Assimilation raised as key problem in launch of Jewish People Lobby in Knesset

MKs in the Knesset insisted that Jewish leaders of all types are responsible for addressing the issue of assimilation abroad. 

The tires of over 20 vehicles were punctured early Friday in the Bedouin village of Kamanneh and "stop assimilation" was spray-painted on a wall in the village. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
The tires of over 20 vehicles were punctured early Friday in the Bedouin village of Kamanneh and "stop assimilation" was spray-painted on a wall in the village.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Jewish assimilation in the Diaspora was raised as a central concern during the launching on Monday of the Knesset lobby for the Jewish people.

Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatah, World Zionist Organization chairman and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel, and MKs all called attention to the problem of intermarriage abroad, insisting that Jewish leaders of all types were responsible for addressing the issue.

The lobby, launched by Likud MK David Bitan, Yesh Atid MK Meirav Ben Ari, and Yisrael Beytenu MK Evgeny Sova, boasts 64 MKs, the largest of any Knesset lobby.

Speaking during the inaugural hearing, Tamano-Shatah lamented the high rate of assimilation in the Diaspora, and what she said was the increasingly aging group of people keeping Jewish communities going.

“The partnership of the younger generation is decreasing,” she said. “This is a challenge for the entire Jewish people and not just the Jewish community in the US and other countries.”

Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatah touring the Jewish Agency’s Global Center in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood (credit: NAGEH MELSAH)Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatah touring the Jewish Agency’s Global Center in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood (credit: NAGEH MELSAH)

Hagoel noted that the global Jewish population has yet to reach the numbers that existed prior to the Holocaust, and that assimilation was a severe problem.

“Assimilation is eating away our people,” said Hagoel. “We need to strengthen the Jewish people, and this is the responsibility of all Jews and for sure this Knesset and the national institutions. Jewish identity, Jewish pride, the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, is all in my opinion the balance we need to give to the affliction of assimilation.”

MK Uriel Busso of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas Party also alighted on the problem of Jewish intermarriage as a key challenge to the Jewish people, saying that the Jewish people survived its two millennia ordeal in exile “because of our insistence on our identity, and the need to preserve it through Jewish law. We need to strengthen real Jewish identity, which will prevent assimilation, in accordance with Halacha.”

According to the 2020 Pew Report on US Jewry, the intermarriage rate among all US Jews who were married between 2010 and 2020 is 61%, while among the non-Orthodox and non-affiliated Jews, it was even higher, standing at 72%, compared with 98% of Orthodox Jews who said they were married to a Jew.

Just 34% of US Jews said it is very important that their grandchildren are Jewish.

Also speaking at the lobby launch was Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who insisted that the old paradigm between Israel and the Diaspora has changed, and that the State of Israel must now look at what it can do for its brethren around the world.

“The relationship between the seven million Jews in Israel to the eight million in the Diaspora requires a new and revolutionary perspective,” said Shai. “We need to ask what we as a strong and flourishing country can do for them.”

Shai also referenced the Western Wall agreement that senior government ministers, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Shai himself have promised to implement, saying that doing so was an important step to repairing relationships between Israel and the Diaspora.

“It is our heavy responsibility, of the State of Israel, to build a framework of relations, warmth and connection of the Jewish people to the State of Israel and its citizens,” said Shai. “I will not rest and I will not be quiet until this happens. This is an essential move for the Jewish people in the Diaspora and for many Israeli citizens.”

Knesset Speaker MK Mickey Levy was also present and lauded the launching of the lobby.

“There are arguments, sometimes even heated arguments, and the Knesset is the place to discuss them all respectfully in order to reach agreements,” he said. “The Knesset is the beating heart of Israeli democracy and a source of pride for the Jewish people. As speaker of the Knesset, I welcome every Jewish person to the Knesset, and I have decided to prioritize the strengthening of the Knesset’s relationship with the Jewish people around the world.”

Levy said that he is dedicating time to visit Jewish communities around the world whenever he is on official foreign visits.