Ministry of Absorption Controversy: What Do YOU Think?

Ministry of Absorption Controversy: What Do YOU Think?

A few weeks ago a ton of controversy erupted surrounding a video campaign by Israel’s Ministry of Absorption promoting aliya among Israeli expatriots (AKA Yordim). Many infuriated American Jews claimed that these videos are a “demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews”* and the Ministry of Absorption abruptly canceled the campaign.

I personally thought these videos were really powerful and poignant. The American children and husband in the videos are completely ignorant about the Israeli family member’s Israeli-ness. But why is portraying that painful reality “Israeli contempt for American Jews.” I can’t really understand what all the controversy is about.

What do YOU think of these videos, JewishMOMs?

*Quotation from Jeffrey Goldberg


  1. This is not contempt for American Jews. It is love for the things many American Jews are steadily moving away from: the deep connection to the People of Israel, our history and our heritage. These ads speak a deep and resonant truth that American Jews are afraid to acknowledge or admit.

  2. I found the commercials poignant.I agree with Daniella.

  3. These clips remind me of the discussion between the Hazon Ish and Ben Gurion.

    Interestingly, the campaign was directed at Israelis living in America and the ones who expressed the most insult (from the stories I saw) are non-Israeli Americans. Were the Israeli Americans also insulted?

    I can certainly understand why American Jews would feel threatened by the suggestion that their future is insecure and that the Israel is where the future of the Jewish People will be determined. They doth protest too much.

  4. I think a lot of israelis end up finding religion when they move out of israel

    • Very true. My husband is one of them!

    • that’s a great idea Esther–they should be convincing Yordim to come back by telling them their children will do teshuva! That would be much more effective…

    • This is very true. Many “Yordim” find that the only way to give their children any Jewish identity is to move closer to religious observance. Many secular Yordim send their children to religious schools, even though in Israel, they would never dream of such a thing. The fact is that secular Israeli values can be passed on to the next generation in Israel only. In any other country, they simply become secular values.

  5. I think there is a deeper issue here than the children simply not being Israeli citizens, or their parents emigrating away from Israel. This is about assimilation, and the loss we experience through that.

    I don’t know what it is like in Israel, but in North America, there is a very high assimilation rate, and I saw these videos as an extension of that.

  6. a few angry jewish-American articles I saw said that the goal of these videos is make the Israelis feel guilty. But that is really an inaccurate depiction of what’s the videos’ message is. The videos are meant to make Yordim see how much they have left behind.

  7. Caroline Bass

    I have to agree with Daniella. My husband is Israeli and we live in Los Angeles where there is a very large Israeli community. B”H my kids are very involved in Jewish learning, we speak Hebrew to them at home and they are proud to be Jews, but I think these ads speak very candidly to what happens to the children of Israelis who come here and don’t take the time to invest in their children’s Jewish and Hebrew (language) education. Part of the reason why it’s so important in our household is that I am American and I know what happens if you don’t strongly integrate Jewish life into your home – and it took me a long time to convince my Israeli husband of that. I have many Israeli family members who moved here in their 20’s, have teenage children now and their children have absolutely no connection to Israel or Judaism since the parents simply thought it would come to them somehow the way they felt it all around them growing up in Israel. Yes, I have also seen secular Israelis become more religious since they know that if they don’t invest their children will lose all Jewish values, but most seem to think that, “Oh, we’re Israeli so of course Israel will be important to our kids”, when in reality the kids grow up with no connection to Jewish values. These ads are a good wake up call and the fact that they caused so much controversy may be because sometimes, as the saying goes, the truth hurts.

    • Said beautifully!

