Bill would require Israel to listen to Diaspora

The bill would also establish post of Diaspora commissioner

Jerusalem's Old City lit during Diaspora Ministry solidarity event for Jewish communities hit by COVID-19 (photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
Jerusalem's Old City lit during Diaspora Ministry solidarity event for Jewish communities hit by COVID-19
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
The government and the Knesset would have to start listening to Diaspora Jewry on key issues impacting Jews around the world, according to a new bill about to be submitted to the Knesset by Blue and White MK Tehila Friedman.
Friedman is a former representative in Israel of two Jewish federations in New Jersey, worked in the Diaspora Affairs Ministry under Natan Sharansky and has lived in Boston. She decided when she ran for Knesset that helping Diaspora Jewry would be one of her top priorities.
One solution proposed by the bill would be to have a “Diaspora commissioner,” whose job would be to represent World Jewry before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and committees in the Knesset. The Knesset once had a “future generations commissioner” who had to be consulted.
The commissioner would be chosen in coordination with the Jewish Agency and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry. Friedman intends to consult with Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog and the Knesset legal adviser about how to maximize the bill’s potential.
“The situation where Israel makes key decisions impacting the Jewish world without listening cannot go on,” Friedman said. “Checking does not mean accepting, but it must hear the voice of the Jewish Diaspora.”
Friedman cited the Western Wall agreement, conversion and the Jewish Nation-State Law among key issues where the Diaspora’s voice was not heard enough. She recalled that when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government reneged on the Western Wall deal, Sharansky and key Diaspora leaders heard about it through the media.
“This bill would strengthen the connection between the State of Israel, government of Israel and Diaspora Jewry and stop significant sectors of the Jewish world from being distanced from the state,” the bill’s explanatory notes state.
The legislation has the support of the head of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, MK David Bitan (Likud). Friedman is a member of the committee, and when she made a statement there Monday that “In the US, you have to sell a kidney to send your kids to Jewish schools, she faced criticism from many directions on social media among both Israelis in Hebrew and Diaspora Jews in English.
“That one line touched a raw nerve, but it showed why this bill is so needed,” she said. “If we are not for the Jewish people, why do we deserve a state?”