Israeli delegation meets Jews in Baltimore, New York

JFNA hosted mission meant to foster greater understanding of North American Jewish communities.

By JORDANA HORN, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
December 16, 2011 03:09
2 minute read.
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New York skyline 311. (photo credit: Sue Redekop)

NEW YORK – An 18-member delegation of Knesset and ministerial advisers, government officials and Israeli journalists stopped in New York Thursday on a tour designed to foster greater understanding of North American Jewish communities and American governance.

The tour, which took participants from Washington to Baltimore and New York, is modeled after a similar mission last year and is being jointly hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs.

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Participants include advisers to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Government Services Michael Eitan, Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman, Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Lander and Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. Also on the mission are advisers to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, former minister and current opposition Knesset member Avi Dichter, and former Knesset speaker and current opposition MK Dalia Itzik.

Dani Wasserman, communications for JFNA’s Israel arm, said that in the wake of the commotion created by recently pulled ads inviting expatriate Israelis to return home, the mission’s goals were to create greater understanding between Israelis and Americans – an understanding that is apparently sorely needed.

“The overarching goal is to try to and expose the Israeli population to North American Jewry,” Wasserman said. “There is a certain gap, cultural and language, between the two groups that was perfectly illustrated by the to-do over the ad campaign.”

Wasserman added that the brouhaha took both sides by surprise, and neither side could understand why the other side was upset.

“This trip is to help people to understand each other a little bit more,” he explained.

The mission went first to Washington, where participants met with members of Congress, congressional staffers, AIPAC and JFNA officials, and members of the local Jewish community.

They also met with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and visited the US Holocaust Museum.

The group then traveled to Baltimore to see a more “typical” North American Jewish community, Wasserman said. Delegation members met with Jewish community professionals and visited a Jewish day school and Jewish Community Center.

The group is currently in New York City, where members will spend time at Yeshiva University, the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary and the Reform movement’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom. They will also meet with Israeli representatives at the UN and the consul general, and will attend a special briefing by the New York Police Department’s Anti-Terror Unit.

“Israelis often have a preconceived notion that American Jews are only in synagogue one day a year,” Wasserman said, “but on this trip, they will meet many, many Jews who will show them the richness of Jewish life in the US.”

He added that a pluralist ethos was a key component of the mission.

JFNA’s Israel and overseas chair Saby Behar agreed that there was a problem in understanding.

“North American Jews and Israelis make up some 80 percent of world Jewry, yet we often lack a comprehensive understanding of one another’s work, feelings and motivations,” Behar explained. “I am sure that this mission will contribute significantly to bridging this gap.”


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