AJC head Harris: Israel needs to learn about US Jewry

Concern comes from a sense that American Jews and Israelis are "losing touch" with each other.

david harris 88 ajc (photo credit: )
david harris 88 ajc
(photo credit: )
Keeping the Israeli and American Jewish communities connected "requires rethinking education [in Israel] on American Jewry," according to American Jewish Committee head David Harris, speaking to The Jerusalem Post this week. The concern comes from a sense that American Jews and Israelis are "losing touch" with each other, said Harris, who heads one of the most politically prominent American Jewish organizations. "There has always been an intense group on either side that never lost touch, but they're not reflected in the larger communities," he believes. "More than 80 percent of world Jewry is in Israel and the US, so the destiny of the Jewish people will be shaped by what happens in those communities. Practically, Israel's best strategic partner in the world is the American Jewish community, and, given its size, understanding it should be a very high priority here [in Israel]," Harris said. Not only does Israeli education need "rethinking" about the priority of American Jewry, but so do Israeli political leaders, according to Harris. "At the same time, this puts responsibility on American Jewish organizations like the AJC to deal with our young people, who may be more distant [from the Jewish community] - not just institutionally but personally." Harris was in Israel this week on a trip of the AJC leadership, during which the organization's president, executive director and other officials met with Israeli political leaders to discuss Iran and the recent American National Intelligence Estimate in closed-door meetings. In November of last year, an AJC-sponsored study was presented to the Knesset that concluded through sampling teachers in the state school system that fewer than 14% of Israeli schools had taught anything about the American Jewish community during the previous three years. An Education Ministry official said at the time that the ministry was examining several pilot programs, but that introducing the topic into the curriculum would take several years.