'Labor is the home of new 'modern, liberal' Anglos'

Labor primary candidate, 'Ambassador' winner Eytan Schwartz hopes to strengthen connection with Diaspora.

Labor primary candidate Eytan Schwartz 370 (photo credit:  Reyut Heifetz)
Labor primary candidate Eytan Schwartz 370
(photo credit: Reyut Heifetz)
The Ambassador, a reality TV show seeking to find the best person to improve Israel’s public relations, was popular when it aired in 2005, but no one could have predicted that three of the show’s participants would run for the 19th Knesset.
Kadima MK Nachman Shai, a former IDF spokesman, was a judge on The Ambassador, as was Yaakov Peri, the number two in Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and a former Shin Bet chief. Now Labor has its own Ambassador alum, with first-season winner Eytan Shwartz running in the party primary.
Schwartz, 38, was born in New York and made aliya to Tel Aviv with his family at age seven. After winning the reality TV contest, he spent a year advocating for Israel in the US.
More recently, he volunteered as the spokesperson for the Committee for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur, and currently serves as a senior adviser to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai for international affairs, working to strengthen ties with cities around the world and Diaspora communities.
The issues that made Schwartz an Ambassador winner are still close to his heart, and he emphasized the need for people in the Knesset who understand world Jewry.
According to Schwartz, American, British and French Jewry play just as big a role defending Israel as the IDF.
“We need to change the paradigm.It’s something Israelis don’t understand: we need to change our obsolete immigration policy,” Schwartz said.
“The country shouldn’t encourage Jews to move to Israel. It is in our interest to let Jews prosper in the Diaspora and continue to be powerful there.”
“We need to make Israel relevant around the world,” he added. “I came to realize that US Jews and others were becoming fed up with Israel. The solidarity that existed for decades is finished, especially with people of my generation.”
The Labor candidate said Israelis are unaware of the power of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) in the Jewish world, which he explains as the intersection between social justice and Jewish understandings of justice. Schwartz’s dream would be for Israeli 18- year-olds to be able to choose between IDF service, civilian service or joining a “Peace Corps for Jews that would do tikkun olam projects in the third world.”
As for Labor politics, Schwartz said the party’s ideas are things the “regular, middleof- the-road US Jew” would support, such as good public education, government services and healthcare, as well as giving up West Bank territory for a two-state solution.
The Labor candidate pointed to a shift in aliya demographics, with thousands of young, secular immigrants from English- speaking countries living in Tel Aviv.
“The new type of Anglo, who doesn’t necessarily live in classic strongholds like Bet Shemesh or Ra’anana, has formed a huge community in Tel Aviv. They came to Israel for ideology, but also to live in a fun, cool city and are in tune with social movements around the world,” Schwartz explained.
“They should come to Labor for the same reason. It’s a modern, liberal party, where they’ll see the values they grew up on, like community responsibility.”
Schwartz said he has the blessing of party leader Shelly Yacimovich – who also happens to be his neighbor in Tel Aviv – but hasn’t met with her recently.
“Shelly is the most popular person in Israel. She’s like [Canadian pop singer] Justin Bieber, everyone wants her time,” he quipped. “She revived a dead horse, turning Labor into a young, sexy party.”
If Schwartz makes it to the Knesset, there will be two Labor MKs who attended Ramaz, a modern-Orthodox day school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog, who attended the school while his father, former president Chaim Herzog, was the ambassador to the UN, told Schwartz that his bid for Ramaz class presidency was his first successful political campaign.