Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset event honoring the 100 year connection of American Jewry and Israel .
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
NEW YORK – Twenty key figures from Israeli society traveled to New York this week, aiming to bridge the gap between Israel and American Jews.
The “Community” initiative is a joint project put together by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry together with the Gesher (“Bridge”) organization.
Gesher, based in Jerusalem, has worked for decades to connect between different sectors of Israeli society, in order to “develop an identity that reflects a shared commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” the organization’s website states.
The Community project, launched a few weeks ago, aims to create a different bridge, this time between Israel and the Diaspora.
J.J. Sussman, director of international operations at Gesher, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that there are various political, religious, or even technological explanations to the divide that has formed between Israel and Jews abroad, and that the solution starts with opening channels of communication.
“The solution is to create a dialogue and recognize that it’s an issue,” he said. “I think that’s the only way we can move forward productively as the global Jewish community, but where this comes from or who’s fault it [the gap] is? I don’t think that’s important.”
Participants in the Community delegation, which included singer Corinne Allal, entertainer Didi Harari and the Culture Ministry’s director-general Yossi Sharabi among others, went through a series of meetings to better understand the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora before visiting the US.
“I think just educating ourselves on the fact that there is a Jewish world beyond Israel and that they have their own issues, and to learn and educate ourselves on the different models to deal with those issues, is something that all those leaders are gonna take with them and that will impact their decisions once we get back,” Sussman said.
According to him, bringing Israel and the Diaspora closer together will allow the Jewish state to function more productively.
“We are one family. We are one Jewish community and the threat is that the gap is widening and becoming larger and larger,” he explained. “We have what to learn from each other.”
During their trip to New York, the delegation met with representatives of the Jewish community including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jewish student leaders at New York University in Greenwich Village, and former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.
“When we interacted with student leaders who had various backgrounds of Jewishness and Jewish identity, seeing the passion that the young Jewish community has for issues larger than themselves, what they are facing on campuses or as young Jews, is something which I thought was inspiring,” Sussman told the Post.
The delegation to New York was the first one of the project, but more Community groups are scheduled to be traveling to meet Jewish communities abroad in the coming months. The next delegation is expected to visit South Africa in June, another group will be going to Los Angeles in September, and a third to London in November