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Zvi Ganin, An Uneasy Relationship: American Jewish Leadership and Israel, 1948-1957, Syracuse University Press, 2005, xix + 255 pp
Fred Lazin, The Struggle for Soviet Jewry in American Politics: Israel versus the American Jewish Establishment, Lexington Books, 2005, xii + 356 pp
Stuart Altshuler, From Exodus to Freedom: A History of the Soviet Jewry Movement, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005, xv + 213 pp
ON MAY 10, 2005, ISRAEL'S Central Bureau of Statistics announced that the country's population of Jews (including self-declared Jews not recognized by government) had reached a grand total of 5,550,000. (1) The parallel number for Jews in the United States (where the figures are admittedly less precise and more controversial) is 5,290,000. (2) With little fanfare, Israel has overtaken the United States as the largest Jewish population center in the world.
Even before this news arrived, scholars had begun to re-examine the relationship between American Jewry and Israel. "We Are One"--Melvin I. Urofsky's early book on this subject--echoed a celebrated UJA slogan, but actually reflected more hope than reality. Upon closer inspection, the author himself concluded that "relations between American Jewry and Israel are composed not only of ties that bind, but of differences that sunder." (3) Charles Liebman and Steven M. Cohen's Two Worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American Experiences and Deborah Dash Moore and S. Ilan Troen's Divergent Jewish Cultures: Israel and America expanded on those differences, exploring how "divergent cultures ... emerged from shared origins." (4) Taking an even more downbeat tone, Steven T. Rosenthal entitled his volume Irreconcilable Differences? Subtitled "The waning of the American Jewish love affair with Israel," the volume traces "... the rise of community consensus and its subsequent dissolution in the face of a series of critical confrontations between American Jews and the Jewish state." (5)
The three books now under review revise and complicate our understanding of the relationship between the world's two largest Jewish communities. Zvi Ganin's An …