A new strategic plan for a shared Israel-Diaspora future

In order to promote a shared vision of the Jewish future, we aim to draft – together with key figures from around the Jewish world – a new Declaration of Jewish Peoplehood.

American Jews marching in New York with Israeli flags. How can we bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora? (photo credit: REUTERS)
American Jews marching in New York with Israeli flags. How can we bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The foundational values of Jewish unity and mutual responsibility lie at the heart of the State of Israel. As former first prime minister David Ben-Gurion declared, “the connection between the State of Israel and world Jewry is not merely or primarily a bond of need and utility, but is first and foremost a bond of destiny and fate.”
Today, in the face of the existential threats facing the world Jewish community, the State of Israel is transforming its responsibility towards the Jewish people into a strategic plan of action. As a key element of this strategy, I presented to the government on Sunday a historic resolution aimed at ensuring the future of the Jewish people.
With the approval of this resolution, we are making it clear that the Jewish and democratic State of Israel sees itself as part of one indivisible family of 15 million Jews around the world.
The existential threats facing Jewish peoplehood include the loss of Jewish identity among many Jews, the weakening of the sense of belonging to the Jewish collective and the growing disconnect between the Jewish community of Israel and that of the Diaspora Jewish communities.
If we fail to act now, we are in danger of losing large parts of the Jewish people forever.
These existential threats have been compounded by the devastation wrought by the novel coronavirus on Jewish communities, large and small. Together with these communities, we have grieved the loss of communal leaders, members and loved ones. As schools, summer camps and synagogues remain closed, many of these communities are in dire need of assistance.
This week’s government resolution will take Israel’s efforts to promote Jewish unity and solidarity from the level of tactical steps to the level of a strategic multiyear initiative. The resolution was adopted in the spirit of the Fassberg-Kandel public committee’s recommendations. Central to them is the critical importance of working in true partnership with Jewish communities and organizations, as well as enhancing synergy between all of the relevant government ministries and national institutions.
Additional key recommendations made by the committee include the importance of providing diverse opportunities for engagement at every stage of the Jewish lifecycle, and of ensuring the long-term stability of support and funding for Israel’s efforts.
Identity and the sense of peoplehood begin with education and formative experiences. Our action plan includes substantially expanding investment in formal and informal educational opportunities and experiences. Already, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry has invested – together with Jewish organizations and philanthropists – hundreds of millions of shekels in such initiatives through frameworks like Unit-Ed, Mosaic, and Momentum. These initiatives will expand and take on additional directions.
In Israel, we will work to deepen understanding and awareness of the diversity and richness of Diaspora Jewish life. We will develop wide-ranging educational activities to introduce our children, students and IDF soldiers to world Jewish communities, while promoting empathy and the sense of mutual responsibility.
Not only will we work to deepen the bonds between Israel and the Diaspora, but we will work to strengthen the connections between Jewish communities across the globe. We will also promote innovative ventures which create opportunities for young Jews to cooperate in a range of fields, from science and technology to social justice and sustainability. Together, Jews from Israel and around the world will work to advance tikkun olam (repairing the world).
In order to promote a shared vision of the Jewish future, we aim to draft – together with key figures from around the Jewish world – a new Declaration of Jewish Peoplehood, which will stress the importance of all that we share: our common history, heritage and destiny. We will not ignore the disagreements that have emerged over the years. However, our starting point will be all that unites us.
I truly believe that when we begin with what we have in common, we can overcome the differences along the way.
Millennia ago, King David, described his Jerusalem as an “ir she’chubra la yachdav,” a city in which the different parts are joined together as one. My hopes and prayers are that our new strategic initiative, approved this week in Jerusalem, will represent the next stage in uniting all the different parts of the Jewish People.

The writer is the Diaspora affairs minister.