Jews on Jews. Which is why it was pulled. Only a pure “whatever they do is fine by me” Zionist couldn’t see that.

      • Actually, Brian, I understand it quite well.  I’m afraid you’re having trouble with it, though.  On one hand, you say it’s fine to be jingoistic, and the next, you’re claiming the ads aren’t jingoistic.  Israel doesn’t want expat Israelis marrying non Israeli jews…full stop.  Considering it’s American Jews making the loudest objections, one might think that they, better than anyone, would understand the subtleties of the relevant subtexts…but it seems they aren’t clear on it either. 

      • Maybe Israel shouldn’t allow dual citizenship then.  Or accept any money from the U.S.  Talk about biting the hand that feeds.

  4. What do you expect from a country that was a built on a
    ideology that Palestine the promise land only belong to a people of a certain
    religion (i.e. Judaism)?

  5. Why does this not surprise me this codescending Israeli Jewish attitude, we are the best and we deserve to be treated special. Give me a break my tax dollars going to defend your arrogance.
    Good job mccleans.

  6. I loved the article and I can understand the outrage.
    I had the same one when I saw the commercials for the first time.
    As a former Israeli who left the country on my own will, I hated seeing my former country trying to lure back other individuals who got frustrated with Israel, with a campaign targeting the most basic emotional feelings. Yes, anybody who leaves any country has a sense of yearning from time to time, but to use it as a trap to get people back into the mad house called Israel is diabolical. 
    What is more absurd is that the commercials were probably funded by American Jews and American tax payers’ aid money. 
    Israel and Israelis have always valued themselves much higher than they really are. The main sentence in the commercials “help them get back home” is offensive as it once again patronizing; they, who live abroad, can’t see what is good for them and only real Israeli living in Israel is smart enough to show them the way.

    What is worse are the responses to the article. I thought we all live as free people in free country where anybody can make up his or her mind. Brian, or other individuals who justify these commercials, your place is probably with the rest in Israel and not trying to defend Israeli position from the comfort of your couch here in Canada. 
    Once again, it’s the same double standards; Israel wants US money but, god forbids, none of the western influence, and Bryan is supporting Israel without actually being there and living through the same hardships and death as those which made me leave that country for good.          

  7. Ooooh there is something interesting in the second clip!!  What is on the cover of The Economist ever so artfully draped over the chest of the sleeping father?  I do believe that it is the twin towers.  Hmm, I wonder, why would they choose that cover?  

    And the body language in the first clip of the couple entering the NY apartment.  How telling!  

  8. Despicable racism summed up in the first sentence (completely unintentionally).

     “We expect the Israeli government to warn its citizens against the dangers of intermarriage.”

    Israelis and their supporters would dare suggest they are like “us”, members of moderate nations that respect other cultures and peoples. Yes they warn people of intermarriage!

    One of the top stories this week was a Kentucky church that sanctioned an official position against interracial couples. It is a top story because it is so outrageous. However, the Israelis are completely on record with the same type position, and that is just “expected”, and yet, at the same time, as Westerners, we are supposed to support “Israel”, like it is a special, flawless nation, persecuted, but never persecuting.

    I feel sorry for a lot of Jewish people. I feel sure many of them are more progressive than this racist nation they are expected to support reflexively. I hope more and more of them start to speak out and say “I am a proud Jewish person, but I do not support Israeli racism”. If Israel would ever lose it reflexive American support, no matter how racist/xenophobic it was, wow, we might actually inch toward a peace agreement!

  9. Dear Jaime Weinman, please find a good translator… otherwise you will sued for misinterpretation and racism… The clip is about Israeli values and there is nothing to do with American or any kind of Jews people. Shame on you!

    • Fail!

  10. The irony of Israel engaging in racial purity policies.  Mind = Blown.