Think-tank: Israeli government should invest in strengthening Jewish education in the diaspora

The Jewish People Policy Institute released the findings of its 8th annual Jewish World Dialogue in a webinar.

Jewish Diaspora women arriving in Israel (photo credit: MOMENTUM)
Jewish Diaspora women arriving in Israel
(photo credit: MOMENTUM)

An Israeli think tank has recommended that the Israeli government invest in strengthening Jewish education in the Diaspora and, for Israeli public schools, create curricula about the history of modern Diaspora and Jewish life outside of Israel.

The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) released the findings of its eighth annual Jewish World Dialogue in a webinar with the participation of the Jewish Agency Chairman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, MK Merav Ben Ari and JPPI president Prof. Yedidia Stern.

The Dialogue process included discussions with over 300 Jewish leaders and young influencers in North America, Australia, and Israel.

The study focused on the commitment laid out in the 2018 Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People. According to the law, the State of Israel will act to maintain ties between the state and the Jews living outside of it, and act “to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish People among Jews in the Diaspora.”

Following the dialogue, the JPPI called on the Israeli government to invest in developing curricula for Jewish schools and camps abroad as well as initiatives in Israel to study the history of the Diaspora and modern Jewish life outside Israel’s borders.

 DEFENSE MINISTER Benny Gantz (center), flanked by Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, march in the pro-Israel parade in New York. (credit: Shulamit Seidler Feller/UJA Federation of New York) DEFENSE MINISTER Benny Gantz (center), flanked by Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, march in the pro-Israel parade in New York. (credit: Shulamit Seidler Feller/UJA Federation of New York)

The JPPI also recommended that the Israeli government invest resources in holding face-to-face meetings between Israelis and Diaspora Jews, as these kinds of encounters are the best antidote to alienation between the two. Similar initiatives exist today, such as the Gesher organization delegations for Israeli opinion leaders in partnership with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry to visit Jewish communities worldwide.

Additionally, the JPPI called for the establishment of a collaborative framework for strengthening Jewish education in the Diaspora under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office and/or the Ministry of the Diaspora Affairs, the Jewish Agency, The Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish leadership.

The dialogue contained conversations and opinions that generally cannot be discerned in survey data alone. Sixteen meetings attended by 301 male and female leaders and opinion shapers from North America, Australia and Israel were convened, including a large group of young people ages 20-30. Israel was represented by 48 outstanding students from Tel Aviv University and the Kibbutzim Seminary.

It was led by Dr. Shlomo Fisher and Dr. John Ruskay, both senior research fellows at the JPPI.

Results by the numbers

About half the Dialogue participants – 47% of all participants and 60% among the young people – perceived a distance between Diaspora and Israeli Jews. They felt that Israelis do not know much about and are uninterested in Diaspora Jews and their needs. Some 71% of the young Israeli dialogue participants agreed with that assertion.

Another 38% of the Diaspora participants expressed a strong desire to strengthen personal ties with Israelis, even those with whom they disagree. According to them, “acquaintance and mutual understanding” should be a central tenet in strengthening relations between Israel and the Diaspora.

A full 93% of dialogue participants from North America called for increased involvement by the State of Israel in education and in preserving the connection with Israel and the heritage of the Jewish people. Some 54% believe the Israeli government should be involved in curriculum development and even financially assist those who wish to study in Jewish schools or participate in Jewish summer camps. Many requested Israel’s assistance in teaching Hebrew.

“If in the past the natural feeling of a large majority of Jews in Israel and abroad was that we are one nation with a strong and clear bond between its parts, it seems this feeling is being undermined among the younger generation,” the JPPI’s Stern said of the results.

He added, “In 200 years, historians will ask our generation what we did to ensure the future of millions of Jews. The Israeli government must take a significant step in education aimed at bringing Diaspora Judaism closer to Israeli Jews. The dialogue shows a lack of basic knowledge, which creates alienation and indifference toward their brethren overseas.”