Gov't to adopt strategic plan ‘to guarantee future' of Jews in Diaspora

The principle recommendation is that the government formulate a comprehensive and strategic plan to “guarantee the future of the Jewish people."

Diasproa Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (photo credit: COURTESY KNESSET)
Diasproa Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch
(photo credit: COURTESY KNESSET)
The government is set to adopt a strategic plan through a government resolution “to guarantee the future of the Jewish people in the diaspora,” based on the recommendations of a special committee established for this purpose six months ago.
The committee was established in January 2019 by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry to examine the connection between Israel and Jewish communities around the world and to examine the way in which the State of Israel can help strengthen Jewish identity in the diaspora.
The committee was headed by former director of Intel Maxine Pressberg and Professor Eugene Kandel, former director of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office, and its findings and proposals will be presented to the cabinet on Sunday by Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich.
The principle recommendation is that the government formulate a comprehensive and strategic plan to “guarantee the future of the Jewish people,” with a focus on strengthening the connection between the Jewish state and the world’s Jewish communities, particularly through investing in both formal and informal education, and strengthening Jewish identity.
The Pressberg-Kandel committee begins by arguing that any long-term program needs “true and sincere partnership” between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities to achieve its goals.
In addition, the committee said that the necessity of a long-term strategic plan was because government policy for such a mission needs to be stable in order to ensure that projects which are started and proven influential and effective will continue to be approved into the future by the government.
The committee also recommended that such a plan be carried out in coordination with the Jewish Agency and other national institutions, philanthropists, and the Jewish communities themselves.
One of the critical fields which the Pressberg-Kandel committee said should be addressed is that of formal Jewish education.
It noted that since the majority of Jewish children in the Diaspora are not in Jewish schools, Israeli government assistance for Jewish identity in the diaspora has been focused on the Masa and Birthright programs.
The committee also stated that in many cases, Jewish schools have failed to create a feeling of community, Jewish identity and connection to Israel, but that it saw great potential in Jewish schools to imbue Jewish identity and make them more effective and that this should be an area for the new strategic plan to address.
In addition, the committee said the government should continue to support the informal education initiatives of Masa, Birthright, and the Mosaic United initiative created by Jewish philanthropists and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
Critically, the committee also stated that there was great importance in bolstering the emotional and fraternal attachment of Israelis to diaspora Jews, saying it was necessary “to inculcate in the Israeli public the insight that the Jewish people in the diaspora are an inseparable part of the collective Jewish existence at which Israel is at its center.”
“We are at a historic moment of decision regarding Israel’s connection to the Jewish Diaspora: will the State of Israel clearly accept upon itself a commitment to the future of the Jewish people and protecting its existence?” said Yankelevich ahead of the cabinet meeting.
The minister said that adopting the government resolution demonstrated that the Jewish state was taking responsibility for the Jewish people, as promised in the country’s Declaration of Independence and the Nation State Law, and that it would lead to the formulation of a long term plan that would be advanced by whichever government happens to be in power.
Kandel said that in order to “change direction” regarding Israel’s connection to the Diaspora, a strategic plan was needed to be supported by the state’s resources.
“Only in this way is there a chance to stop the collapse of many communities within a generation and the disconnection of many young people from the nation.”
Pressberg said that “if there were large parts of the Jewish people in physical danger the State of Israel would not ask why they need to be protected right now. Today, the future of large parts of the Jewish people is to become disconnected forever from the people. Should we ask ‘why now?’”
The comprehensive Pew Report on US Jewry in 2013 demonstrated that one third of Jewish millennials define themselves as Jewish with no religion and identify as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture.
Of those, two-thirds said they were not raising their children Jewish or even partially Jewish.
Intermarriage amongst US Jews is also extremely high, standing at 58% since the year 2000 according to the report.