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New Israeli President Must Protect Relationship Between Diaspora Jews, Israel
Isaac Herzog, in his role as Jewish Agency chairman, visits a Jewish school in Argentina, March 26, 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

New Israeli President Must Protect Relationship Between Diaspora Jews, Israel

Ma’ariv, Israel, July 11

For years, the necessity of Israel’s presidential institution has come up for discussion. Many doubt why the presidency is necessary in Israel and warrants such a hefty investment of taxpayer money for what is primarily a ceremonial position. However, the past few years have proven to us that what Israel desperately needs is a role that transcends political alliances and social, religious, and ethnic sectors. These days, when the Jews of the United States and the Diaspora face ever-growing challenges, the image of a unifying president is necessary and is the one that can address the needs of Jewish communities around the world. The biggest challenge facing American Jews is antisemitism. In recent years there has been an alarming increase in the number of antisemitic events on both sides of the American political map. The president’s challenge in this area will be to turn antisemitism into an issue that is not the private problem of Diaspora Jews but a challenge that the State of Israel directly confronts. The second challenge is the growing criticism of Israel among the younger generation of American Jews. The younger generation of American Jewry finds it difficult to integrate Israel into Jewish-American identity. The State of Israel is not perceived as a source of pride for Jewish identity. The president’s challenge will be to turn Israel into a unifying, rather than dividing component of American-Jewish identity. The third challenge is the continuity of Jewish identity. The processes of distancing oneself from religion create a difference in Jewish identity between older and younger Jews. These gaps are a challenge for Jewish continuity in the United States and the Diaspora. The president faces the challenge of positioning Judaism as a nation and not just as a religion and emphasizing the common denominator that strengthens the Jewish story and identity. The fourth challenge is to restore the relevance of Jewish institutions to Jewish communities in the United States. Jewish institutions are the connecting thread between different parts of the community, so the loss of their relevance poses a grave threat to the continuation of these communities. The president’s challenge will be to propose a structural change in the way Americans and Israelis engage with these organizations. The fifth challenge will be to strengthen the low public consciousness in Israel regarding Diaspora Jewry and the importance of Israel’s relationship with it. Among other things, the president will be required to define Israel’s role among Diaspora Jews. The sixth challenge will be to prevent the erosion of the relationship between Israeli and American Jews by fostering and deepening the connection and trust between the two sides. Israel’s strategic relationship with American Jewry, which is about 45% of the world’s Jewish population, and with Diaspora Jewry is not currently perceived as strategic and important enough. The restoration of these relations should begin with the Israeli public’s recognition of the strategic contribution of American Jewry to Israel. In addition, innovative and creative thinking is required on strategies and platforms for managing the relationship between Diaspora Jews and Israel, such as the establishment of a joint and representative consultation mechanism. The president’s challenge will be to define a common vision and goal for the Jewish people as a whole. The new president has many challenges awaiting him and his role in shaping the future of Israel-Diaspora relations may be unprecedented. –Shira Ruderman (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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