The Jewish people’s condition develops today amid a world of diversified old and new diasporas. Similarly and possibly even more, Jews are experiencing changing models of interactions – along with confrontation and even cleavages – through continuous bonds of cohesion and solidarity. Whereas classical diasporas implied mainly a return to a real or an imagined homeland, contemporary realities supplement or replace return with dense onward migrations and continuous linkages across borders.
Simultaneously, changing forms of mobility and links have serious impact on the interactions between distinctiveness and integration of groups as well as on inner dynamics. These new forms of interconnectedness draw novel ways of relations better understood through the lenses of diaspora amidst globalization processes and transnationalism. Indeed, in increasingly mobile settings, the singular Jewish experience provides new insights to approach the changing profile of an ethno-national-global diaspora entering a new transnational moment.
Diverse approaches conceive diaspora as a distinctive “community,” held together by a distinctive, active solidarity, as well as by relatively dense social relationships, that cut cross state boundaries and link members of the diaspora in different states into a single “transnational community.”1 Both an ethno-national diaspora character and a transnational trajectory shaped the historic Jewish condition worldwide and specifically in Latin America: the region has experienced a historic process of being attached to different shifting and overlapping external centers that acted as both real/concrete and imaginary/symbolic homelands. These relations evinced strong transnational solidary connections and a dependent or peripheral diaspora character: political concepts, values, aspirations and organizational entities brought with by immigrants, transplanted from previous Jewish experiences in other parts of the world played a fundamental role in the process of cultural and institutional formation.
Gradually the Zionist idea and the new historical center conquered communities and built hegemony. Indeed, Jewish Latin American realities point to historical convergences and interactions between diverse institutional and identity conformations, amidst a singular common trait: a close nexus of an ethno-cultural identity and its national dimension in the mold of diaspora nationalism under Zionist supremacy.
The Zionist idea, the State of Israel and its Center-Diaspora model acted as a focus of identification and a source of identity building, as an axis for the structuring process of communal life, and as a source of legitimacy.
Today’s radical transformations, linked to globalization processes and related changes in the Jewish world system gave birth to a complex array of trends where tacit disagreement and even disputes take place regarding the frontiers of identity, its collective expression and, certainly, the place of the State of Israel. The emergence of new models of relations between communities and the Center and even new processes of de-centralization and new radial configurations shed light onto common trends in the Jewish world and singular developments in Latin American Jewish communities.
New meanings of Center-Home (spiritual, symbolic, material) and transnational ideational motives develop drawing systems of relations among communities that keep differentiated, modified and strong links among them and with Israel.
Certainly, massive migration flows, transnational networks, as well as social, economic, political and cultural interconnectedness mark a new era of reordered territorial spaces and redefined ascriptions, belongings, and identities. The singularity of the Jewish case is manifest in the wide associational and institutional underpinning of collective life and it is precisely through its weight that we may explain the dialectics of boundary maintenance and the role played by Israel. From this perspective, the multi-functionality of the latter for Latin American communities as identity referent, organizational axis and energy catalyzer for building communal life has been determinant.
However, traditional pillars of the relation Israel-Diaspora, its institutional channels and the types of connection have changed. These transformations are analyzed along several dimensions: mobility patterns, the educational ecology and fundraising for the national funds. Diversity is displayed along religious, sub-ethnicity and political axes that may reinforce inner divides and overlap, thus redefining the foci of debates and the relations inside the Jewish world. Certainly, societies, countries and region act as influential contextual settings.
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The Changing Status of Zionism and Israel in Latin American Jewry