The global configuration of business, the huge amount of US companies with an Israeli subsidiary (generally R&D), the growing number of Israeli owned company with a US office (generally marketing and a “shingle” for Wall Street) ensure that Israelis and Americans are in frequent business interaction.
Some of the Americans are Jewish; some are not. This post related to observations accrued over time in working with the interfaces of Americans Jews/non Jews with Israelis.
It is important to state a priori that the most frequent error Americans and Israelis make when starting to work together is the assumption of “apparent similarity”, i.e., the attitude that the 2 cultures are pretty much culturally aligned. This is not the case; there are huge cultural gaps between the US and Israelis in communication style, decision making and basic assumptions about how organizations work. The pain caused by the differences is made all the more worse because of the initial assumption of similarity.
The pain causes some interesting things to happen.
1) At times, American non Jews will ask American Jews to try and explain the Israelis’ behaviour. The American Jew quickly learns “how very American he is” and he may find himself feeling somewhat alienated from his “co religionists”
2) An Israeli manager may assume that an American worker who is Jewish may give him better information about a certain situation. This never happens and the Israeli manager is stunned at “how American” the American Jew is behaving. When the Israeli is ultra- nationalist, he may see the American Jew as almost treacherous.
3) Israelis, known for their preference of the informal network as opposed to working the system, will often turn to a Jewish American. But the Jewish American is American, and he will often not play the game. Thus, the informal networking that Israelis eventually work is the networking done with Indians and Chinese, more than with American Jews.
4) Americans often chose an American Jew to liaise with the Israelis, only to witness that while at times it may work well, this choice often adds an unneeded hidden dynamic.
5) Many American Jews are very assimilated. Interacting with Israelis makes their ethnic background more salient, and they may feel more uncomfortable in dealing with the Israelis.
6) Americans often find great value in working with an Israel-based Israeli who is American born and bred. Israelis find huge value in working with a US based American who is Israeli born and bred.