New group works on Israel-Diaspora ties

Group of prominent Israeli public figures establishes Israeli Jewish Congress to create “a channel of mutual cooperation.”

Israeli flags 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israeli flags 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A group of prominent Israeli public figures has established a new body, the Israeli Jewish Congress, based on similar organizations in Europe, America and around the world, to create “a channel of mutual cooperation” between the Diaspora and Israel, and to advance the principles of Jewish identity and democracy as the fundamental principles of the State of Israel.
The initiative is the brainchild of Vladimir Moshe Sloutsker, a banker, politician and Jewish community activist from Russia who immigrated to Israel last year.
Sloutsker, who served as the chairman of the Russian Jewish Congress, the deputy chairman of the European Jewish Congress and as a senator in the Russian parliament’s upper house, said that upon arriving in Israel he was surprised to learn that no Jewish congress existed to advance these goals.
“The main purpose is to build an instrument of cooperation between Israel and the global Diaspora to provide for mutual support,” Sloutsker told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“We don’t think efforts to achieve this have been successful in the past, so we are calling on Jewish leaders to leave behind the conflicts and disputes of the past and to unite for the sake of all Jews who want the best possible future for Israel and the Jewish people.”
Danny Yatom, a former Mossad chief and one of the group’s founders, said that the central goal was to serve as a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora.
“There are Jewish congresses around the world which meet, coordinate and cooperate for their mutual benefit, but Israel is not part of this conversation,” he said. “The new congress will enable Israel to become better integrated into activities and discussions of the global Jewish community for the benefit of both.”
Sloutsker asked, “How is it that Israeli teams are able to play soccer and basketball in European competitions, Israeli singers can participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, yet there is no framework or mechanism for formal Jewish communal integration between Israel and Europe? This is what we must address.”
Sloutsker hopes that the Israeli Jewish Congress will automatically become a member of the European and World Jewish Congresses, and that it will serve as a platform to build consensus, regardless of political or religious inclinations.
According to the founders, the Israeli Jewish Congress is also designed to advance and strengthen the Jewish character of Israel, advance the principle of the country being the Jewish homeland and preserve Jewish tradition both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
Sloutsker contends that these values and ideas are under threat and need to be reinforced to preserve the relevance of Israel to Jews abroad and to reinvigorate Jewish identity in Israel.