(Jerusalem, September 14, 2020) In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Jewish communities worldwide should prepare for a significant wave of anti-Semitism and many Jews in Europe are already concealing their Jewish identities., according to JPPI’s Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People.

The Annual Assessment, which is published each year on the eve of the Jewish New Year, was recently presented to President Reuven Rivlin and members of the Israeli Cabinet. Click here for the full report.

This year’s report is understandably affected by COVID-19 and all the uncertainties associated with it. This historic pandemic will have far-reaching impacts, still not discernable, in the way the Jewish People work, communicate, travel, worship, and support Jewish and communal institutions. The report identifies many of the unknowns about how the coronavirus is going to shape the future from the international consequences to the differing possibilities for the Jewish world.

The Annual Assessment points out that that if the populist, extreme nationalist impulse tends to continue to predominate throughout much of the world, it will be accompanied by an increase in the rejection of “the other”—and Jews have always been the quintessential other.

Globalization, which greatly benefits Israel as a major exporter of high tech products, has clearly suffered a direct blow. In the early stages of responding to the pandemic, countries began taking a more protectionist, national view to assure they would have sufficient medical resources that can be produced at home, rather than being shared. The risk of a great economic downturn, which is almost certainly going to characterize the reality in many countries in the coming year, is not only likely to foster a populist response but also compound the trend of growing anti-Semitism.

In the geopolitical discussion, the US-Chinese competition, what some are already calling a new Cold War, will certainly affect Israel. Caught in the middle, Israel is likely to be subject to real pressures from the US on Chinese investment in Israeli infrastructure—ports, rail lines and communications infrastructure—and Israeli trade in the high tech sector.
Regarding the contentious and polarizing US presidential election campaign, JPPI suggests that the Government of Israel should take a neutral position.

With the breakthrough between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and other Gulf states likely in the future, relations with many parts of the Arab world will no longer be under the table or largely invisible. But it is not just shared threat perceptions mainly vis-à-vis Iran and common security concerns that drove this breakthrough, it was also the recognition that the two most dynamic and technologically driven economies in the region could gain even more through cooperating in areas of health, water, agriculture and cyber.

The Israel-UAE and Bahrain breakthrough has generally been welcomed. Not all are willing to forsake the Palestinian cause, but one consequence of the breakthrough is that by taking unilateral Israeli annexation off the table, a major exacerbating problem with the American Jewish community and the Diaspora more generally, with the Democratic Party in the United States, and with the Europeans has been avoided.

On identity issues, the Assessment points out that the picture here is also mixed. Affiliation with synagogues has been declining but COVID-19 has produced expansive online Jewish learning and institutional programs. And, Reform and Conservative synagogues are holding Shabbat and prayer services digitally and getting large turnouts. Surely, some of that is tied to sheltering in place and looking for things to do, but those who begin to join these services may also find their spiritual needs being addressed and may well be more likely to affiliate. It is too soon to know but also too soon to write-off what may also be more positive outcomes. And yet the continuing trends on Jewish identification in the Diaspora with synagogues and other communal institutions, low birthrates, and high rates of intermarriage without conversion to Judaism by the non-Jewish spouse are troubling.

As for resources and philanthropy, the Jewish communities will be hit like all others. The Assessment acknowledges that but also points out that they may be hit less hard even while patterns of giving may also change.

For the first time, JPPI is releasing a polarization index that reflects significant gaps in the positions and opinions within Israeli society and within the American Jewish community. The conclusions: the gap between Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and non-Haredi Jews grew significantly and poses a central challenge to the Jewish world. In parallel, strengthening Jewish identity among young US Jews, and among segments of the community that are distancing is another significant challenge. Communal leaders should encourage the Haredi community to share in shouldering responsibility for the general Jewish community and encourage them to participate in American public service.

In the near future, Avinoam Bar-Yosef will be retiring as JPPI’s president and founding director after 18 years in the position: “The Jewish people is currently facing challenges that will determine our fate in the foreseeable future,” said Bar-Yosef. “Aside from polarization and distancing between Diaspora communities and Israel – the main challenge demanding immediate attention is the generational transition of leadership. These will determine not just the internal strength of the Jewish people in the coming generations, but also the extent of its influence on humanity. As Israel becomes the largest Jewish community, it must take the leading responsibility. Diaspora Jewry is and will continue to be a strategic asset to the State of Israel. In order to maintain this asset, Israel must be committed to investing in it while taking into consideration its needs and the positions of world Jewry. I wish to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart the winning team that took on JPPI’s mission: the Institute’s fellows, its Board of Directors and Professional Guiding Council headed by Ambassadors Stuart Eizenstat and Dennis Ross, for their partnership and deep commitment to the future of the Jewish people and the state of Israel as the core state of the Jewish people” stressed Bar-Yosef.

JPPI creates and presents action-oriented policy recommendations to the Government of Israel and main Jewish organizations worldwide. JPPI has presented its Annual Assessment to the full Israeli Cabinet each year since 2004 following a decision made by the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The 2020 report was prepared jointly by JPPI fellows under the lead of Shmuel Rosner.

For additional information contact Laura Kam, laura@kamgs.com +972-54-806-8613.

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