Majority of Israelis wish to see budget for diverse Jewish cultural events

A majority of the Jewish public in Israel believes that there should be more accommodation for the diversity of identities and traditions in Israeli society.

 REFORM JEWS hold up broken hearts as they demonstrate outside the Knesset in 1997 against pending legislation by ultra-religious parties to tighten their grip on conversion issues.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
REFORM JEWS hold up broken hearts as they demonstrate outside the Knesset in 1997 against pending legislation by ultra-religious parties to tighten their grip on conversion issues.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Almost three-quarters of the Jewish public in Israel think that local authorities should budget Jewish cultural events for the wider public and not only for the religious sector, according to a new survey published on Thursday.

The survey was conducted in honor of the establishment of the directorate for Jewish Renewal by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry together with “Panim-The Israeli-Judaism Network” from a representative sample of the Jewish population in Israel over the age of 18.

Data from the survey suggest that a large majority of the Jewish public in Israel believe there should be greater accommodation for the diversity of identities and traditions in Israeli society. Approximately 63% of respondents believe the State of Israel should support the development of content from Mizrahi thinkers and intellectuals and strengthen traditional Judaism. About 14% said the state should not support this and 23% had no opinion on the issue.

Additionally, 58% of Israelis do not feel their Jewish identity is properly reflected in the budget of the state, with approximately 57% believing it should include funds for secular seminaries and secular Torah studies, just as it provides a budget for Ultra-Orthodox yeshivot. Some 24.5% said that approach was inappropriate and 18.5% had no opinion on the matter.

  Educators who partner with Village Way Educational Initiatives come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds, but they all share a love for their work and a passion to help youth succeed.  (credit: Impact Israel) Educators who partner with Village Way Educational Initiatives come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds, but they all share a love for their work and a passion to help youth succeed. (credit: Impact Israel)

In a deeper analysis, 21% of respondents felt their Jewish identity was not expressed in the state budget at all, 37% feel their identity is marginalized, about 31% say their Jewish identity is adequately expressed in the state budget, and about 11% said that it is expressed more than enough.

About 70% of the respondents said the State of Israel should include activities in the budget connecting immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Israeli society and Jewish culture, while 16% said they should not and 14% said they had no opinion.

Directorate of Jewish Renewal

The survey was conducted by the iPanel forum ahead of the inaugural ceremony of the Directorate of Jewish Renewal at the Anu Museum in Tel Aviv on Thursday, with the participation of Diaspora Affairs Minister Dr. Nachman Shai, Panim CEO Yotam Brom, and various organizational directors and dignitaries.

Through this directorate, it is hoped that organizations in Israel will be able to connect to Jewish traditions and culture in their own unique way. This is a large, first-of-its-kind government investment, which will be managed under the Jewish Renewal Division, established this year in the Diaspora Affairs Ministry. The directorate’s budget will be NIS 60 million; an investment divided equally between the ministry and the Panim organization.

The directorate will be responsible for the organization, expansion and development of Jewish renewal in Israel, as well as the empowerment of this topic through projects and content for the Israeli public at large. This will be carried out by way of seminars, study tours, events, lectures and cultural community events.

It will produce materials and activities for informal educational frameworks, as well as cooperate with local authorities to adapt to the various populations of each municipal authority. The project is expected to reach about 700,000 participants.

"As a Jewish and democratic state, Israel must give expression to the Judaism of all. Tonight, we as a government and as a society are taking a significant and even historic step forward, in favor of equality, in favor of diversity of opinion, as part of a renewed Jewish-Israeli culture."

Diaspora Affairs Minister Dr. Nachman Shai

“The State of Israel is founded on the principles of freedom and equality,” Shai said. “As a Jewish and democratic state, Israel must give expression to the Judaism of all. Tonight, we as a government and as a society are taking a significant and even historic step forward, in favor of equality, in favor of diversity of opinion, as part of a renewed Jewish-Israeli culture.”

Ministry Director-General Tziona Koenig Yair said, “The State of Israel’s investment in Jewish heritage and culture in all its forms is a necessary and precedent-setting investment.”

“There is no ‘one way’ to be a Jew and the public in Israel deserves to express their Jewish identity in a way that suits them,” she said. “We have had the privilege of taking part in the establishment of the Directorate for Jewish Renewal together with the Panim organization in order to ensure that Jewish culture does not stagnate. There is a lot of work ahead of us, and I am sure that we will reap the benefits in the near future.”

Brom said, “The Directorate will work to make room for all sectors and appeal to new audiences that Israeli-Jewish organizations have not addressed in the past. This is an opportunity to return Judaism to the heart of the Israeli consensus, as a cultural value that speaks to all of us.”