Kadima's new faces not new to Jewish world

Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski and UJC Israeli director-general Nachman Shai elected to realistic slots.

Bielski 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bielski 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima members elected two candidates with strong ties to the Diaspora - Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski and United Jewish Communities Israel director-general Nachman Shai - to realistic slots on the party's list in Wednesday's primary. Both Bielski, who will be 15th on the Kadima list, and Shai, who was placed three slots after him, vowed to do everything possible to serve not only their constituents in Israel, but also Diaspora Jews, in the Knesset. "I will take my 17 years of experience as Ra'anana mayor and three-and-a-half years in the Agency and use it to make the country better for the people here so they won't leave us and so more people would want to come," Bielski said. "The Israeli government must be much more involved in connecting the country with the Diaspora. I hope I will be in the right place to advance that connection and to ensure that the vast majority of Diaspora youth come here." Bielski said he would work to expand Israel's involvement in the birthright and Masa programs and Jewish-Zionist education around the world. He said he would also fight for more incentives to be given to new immigrants to ease their absorption. Shai, who once served on the panel of the reality show The Ambassador, promised to serve as "the Diaspora's ambassador in the Knesset." He said he would form a Knesset lobby to advance the Diaspora's needs. Unlike Bielski, who has been a politician for two decades, this was Shai's first election. Speaking to reporters outside a polling station at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium Wednesday, he said he felt comfortable shaking thousands of hands and kissing babies. "I have taken everything in humor and with a good spirit," Shai said as he kissed a three-month-old baby boy. "I know I have taken a risk, but I will be happy, win or lose." Shai, like Bielski, received congratulatory calls from Diaspora Jewish leaders around the world. He now hopes to use his experience as a former spokesman for the IDF and the government to help advance Kadima in the February 10 election. Two other Kadima candidates with ties to the Diaspora did not fare nearly as well. Australia-raised former Mossad agent Gila Waksman won the 56th slot on the list, while Rumi Zonder-Kislev, who holds a Canadian passport, finished 75th out of 77 candidates.