The Multiple Loyalties of American Jews

Being a patriotic American and a supporter of Israel.

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Soul Searching

What, then, is to be done? This writer is a Jew who loves America deeply, loves Israel deeply, and suffers for the sorrows of both. My complex identity is a constant goad, challenging me to understand, judge, and live out the meaning of my commitments to America and Israel and their respective values. The ostensible dilemma of "dual loyalty" is in some ways one of the more wrenching forms of the contemporary identity dilemmas coursing through the world today. 

The questions raised, however clumsily, by Walt and Mearsheimer--and Judt, for that matter--should on the one hand force American Jews to think hard about the very real geopolitical dilemmas facing the United States and Israel. On the other hand, the questions raised, however disturbingly, by my wife, should make American Jews think hard about themselves and their lives, about whether their support for Israel goes deeper than the satisfactions of feel-good advocacy as well as the inevitable limitations in their empathy.

This leaves us once again trying to make sense of our dual inheritance as Jews and as Americans--of these two extraordinary and complicated traditions--and trying to figure out how to bring them together in our lives. That in the end is one of America's many gifts. It is always pushing the limits of our frontiers.


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Yehudah Mirsky

Yehudah Mirsky, a former US State Department official, lives in Jerusalem and is a Fellow at the Van Leer Institute and Harvard.