“In the face of a common crisis, Jews near and far must stand as a united people. Now is the time to leverage our power as a 15-million-strong global family by building new bridges of cooperation,” said Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch.
By Eliana Rudee
By Eliana Rudee, JNS
Media representatives from 30 countries, including European Jewish Press, joined online last week to discuss the right of Jews throughout the world to intervene in what’s going in in Israel, as well as Israel’s new diplomatic ties and the influence of social networks on the hatred of Jews amid the coronavirus.
The Government Press Office, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, hosted the fourth International Jewish Media Summit on Dec. 7, held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch of the Blue and White Party shared the message that “all Jews are responsible for one another is a not just a saying, but a true call to action that during this time, we must connect Jewish communities near and far.”
“Today,” she related, “in the face of a common crisis, Jews near and far must stand as a united people. Now is the time to leverage our power as a 15-million-strong global family by working together and building new bridges of cooperation … solidarity is rooted in our texts, our traditions, and is a part of our nature.”
“We are a family,” she continued, “and in a family, when one hurts, everyone feels the pain. When one succeeds, everyone rejoices. That is one of the secrets and foundations of the Jewish people. Now, solidarity is needed more than ever.”
Earlier this year, the Blue and White Knesset member introduced a bill that requires consultation with the Diaspora on matters regarding world Jewry, such as religious pluralism, worship at the Western Wall and security.
During a panel titled “Does Your Opinion Matter: Should the Jewish Communities of the World Have a Voice and a Vote in Israel’s Internal Affairs?” a pre-recorded video of Israelis sharing their thoughts on the bill showed more opposition than support for the bill.
However, the speakers unanimously expressed support.
Former Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan characterized the current relationship between Israel and the Diaspora as one described by a lack of knowledge of each other and of proper communication.
“We believe we know them, and they believe they know us, but not so much,” he stated, praising the Knesset bill. “I want to hear what my brethren say, though I don’t have to agree with them. The process [of consultation]is more important than the outcome.”
Ruderman Family Foundation executive director Shira Ruderman said that Israel and world Jewry lack “a common goal.”
Moreover, she explained, “Israel is willing to listen to American Jewry only when it comes to donations or lobbying for Israel in Washington, D.C. Most Jews in Israel do not understand American Jewry well enough, and we have lost our shared mission. If Israel really wants to function as the nation-state of the entire Jewish people, this must change.”
‘Focus on our common destiny’
Sandy Cardin, CEO of Our Common Destiny, said that the bill makes world Jewry feel welcome and taken seriously, as well as encourages them to participate in Jewish life. “It will strengthen us as a people, as a nation, and unity is much needed during this physical isolation,” he said.
“Israel is the state of the Jewish people no matter where they live—it doesn’t mean that they can dictate what happens in Israel, but it does mean that they should be consulted before making decisions that affect Jews in other locations,” he said.
Cardin added that “it is creating an arena where Jews worldwide can only increase their sense of mutual responsibility and help us focus on issues that help us focus on our common destiny.”
He called for Israelis to understand the “great sense of affiliation and connection” that world Jewry has with Israel and for a separation of politics from Jewish peoplehood.
May Samra, director of Enlace Judío—a Mexico-based news site with local, international, Israel and Jewish-related news—expressed that communities in the Diaspora often suffer anti-Semitic attacks and consequences because of Israel’s political choices, so it makes sense that they should be able to express an opinion and participate in the process of decision-making.
Addressing how the coronavirus crisis has placed the Jewish identity of hundreds of Jewish communities around the world in genuine danger, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said “we have lost many loved ones, have seen many businesses and lives destroyed, shuls and schools have closed, Jewish organizations face difficult choices, and Jewish newspapers have closed.”
“The role of the Jewish media is so important,” he continued, “not only for helping us all stay connected to our communities but for being the voice of the communities, especially when it comes to fighting anti-Israel hatred and BDS.”
Concluding the summit, GPO Director Nitzan Chen said: “The international Jewish Media Summit has become a main platform in which Jewish media leaders from Israel and the world deal with critical issues for the Jewish Diaspora. I have no doubt that this summit, especially during the coronavirus crisis, strengthens the bond between the State of Israel and its government and public opinion leaders among dozens of Jewish communities around the world, which desire close ties with decision-makers in Israel.”