(May 8, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.) Visiting the United States in the 1830s, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at how Americans organized themselves into associations that expressed their deepest convictions.
Like their co-nationals, American Jews have displayed an exceptional ability to create communal organizations expressing a diverse range of philanthropic, religious and advocacy goals. But although American Jews may differ from one another on religious and social questions, they are, more often than not, woven together by a common thread: support for the Jewish state.
It was this reason that Golda Meir, on a fundraising mission to the United States in 1948 as acting head of the Jewish Agency, addressed the General Assembly of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds in Chicago. She implored the assembly of more than 250 Jewish organizations to support funding for defense of the 700,000 Jews under attack by their Arab neighbors in British Mandate Palestine.
Concluding her speech, she said, “I leave the platform without any doubt in my mind or my heart that the decision that will be taken by American Jewry will be the same as that which was taken by the Jewish community in Palestine, so that within a few months from now we will all be able to participate not only in the joy of resolving to establish a Jewish state, but in the joy of laying the cornerstone of the Jewish state.” On that day, she raised $50 million that indeed helped lay the cornerstone of what would become, only a few months later, the State of Israel.
Helping to sustain among American Jews the culture of tzedekah (charity), tikkun olam (the repair of the world) and Ahavat Yisrael (love of the Jewish people), numerous and diverse organizations have enabled and empowered American Jews to effectuate their support for the State of Israel.
Some, like the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League, have focused their efforts in politics. Others, such as Hadassah, have worked to strengthen Israeli society through bolstering health care and communal life. Still other organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee and B’nai Brith, have fostered a holistic approach to Jewish action around the globe, committed to human rights, democracy and Israel. The American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has worked tirelessly with Jews living in persecution or poverty around the world to support them and connect them to the Jewish state.
Furthermore, an extraordinary network of Jewish federations throughout North America works to link Jews wherever they may live and helps them engage with Israel. Respectively, through their educational and philanthropic programming, the federations have brought the Jewish state closer to American Jews.
Since before the establishment of Israel, Jewish organizations in the United States have channeled American Jewish support into a colossal force that has had a profound and invaluable impact on the Jewish state, as well as on strengthening the remarkable alliance between Israel and America.