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
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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
Wasserman added that the brouhaha took both sides by surprise,
and neither side could understand why the other side was upset.
trip is to help people to understand each other a little bit more,” he
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.
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
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
“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
He added that a pluralist ethos was a key component of the
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.”