Our brothers yesterday, today and tomorrow

We must keep working together and respecting each other, as it is clear that when we operate together, we are at our strongest.

A child wearing a Kippah (photo credit: REUTERS)
A child wearing a Kippah
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two seemingly unrelated events occurred recently: Artists from abroad canceled their participation in a festival in Israel due to pressure from BDS; and the government approved an ultra-Orthodox- backed bill that would place conversion in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate, and at the same time the process to change the Western Wall layout has been frozen. However, there is indeed a connection between these events. One of our biggest struggles today is proving the legitimacy of Israel. Surrounding this issue we battle the BDS movement and its desire to boycott Israel.
American Jews operate at the forefront of our joint struggle, fighting against the Iranian nuclear program, advocating for aid during military operations, and standing by us in the UN, and most recently and relevantly against BDS. They fight on college campuses, working with senators and congressional representatives, and in the media. It is a daily war, with new issues constantly arising, but they protect us because they are our brothers.
In fact, the US Jewish community has always been doing its part to protect us. In 1945, near the end of World War II, the Jewish community in the British Mandate needed support to advance the establishment of the Jewish state. In New York, David Ben-Gurion met with Jewish-American philanthropist Rudolf Sonneborn and sought to raise money for the Hagana and the developing Jewish community in the Land of Israel. This meeting led to the establishment of a network of Jewish-American volunteers who raised funds for the Jews in Zion, first $100 million, then $200m., a fantastic sum at the time. This was used to build and purchase large amounts of weaponry to arm and protect the future Jewish state.
In the end, as we all know, the bloody War of Independence gave way to the establishment of the State of Israel. The aid given by this organization was vital to our victory.
I was born to an American mother and a Tunisian father. I was privileged to know both worlds and to understand the importance of the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. The American Jews have not just helped us financially, they have also used their strong voice to support Israel.
In 1947, the Jewish-American community adamantly advocated to president Truman that the United States should vote in the UN Assembly in favor of the establishment of State of Israel. And they has continued to use their voice, continued to stand by us. And they do this because American Jewry recognizes that, at the source of our mutual responsibilities, we are a historic alliance of brothers and sisters. We are united, the same people with the same heritage and history. Sharing our fate.
One of the well-known components of the Jewish community in the United States is its great diversity.
Although haredi MKs would prefer American Jewry to be ultra-Orthodox, America is in fact home to myriad communities and movements. We always knew about the differences between the communities in Israel and in America, but it was important to emphasize the commonalities between us. There was a recognition that the “uncle from America” may have been different, but we were still family. Every Jewish-American lobbying group, such as AIPAC or the Zionist Organization of America, was composed of Jews from different movements, but they united to stand for Israel.
In recent years, however, a rift has formed, which turned into a crisis of trust between the State of Israel and American Jewry. Attitudes in Israel and actions being taken in our country have lead American Jews to believe Israel is turning away and ignoring their values.
Various Knesset members are leading legislation that directly affects the Jewish identity of many Americans.
Which brings us to the second story. This week, the cabinet froze the Western Wall layout change, and the conversion bill advanced.
There is no doubt that these decisions deliver a strategic blow to the State of Israel. But these decisions also hurt our brothers. They harm traditional Jews, Zionist Jews, and of course the Jews of the Diaspora. Now, if we ask them to make aliya? It probably will not happen so fast.
American Jews are our brothers who fight for Israel and for its legitimacy all the time, and in return we have hurt them. We have broken their trust and shirked our responsibility toward them. This cannot continue. We cannot let this bill pass, because we must remind ourselves that every time we – American Jewry and the State of Israel – have worked together, we won.
Therefore, we must keep working together and respecting each other, as it is clear that when we operate together, we are at our strongest. This familial bond we share must be sustained and honored, from yesterday, through today, and into tomorrow.
MK Rachel Azaria is a member of the Kulanu party and of the Knesset Caucus for Strengthening the Jewish World.