From the editor- Widening the discourse

“The time has come to diversify the discourse between the sides, bringing new faces and new ideas to the table,”

Seated, from left to right, are Prof. Elyakim Rubinstein, Diaspora Affairs Minister  Tzipi Hotovely, President Reuven Rivlin and Shira Ruderman in front of other guest speakers at the forum on February 19 (photo credit: GPO)
Seated, from left to right, are Prof. Elyakim Rubinstein, Diaspora Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely, President Reuven Rivlin and Shira Ruderman in front of other guest speakers at the forum on February 19
(photo credit: GPO)

“We are one family,” President Reuven Rivlin told an audience of Israelis and American Jews at the opening of a Ruderman Family Foundation forum at his residence on February 12. “Our shared mission... begins with an uncompromising commitment to fight antisemitism in all its forms and encompasses ensuring the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It must celebrate the spectrum of Jewish communities in Israel and across the world, and flourish through cross-pollination.”
The forum, “Keeping It in the Family: Strengthening the Israel-Diaspora Relationship,” was held in partnership with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and Gesher, which forges connections between diverse sectors of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.
It’s part of an initiative by Boston-based philanthropists Jay and Shira Ruderman to “widen the discourse” between Israel and world Jewry. Among the speakers were former Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Israel Prize laureate Miriam Peretz, Rabbis Jonathan Sacks, Amichai Eliyahu and Julie Schonfeld, writer Nicole Krauss, LGBTQ activist Tyler Gregory, judoka Arik Ze’evi and singer Ayala Ingedashet.
“After many years in which Israel’s conversation with the American Jewish community took place in a small circle of professionals, without real interest from the public, we are bringing it back to center stage,” said Shira Ruderman, director of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “The ‘civil forum’ is a first step in changing public perception by bringing opinion leaders from all fields of life – sports, law, economy, literature and others – into the conversation. This will diversify and widen our discourse, making it more relevant to the public.”
Ruderman was encouraged by a recent Ruderman Family Foundation survey which found that some 80% of American Jews consider themselves pro-Israel. According to the Mellman Group poll, conducted among a representative sample of 2,500, 72% say their relationship with the Jewish state is as strong if not stronger than it was five years ago.
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said the findings debunk doomsday talk of an irreversible chasm between Israel and the American Jewish community.
“The time has come to diversify the discourse between the sides, bringing new faces and new ideas to the table,” he said. “This relationship is more than politics and Jewish religious practices – and the conversation needs to reflect this simple reality.”
Krauss noted that her last book, Forest Dark, featured two American characters but was largely set in Israel. “The need to come here was very specific for me as a writer,” she said. “It was fascinating to send characters – who are on the cusp of trying to widen or break the narrative of self and give it more freedom – into a place, Israel, which is frankly engaged, moment by moment, in writing the story of itself. You as a country are in the very early stages of telling the story of who you are and who you want to be, and yet you’re doing that in the shadow of thousands of years of history.”
Quoting from Isaiah’s injunction to seek justice, Rubinstein said, “Zionism means a Jewish state open day and night to persecuted Jews, and it has to guard its security, but it must strive to be just.” He noted that the Hebrew words tzedek (justice) and tzedaka (charity) have the same root – because charity is born out of a sense of justice.
As a politically divided Israel and the US head for elections on March 2 and November 2, let’s strive to make sure that whatever the outcomes, we will continue to widen the discourse, bring together people in both nations and promote the cause of justice.