    • Very true and speaking from experience I have to say that jewish education is extremely expensive and most secular israelis can’t or don’t feel. like the prices are justified ,its about 1000 dollars, and can go up to as much as 2500 per childper month….across the board reform conservative orthodox, the orthodox schools are cheaper and offer scholarship funding and the school day can go as late as 5pm leaving little time for homework or playtime, the schedule is so packed ,they need to be on the same curriculm as public school while integrating jewish studies like 5 subjects worth ….plus exams and phys ed and some kind of activity after school…israelis that arent into religion too much feel that some of the subjects are a waist of time and then you have secular kids in religious schools influencing religious kids and a lot of clashing….i know of kids that their teachers tel them to email them questions because theres no time in class to answer questions…so its a problem and dilema for israelis living abroad…despite it all it is really important to make sure they are in an environment that keeps them connected to their jewish identity so this is really why the commercials are appropriate since in israel the kids can get whatever dose of judiasm they chose, and being abroad living the american lifestyle without any jewish education actually molds an identity that is foreign to their roots…

  8. Obviously this campaign is for ‘secular’ Israelis, and so it aims to tug at the heartstrings to awaken Israelis’ desire to go back home. But what I don’t understand is why it’s in third person, and not directed at the Israeli him/herself.

    It’s Hashem Who brings Jews home, not the Ministry of the Interior. Though, as a returning citizen due home next month, it is really nice to have the upgraded benefits that the MoI has instituted as part of their lure to get Israelis to head back there.

    I agree with you, Chana Jenny. This is not the first time Jewish Americans have missed the mark on Israeli actions…

  9. I would reflect from a different point. My children go to the chabad gan and there are many israeli children there. Their parents are mostly eighter buisnesman or studants. Most of them moove back to Israel when the children turn to schoolage. I think the point is usully that parents wnt to give the best to their children – and here in Hungary they dont find wht they wnt. In America they do, more thn in Isrel so they stay.
    These commercial remind me bit of those that “advertise” the jewish communities with the soah suggesting that no matter how hard you try to assimilate ull remain n outsider, They dont show what you earn with going back, but only what you loose. They dont show that Israel is good, but they want to show America is bad. As a communiction expert I would show them why is it good to go back – these adds are just pressing the good old jewish guilt button.

  10. sorry, again no spellcheck, and my laptops ‘a’ button is disfunctioning….

  11. there was and old song we sang in Bnei Akiva: good by America, good by assimilition lets go to Israel to be a Jewish nation. They should try this one :DDDDD

  12. these sad vignettes result from the american jewish establishment’s passive response to assimilation. i often feel the same sense of sadness when i meet an israeli who has no knowledge of the beauty of Torah and our heritage…..missed opportunities

  13. Someone I know posted this funny parody, which I thought you might appreciate:

  14. For readers interested in an exploration of American Jewish identity, I highly recommend the book “Miriam’s Kitchen: A Memoir” by Elizabeth Ehrlich

  15. The concept could apply to any immigrant. They always remain true to the place of their birth while their children are ignorant as to where the children came from. Hence those who left what was Rhodesia are known in SA and probably other countries they moved to as “when we’s” But their kids probably dont even know what or where Rhodesia is. Do you?

  16. Sharon Saunders

    American Jews get bent out of shape when they feel people don’t think they are Jewish enough – but they think Jewish enough is owning up to the fact that they were born Jews. And they still think that America is the goldena medina. So if you say to Israeli Jews, ‘hey, you don’t want to be American Jews; you want your children to have a real connection to Israel and their Judaism,’then American Jews feel slighted. We want the yordim back – we don’t want them to be Americans and basically the Americans are saying, “Why not? What’s the matter with being an American Jew?”

    To find out the answer to that question, ask an assimilated American Jew what s/he is doing for Purim? You will get a very puzzled look.

    All of my friends (Americans originally) who moved back are now the in-laws of non-Jews. Those who went back but whose kids stayed here married Jews.

  17. I don;t think it shows any contempt for american jews. it is not about american jews, it is about israeli jews who are being assimilated into american culture – for which read xian culture – and the importance of counteracting that by helping them return to the only country in the world which centres around Jewish holidays and Jewish values.

    I think that the reaction of American jews (inside or outside of America) just shows how deeply American jewry identifies with America, something which cannot be said about the jewry of any other country. And that strong identification is a big problem.

  18. I just read this very thoughtful critique of the criticism of the ads. you might be interested to have a look.

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