Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky defended US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who was heckled and booed at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.
Sharansky said he was saddened by the treatment of Lew, in part because decades ago, when Lew was an assistant to House of Representatives speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, he was instrumental in the fight to bring about the release of Jews from behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union.
“He worked days and nights, taking families of Prisoners of Zion through all the corridors of power to make sure the Jews would be released,” Sharansky said. “Many Soviet Refuseniks owe their lives to him and others for the successful efforts to release them.”
Sharansky devoted his speech to modern-day Jews who are making aliya, including those suffering from anti-Semitism in France.
Sharansky defends Lew
“Last year, something interesting happening,” he said.
“In 2014, for the first time in history, 51 percent came from countries out of their own free choice. Israel is becoming a magnet and not a shelter.”
Sharansky said 1,800 Jews came from France in 2010, 7,100 in 2014, and up to 10,000 will come in 2015.
“Anti-Semitism is growing every day,” he said. “There are terror attacks. But what influences aliya is not one attack.
In the last few years teachers in France are saying don’t go in the street with a kippa. Fear can be the reason.”
The French government deserved credit for its steps to protect the Jews in the country, Sharansky said. French leaders believe it is a failure for France if its Jews leave, he continued.
“Liberal France believes anti-Semitism is the No. 1 enemy,” he said. “But this post-liberal France does not like Israel. They believe nationalism is a kind of prejudice.
They appreciate liberalism but are not ready to fight for liberalism.
In this France, Israel is last remnant of colonialism, that believes in being a Jewish state in the Middle East.”
Two anchors protect against assimilation, Sharansky said: Faith and the State of Israel. “It is a real miracle that the overwhelming majority of these people who could go to London, Canada and New York are choosing Israel,” he said. “It is aliya of choice. Lives of Jews are more meaningful in Israel, where society is more optimistic and creative. That is a real celebration of Zionism.”