Herzog walks back statement about preparing for mass aliya from US

Herzog noted that everyone, Israeli and Jewish leaders, are walking on thin ice—not wanting to embarrass the American administration.

March 1, 2017 20:20
2 minute read.
Isaac Herzog

Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog made an effort Wednesday to clarify what he meant when he called upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to get Israel ready in case there would be massive immigration from the US due to ongoing incidents of antisemitism across America.

Speaking in Jerusalem at the Jewish People Policy Institute Conference on the Future of the Jewish People, Herzog noted that he had lived in the US and went to high school in New York.

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“I never imagined there would be so many acts of antisemitism in the US,” he said. “These years were supposed to be the years of inclusion, less antisemitism, more education, more traditionalism and continuity. But now the antisemitism phenomenon rises.”

Herzog noted that Israeli and Jewish leaders are walking on thin ice – not wanting to embarrass the American administration.
Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecrated by vandals , suspected antisemitism (credit: REUTERS)

“The administration must deal with it,” he said. “The JCC bombing threats are a red alert. The cemetery desecrations require understanding and we must discuss it.”

Herzog suggested that the antisemitism phenomenon will encourage Jews to move to Israel and “we should not feel guilty about it.”

Sources close to Herzog further clarified that based on his experience of living in the US, he does not believe massive waves of American immigrants are on the way, but that the antisemitism must be taken seriously and prepared for by the Israeli government.

Herzog was challenged at the event by Brandeis University American Jewish history professor Jonathan Sarna, who recently served as president of the Association for Jewish Studies and is the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

Sarna asked Herzog whom he relies on for his expertise on American Jewry, noting that he speaks to experts before formulating an opinion on other key issues. Herzog responded that he is in constant contact with US Jewish leaders across every spectrum and that they are worried about the growing threat.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post afterward, Sarna called Herzog’s concerns “ridiculous” and said “he shouldn’t exaggerate.” He noted that, with the exception of vandalism at two cemeteries, there have been threats and not attacks.

“The idea that there will be mass immigration of fourth-generation Americans reflects a lack of understanding of American Jewry that is all too common in Israel,” Sarna lamented, saying that not enough is being done to teach Israelis about American Jews.

He said Herzog’s comparison of American Jews to French Jews is also not valid.

“French Jews are usually first generation, so they think about France differently,” he said. “There are also physical attacks there, which there are not in the US.”

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