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Israel and world Jewry: It should be a love story

The new government must invest in the full diversity of the Jewish people, globally; the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has laid the groundwork to do so
Jews around the world - in a map compiled on Wikipedia with data from Wikipedia's own pages and the Joshua Project, including the disclaimer that information may therefore be omitted or out of date or inaccurate. (Wikipedia)
Jews around the world - in a map compiled on Wikipedia with data from Wikipedia's own pages and the Joshua Project, including the disclaimer that information may therefore be omitted or out of date or inaccurate. (Wikipedia)

A vibrant relationship between Israel and world Jewry has never been so mutually desired and needed as it is today. That is why it was welcome to see that the government set to be sworn in on Sunday will prioritize the State of Israel’s relationship with world Jewry through “acting upon its commitment to strengthen the unity of the Jewish people, encourage aliyah, and increase the mutual understanding between the State of Israel and world Jewry.”

This incoming government set for itself a vision fundamental to the core purpose and future of the State of Israel as the Jewish nation state. Taking authentic steps in this direction will require building upon recent progress made while committing to a process of audacious listening, compromise, and decision-making in the months ahead.

Ensuring the continuation of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs as an independent ministry was an important first step. This ministry previously functioned as an office with individual projects, which left some to question its value at all. Upon entering the position, I embraced the ministry’s role as an address for world Jewry with the goal of building a more mutual conversation and relationship between us. Yet it would become clear over time that the necessary infrastructure within the government to bring about this reality remains to be built. In response, we focused on creating the language and framework with the development of a long-term strategic plan and set of responsibilities.

With no need or time to reinvent the wheel, this work ought to be embraced and built upon by the next government. As an important first step, the new minister’s cabinet should pass a ready government decision requiring that the government formalize consultation between the State of Israel and world Jewry. Establishing such a process will set the foundation for Israel to respond to the needs and interests of Jewish communities living outside of Israel. The Decision requires that the government work in partnership with Israel’s national institutions to convene Jewish voices a minimum of six times a year, and create professional roles within the government to build direct and ongoing relationships with Jewish communities.

With consultation now appearing regularly on the agenda of major Jewish conferences, articles and discussions, this idea is backed by broad consensus and anticipation within the Jewish world. Having not had a fully functional government for the last six months, the decision is waiting to be presented and passed. If the new government is sincere about its commitment, it should waste no time in formalizing a consultation process.

Second, the new government must double down on its investment in shared Jewish peoplehood activities in order to bridge the growing divide between Israel and world Jewry. In part, this gap is based on a lack of understanding and appreciation for world Jewry within Israeli society, rooted in Zionism’s original “rejection of the Diaspora.” Our office’s work in response to this challenge began with the launch of an Israeli Jewish peoplehood center to engage Israeli society to see themselves as a part of a larger Jewish people. It will be the task of the new government to take on and significantly expand this work.

Third, we must continue to build Jewish literacy around the world. This requires investing in affordable, creative and high quality Jewish education — both formal and informal. In this spirit, our office recently launched a Global Jewish Education Center. Ensuring its success will necessitate working in partnership in the coming months with Jewish educators, schools and experts around the world to ensure that the government’s investment responds to the needs and desires of the Jewish education field.

Finally, the new government must commit to building bridges with and making investments in the full diversity of the Jewish people — not simply the leaders of top institutions or those whom we agree with.

It is the duty, and in fact, the privilege of the government of Israel to build a deep, reciprocal relationship with world Jewry. Taking on this mission will ensure that our best days as a nation are yet to come.

About the Author
Omer Yankelevitch is Minister of Diaspora Affairs and a Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party.
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