At this year’s General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, young Jews took to the streets of New Orleans to work on social service projects. They heard Jewish leaders exhort them about the dangers of the “delegitimization” of Israel. And some young Jews were ejected from the gathering when they stood up in the middle of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to protest Israeli policies with shouts and signs.9
The day I arrive in Munich is dismal and gray. One of the jewels in Germany’s crown, the Bavarian capital does not impress on a day like this. Rather, the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz, and the elegant shopping boulevard Maximilianstrasse seem dull and lifeless. Inside, the beer halls are bustling. No wonder — they are the only islands of cheer on this October day.
Robert D. Putnam is one of those Harvard University professors respected for his scholarly research and celebrated for the masterful way he connects it to the narrative of modern life. When he wrote that Americans were “bowling alone” — and therefore no longer building up “social capital,” the trust, informal networks and energetic communities necessary for a healthy, engaged democracy — his indictment of civic life in a book with that catchy title drew the attention of White House policymakers and influenced a generation of political scientists.
Israel is poised to enshrine in law the right of some villages to handpick residents, following the advance of legislation that some decry as carte blanche for ethnic discrimination.3
For a Jewish Democratic congressman who has been a staunch ally of Israel, it was a troubling sign.
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