Jewish Agency looks to boost numbers of campus emissaries

Using social networks and targeting university students, the Agency said that it recently identified the academy as a “central front” in the battle to distance young Jews from the state of Israel.

March 30, 2016 18:31
2 minute read.
Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Jewish Agency is starting a recruiting drive to increase the number of young Israelis it sends as campus emissaries on universities in order to “expand significantly the number of emissaries all over the world,” chairman Natan Sharansky announced on Wednesday.

According to a spokesman, the agency is seeking to recruit dozens of people to serve at institutions of higher learning in the United States, South America, Europe, South Africa and other locations in an expansion that will see the aliya organization field some 100 emissaries at approximately 450 campuses.

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Using social networks and targeting university students, youth movements and other young people, the agency said that it recently identified the academy as a “central front” in the battle to distance young Jews from the State of Israel. Potential emissaries must have a college degree, the agency stated.

The goal, said Sharansky, is to reach out to students in order to “bring them closer to Zionism and the state and build up their solidarity and national pride.”

In recent years the agency has increasingly turned its eye toward Jewish identity-building programs as a means of stemming assimilation, arguing that it is impossible to promote aliya without maintaining engaged and proud Jewish communities.

The agency chairman’s latest announcement follows a similar expansion last year.

Speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of the organization’s board of governors in June, Sharansky pledged to increase the number of Israel Fellows – Israeli college graduates sent to represent their country to fellow students abroad – by 31 percent.

“Our goal is to thwart those who seek to confuse young Jews and draw them away from Israel.

Our Israel Fellows are doing an outstanding job of bringing young Jews to experience Israel, encouraging them to become involved in advocacy for Israel, and inspiring them to feel deeply attached,” Sharansky said.

In 2015, the agency sent 65 Israel Fellows to cover 120 campuses, and the organization said it expected to raise that to 85 representatives covering 170 institutions over the course of 2016.

The increase was intended to “help combat rising efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel,” the agency said in a statement at the time.

Both increases are part of the agency’s broader outreach efforts, with a total of 1,600 emissaries sent abroad to work in Jewish camps and campuses and connect Jewish communities to Israel.

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