Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli said on Tuesday that the Israeli government should create a fund to assist with Jewish day school tuition in the Diaspora.
During The Jerusalem Post Democracy 2023 conference at the Israel Democracy Institute, Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz asked Chikli about plans he has for the ministry. Chikli responded that he would put an “important focus on what we agree on as a Jewish and Zionist consensus.” He added that one of the most important challenges on his plate is the “challenge of Jewish education abroad,” adding that “most Jewish children in the US don’t go to Jewish day school.”
Chikli said he would like to create a joint venture of the Israeli government and Jewish philanthropists worldwide in order to create a fund for Jewish education.“I would like to create a body that is similar to Mosaic United [a government subsidiary that facilitates and funds informal education in the Diaspora on behalf of the government] that will collaborate with the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund and other foundations in order to create a fund for Jewish education in the Diaspora, in order to make it more affordable for Jewish parents, and even making it worthwhile for Jewish teachers to want to work for Jewish days schools.”
According to the minister, “Knowledge acquired in childhood never becomes forgotten. What you learn as a child, you won’t forget. The thing is that our youngsters outside of Israel need basic understanding of Judaism before they reach the age of Birthright .”
Chikli connected with Diaspora Jews on a recent trip abroad
Chikli recently returned from the United States where he met with heads of the religious streams and participated as the representative of the Israeli government at the Israeli American Council. Asked by Katz if participants at the IAC conference spoke of the proposed judicial reforms “tearing Israel and the Diaspora apart,” Chikli said this wasn’t the case. “I see no connection between judicial reforms and the connection with Jews abroad.”
He said that not all American Jews were against the reforms.
Usually, when you talk about the Jews in the US, people mean the liberal streams. But there are large Israeli-American and Orthodox communities [that think otherwise]. [Conservative journalist] Ben Shapiro says one thing about judicial reform and [Union for Reform Judaism president] Rick Jacobs thinks otherwise. But they are both kosher Jews.”
During an interview over the weekend with Israeli journalist Miri Michaeli, Chikli said the Israeli government “isn’t going to cancel the Grandchild Clause [in the Law of Return],” but rather that there would be a committee that will discuss the issue.
“I had a lot of discussions with heads of Jewish organizations and streams,” Chikli said. “I met heads of the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox organizations such as the Orthodox Union. I also met with Eric Fingerhut from the Jewish Federations of North America.”
"Knowledge acquired in childhood never becomes forgotten. What you learn as a child, you won’t forget. The thing is that our youngsters outside of Israel need basic understanding of Judaism, before they reach the age of Birthright [18 years old].”Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli
Chikli admitted that he hadn’t realized how dramatic the Law of Return was with Diaspora Jews.
“I admit that I had a blind spot on how sensitive it is for Jews who don’t live here. I now know it’s more sensitive emotionally. I now understand as minister that there are these sensitivities.”
Regarding the committee to promote discussion of the Right of Return, Chikli said, “This committee will be led by [Aliyah and Integration] Minister Ofir Sofer, and President Isaac Herzog wants the discussions to take place at the President’s Residence. We don’t know what the conclusion will be. The goal isn’t to cancel the law, but to create a slower and more complex process to receive citizenship. In the US, it takes time to get a green card, therefore these changes should be in the interest of Jewish people.”