The Jewish Agency for Israel increased the number of emissaries it sends abroad
by 20 percent in 2012 – Yehuda Setton, the organization’s director of long term
emissaries told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Some in the agency believe
the organization’s traditional role as a facilitator of mass aliya is coming to
an end, and while JAFI continues to increase the number of its emissaries
abroad, the changing roles of these representatives indicates a sea change in
how the longstanding Zionist institution views itself.
around 1,500 emissaries worldwide, a number which is higher than ever before,
but gone are the emissaries whose exclusive job was to convince diaspora Jews to
migrate. There remain, however, agency employees whose job is to help facilitate
aliya for those who choose to move, but they are in the minority.
focus is on entire communities and bringing Israel to them in order to provide
community members with a Jewish and Zionist connection and orientation. Aliya
has dropped off now that the majority of people from Russia, Ethiopia and the
Arab world have made come to Israel.
Programs like birthright, in which
college-age Jews come for free tours, lead to participation in work and study
fellowships through JAFI-funded programs MASA and these lead to some people
making aliya, but most of the people involved do not end up moving to Israel,
agency officials acknowledged.
However, participants are more likely to
undertake such a move than those who have not come on these programs and among
the majority who choose to remain abroad, many become more involved with their
Judaism and a significant number are said to end up becoming leaders of Jewish
Setton, speaking to the Post by phone, said that “the
idea is not that aliya is over. We just changed the direction. Understand that
aliya is part of a continuum.
If you educate a young person about Israel
and about his Jewish identity he will become a part of the Jewish community and
may come to Israel.”
“All of emissaries are [still] talking about the
issue of aliya... but we are more focused on education about [the country] and
Jewish identity, so this is the change about aliya. The focus is more about the
There are now three kinds of shlichim around the globe,
Setton said. There are those who work with youth movements and focus on Zionism;
and there is the community focus, which is the biggest focus for the agency, he
“The third leg is the campus leg. Most of our ‘Israel Fellows’ are
in North America, but some of them are outside in countries like Paraguay,
Australia, and Germany. Shlichim stand for Israel on campuses and more than that
they educate about Israel and about Jewish [identity].”
There are two
tracks within the three “legs” of service, he elaborated, consisting of longterm
and short-term emissaries.
“We have around 170-180 community emissaries
in Jewish communities. We also have young people, doing a year of [community]
service before going into the army, as well as people who are
“The last gate you have in the Jewish world, to be to be part of
the Jewish community, generally is the campus,” Setton said.
doesn’t engage in his Jewishness by then, it will be much harder to reach them
Of the campus shlichim, many work within Hillel Houses, he said.
“They connect Jewish students to Jewish identity.”