Rivlin calls for ‘reverse birthright’ to tighten Israel-Diaspora bond

A “Reverse Birthright” would help young Israelis get to know Jewish communities around the world.

October 22, 2018 12:04
2 minute read.
President Reuven Rivlin giving a speech at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North A

President Reuven Rivlin giving a speech at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, on October 22, 2018. (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin called for the establishment of a “reverse Birthright” that would allow Israeli Jews to get greater exposure to Diaspora Jewry during his speech at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which began Monday morning in Tel Aviv.

The annual conference, which takes place in Israel every five years, is titled “We have to talk,” in reference to the perceived strained relations between the Israeli government and the leadership of North American Jewry.

The idea of a “reverse Birthright,” meaning trips for young Israeli Jews to North America and other parts of the Diaspora, has been mooted as a way to solve the apparent lack of Israeli familiarity with Jews abroad, often cited as a reason for the straining of ties.

“For many young Israeli Jews, being a Jew means being Israeli,” said Rivlin. “We must increase their exposure to your schools, camps and communities. They need to realize and feel that they have a family – a family they must take into account.”

The president said there are some programs already underway in which Israeli youngsters travel abroad and that his office, together with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, was trying to foster an active community of people who have participated to increase their impact and develop Israel-Diaspora cooperation.

Rivlin also emphasized Israel’s core identity as “a democratic Jewish state” as defined by the Declaration of Independence, which includes “the values of liberty, justice and peace,” and equality for all its citizens.

The president noted that this declaration had been made amid the perils and dangers of the War of Independence, yet even under such circumstances these values were established as the guiding principles of the Jewish state.

“Then, as today, we will never compromise, neither on our values nor on the security of our citizens,” said Rivlin.

The president pointed out that Israel and the Diaspora are not merely “strategic allies” with “shared interests,” but “a family” with “a shared fate, a shared history, and a shared future.”

He argued that the biggest threat to the Jewish people is internal war and that “victory in the battle between us, means losing the war of existence,” referring to both Israel’s internal societal struggles and the disagreements among the Jewish people globally.

“We cannot escape from returning to the table and re-discussing our disputes. It is our shared responsibility for our children, for the future of the Jewish people,” he said.

Rivlin also called for an Israel-Diaspora partnership in promoting and providing aid for development projects in developing nations as part of what he called “The Jewish notion of Tikkun Olam,” Hebrew for “the rectification of the world.”

“The time is ripe” for a joint Jewish fund between Israel and the Diaspora, he said, to maximize the impact that both sides could have on bettering the world.

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