As I recently embarked on a journey to Israel with the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps, celebrating Israel’s 75th Birthday, the prevailing theme of our trip was dialogue, understanding, and unity. While basking in the rich history and vibrant culture of Israel, we also delved into crucial conversations regarding the relationship between Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews. What became evident during our discussions was an overwhelming sense that Israeli civil society lacks knowledge about and genuine concern for the diaspora. This knowledge gap poses a challenge but also presents an opportunity for growth and progress.
Many Israelis, both within civil society and beyond, seem disconnected from the experiences and struggles of their fellow Jews living in the diaspora. It is not that they actively disregard the diaspora; rather, the issue lies in a lack of awareness and understanding. This disconnect is a byproduct of geographical separation, differing cultural contexts, and limited exposure to the diversity of the Jewish people.
However, amidst this prevailing sense of indifference, there is a ray of hope. Israelis who have had the opportunity to live abroad, mainly through programs facilitated by the Jewish Agency, tend to have a deeper understanding of and connection with diaspora Jews. These individuals have experienced firsthand the challenges faced by Jewish communities outside of Israel and recognize the importance of nurturing a sense of unity and solidarity.
To bridge this knowledge gap and foster a stronger Israeli-diaspora relationship, one potential avenue for progress lies in marketing and communication strategies. Traditionally, efforts have focused on encouraging Jews from around the world to visit Israel as a means of building and fortifying Jewish identity. While this approach has its merits, it is equally important to recognize the need for mutual understanding. The responsibility of fostering a connection should not rest solely on the diaspora, but must also be shouldered by Israeli civil society.
A local I met during my journey candidly expressed, “We don’t know you. What we know of you are the religious that make aliyah. If there are Jews like the Jews of Tel Aviv, we don’t know them. You need better branding.” These words underscore the need for a proactive and comprehensive marketing campaign showcasing Jewish life’s diverse tapestry in the diaspora. By highlighting the cultural, intellectual, and artistic contributions of Jews living outside of Israel, Israelis can gain a more nuanced understanding of the diaspora and its significance.
Moreover, technology and social media provide powerful tools to facilitate dialogue and strengthen connections across borders. Through digital platforms, Israelis and diaspora Jews can engage in meaningful conversations, share personal stories, and learn from one another. By harnessing the potential of these platforms, we can transcend physical boundaries and foster a sense of unity and shared purpose among Jews worldwide.
In addition to marketing and communication efforts, it is essential to promote educational programs that offer Israelis and diaspora Jews the opportunity to learn about one another’s histories, traditions, and challenges. These programs should be implemented not only in schools but also in community centers, synagogues, and cultural institutions. By nurturing mutual understanding and empathy, we can break down the barriers that hinder a strong Israeli-diaspora relationship.
Finally, it is crucial to recognize that building a robust connection between Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews requires a concerted effort from both sides. Diaspora Jews must also seek to deepen their understanding of Israeli society, its complexities, and its unique challenges. By engaging in open and respectful dialogue, we can bridge the divide and work towards a shared vision of Jewish unity and strength.
As we celebrate Israel’s 75th Birthday, let us seize this opportunity to forge a path toward a stronger Israeli-diaspora relationship. By prioritizing marketing and communication initiatives, promoting educational programs, and fostering mutual understanding, we can.