Aliza Lavie: “We are all one community.”
On Monday, June 11th, a meeting was held by the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs (chaired by MK Avraham Neguise) to address the growing religious, political and cultural divide between Israel and diaspora Jewry. MK Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) attended the meeting and issued a statement promoting the unification of interests and the strengthening of ties between the Jewish State and its brothers and sisters abroad.
Also attending the committee meeting were other members of Knesset (from both the coalition and the opposition) and representatives from various diaspora organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee. Members of far-right religious parties declined to attend the committee meeting.
The core issues discussed during the session were the issue of Jewish assimilation in the diaspora, the issue of Israel’s role within the collective identities of diaspora Jewry and the issue of Jewish religious alienation from the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. Discussion of the diaspora centered on American Jewry.
According to MK Dr. Aliza Lavie, the invigoration and reconciliation of diaspora Jewry in their relationship with the State of Israel is dependent on the willingness of lawmakers and powerful individuals to engage in an open dialogue regarding contemporary issues. Specifically, discourse over contentious issues – such as the Western Wall, conversion laws and Israeli international politics – must be dismantled and reconstructed in order to integrate Jewish voices from abroad.
MK Lavie also argued that while Taglit has done wonders in strengthening the connection between American Jewry and Israel, education regarding Israel’s connection to the Jewish people is a continuous endeavor and must begin at an earlier stage among Jewish communities in the United States.
Discussion during the committee meeting bounced between a variety of perspectives and opinions. However, at the core of the debate, attendees of thesession generally agreed that the relationship between Israel and the Jewish diaspora should be strengthened considerably, at the risk of losing popular political support for the Jewish State of Israel and the fragmentation of the Jewish people.
Several speakers suggested the implementation of innovative plans such as the development of a “reverse-Birthright” program, designed to send Israeli youth to the United States in order to experience Jewish life in the diaspora. This program would ostensibly strengthen religious and cultural ties between Israeli and American Jewish youth and foster an improved political and cultural understanding between the two groups.
Other problems addressed included the alienation of pro-Israel political perspectives in progressive politics and college campuses in the United States, the “collapse” of an authentic Jewish identity among Jewish youth in the U.S. and the ostracization of non-orthodox sects of Judaism (including their rabbis and their constituents) by the religious leadership in Israel.