Jeremy Pressman in the Boston Review:
In the 1970s and ’80s, many American Jews backed pro-Israel interest groups in Washington, D.C., which quickly gained resources and political influence. By the late 1990s most Jewish leaders not only embraced Israel for the country’s sake but also believed that supporting Israel was key to the survival of U.S. Jews—the largest diaspora Jewish community. Since 1967 Israel’s centrality to Jewish identity has only deepened. The most obvious manifestation is the Birthright program, which was launched in 1999 and has since brought more than 800,000 young American Jews on entirely free ten-day or two-week trips to Israel, with many of its participants visiting the country for the first time. This year the State of Israel celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary, marking less than a century of existence during which the country has shifted profoundly. Israel is now the most powerful state in the Middle East. Not only is it independent, wealthy, and nuclear-armed, it is also embraced by many Jewish cultural, political, and religious organizations around the world.
Alterman’s book then comes at an opportune time, tracking “the debate over Israel in the United States” and offering a close study of ethnoreligious identity, diaspora relations, and foreign policy as the landscape of Israeli support has grown increasingly complex. The book also teases out four important consequences of American Jews centering the Israeli state in Jewish identity.