President Reuven Rivlin held a video conference with Jewish community leaders from all of the United States Wednesday, during which he talked about the growing rates of antisemitism and racism, as well as other challenges the overall Jewish community now faces during the coronavirus crisis.
During the conference, he called for the community to stand together in the face of antisemitism and racism, calling them two sides of the same coin, additionally addressing the need for need to strengthen the bond between the American Jewish community and Israel "now more than ever."
“We must stand together in fighting all forms of antisemitism. We must stand together in fighting all forms of racism. Antisemitism and racism are two sides of the same coin, and we must fight them wherever they appear,” Rivlin said.
The President also addressed issues such as the challenge of providing Jewish education when Jewish schools and camps are closed and the challenge of connecting young people to Israel when various programs that send Jewish young adults to Israel, such as Taglit, are on hold.
He continued, highlighting the need to strengthen the bond between Israel and the diaspora community as the coronavirus poses the threat of weakening the bond between both groups, a challenge that is a paramount in its need to be dealt with as the world, Jews included, face the challenges such as antisemitism, racism, and the virus itself.
“These are days when we are all facing the challenges of the coronavirus and, more than ever, it is most important to deepen the bonds between us. it is time for us to be there for each other," Rivlin said. "We must strive to build a new dialogue between us,” he added.
“In 1958, Ben-Gurion faced the difficult question: ‘Who is a Jew?’. In order to answer that question, he turned to fifty leading Jewish thinkers, from all different backgrounds: in the United States, in Europe and in Israel, and asked for their opinions. Well, we still have not solved all of the difficult questions of the Jewish People. But this is the spirit of true dialogue, between Israel and the Diaspora that we need today.”
The conference was held in cooperation with Foreign Ministry with the participation of Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who thanked the President for holding the meeting.
After thanking the President for his efforts, Ashkenazi continued, saying, “The sense of mutual obligation between the State of Israel and the global Jewish community is a cornerstone of Israeli diplomacy around the world and for me personally as foreign minister. I salute the leaders of the American Jewish community for their leadership as they confront the coronavirus pandemic. We share the same fate and we must work together to get through this crisis."
Representatives from the American Jewish Community included CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations William Daroff; President and CEO of Sinai Health System, Chicago Karen Teitelbaum; President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs and President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut.Additionally partaking in the conference was spokesperson for the Monsey Jewish community Rabbi Yisroel Kahan; Senior Rabbi of IKAR, Los Angeles Rabbi Sharon Brous; President of the Koret Foundation and Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco Dr. Anita Friedman; Associate Director of Hillel at Emory University, Atlanta Lauren Blazofsky; and JCRC San Francisco Executive Director Tyler Gregory.
Towards the end of the conference Rivlin said, “Friends, I look forward to working with you, together with our Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi and Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich. We shall build new bridges of understanding and give practical expression to our values of Arvoot Hadadit (mutual responsibility) and Ahdut (unity) among the entire Jewish family.”
Finishing his address he remarked, “For many years, the American Jewish community has stood with Israel. Today, we are here to hear you, and to see how we can help in any way. Because despite the distance between us, we feel closer today than ever before. Todah Rabah. God bless you.”