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Daniel Gordis

Why American Jews Mostly Shrugged Off the Ultimate Insult

An Israeli leader compared intermarriage to the Holocaust, putting on display the deep rift between members of the faith in both countries.

Mazel tov!

Mazel tov!

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

When news broke last week that a right-wing member of Israel’s government, Rafi Peretz, had remarked that assimilation of American Jews is a “second Holocaust,” a column in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper braced for the worst reaction, proclaiming, “Israel’s Education Minister Just Said Most American Jews Are Dead to Him.”

The response from American Jews, though, has been mostly muted. Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, chastised Peretz in a tweet, saying: “It’s inconceivable to use the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe Jews choosing to marry non-Jews. It trivializes the Shoah.” But as for the impact on relations between American Jews and Israel, Greenblatt was almost gentle, saying Peretz’s comment “does little other than inflame and offend.” The American Jewish Committee also tweeted a slap at Peretz, calling his comment “offensive and unhelpful.” More telling, however, was its acknowledging that “assimilation challenges Jewish continuity and Diaspora identification with Israel and must be grappled with.”