There has been a lot of chatter over the last week about the new ad campaign in Israel for Masa, the cooperative venture that sponsors long-term programs in Israel for North Americans. The video is below. The Hebrew roughly translates as: “More than 50% of Jewish youth in the diaspora are assimilated, and will ultimately be lost to us. If you have a relative in North America, connect them with Masa. A year in Israel leads to love of life.”

So a lot of people have been offended. I get it. But the real issue here isn’t offense (which I find to be a useless emotion), but the chasm that exists between Israelis and American Jews. The makers of this ad, which evidently comes directly from the Prime Minister’s office, simply don’t get what being Jewish is about for the vast majority of American Jews. For that, they might want to read my friend David Bryfman’s piece in this morning’s eJewishPhilanthropy about his study of American Jewish teenagers. The ad conveys direct failure on almost all of David’s ten points.

What this perhaps mostly boils down to is this: American Jews are becoming ever more de-institutionalized (for better or worse) and the State of Israel is presenting itself–at least in this campaign–as the ultimate Jewish institution (which it is). Israel can be so many things, and it is the best resource we have for helping strengthen the Jewish identity of American young adults. What emerges from this for me is that we need to do a much better job of building real relatonships and understanding between the two cultures. Otherwise we will indeed become two peoples.

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