Jewish Agency Chairman, Isaac Herzog: “For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, we established a formal forum to assist Jewish communities around the world. This is not meant to be an ad hoc emergency response to a specific community, but rather to understand, to map, and to assist communities through a rehabilitation period that is expected to be long and, in some cases, grueling.’’
Over 30 leaders from major Jewish organizations around the world participated in a video roundtable forum established by The Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to assess the devastating implications COVID-19 has had on Jewish communities worldwide and the necessary steps to address their most pressing needs.
The call began with introductory remarks by the new Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Omer Yankelevich. Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog then presented an overview of five issue areas, and organization leaders followed up by presenting a more in-depth look at each challenge facing the global Jewish community.
Leveraging the global presence of these organizations, leaders discussed the impact of the current crisis, the related challenges, as well as opportunities and possible responses.
The five-issue areas covered on the call included: community – the need for rehabilitation and assistance in surviving the crisis; resources – effectively collecting and distributing aid; hope and morale – promoting unity and mutual responsibility; education – current and future needs; antisemitism – preparation for future outbreaks. These pressing matters will continue to be addressed in upcoming forum meetings and in subcommittees on each topic, the Jewish Agency said.
Jewish Agency Chairman, Isaac Herzog, noted that, “For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, we established a formal forum to assist Jewish communities around the world. This is not meant to be an ad hoc emergency response to a specific community, but rather to understand, to map, and to assist communities through a rehabilitation period that is expected to be long and, in some cases, grueling.’’
He added:’’ This is a paradigm shift of ‘all the people of Israel are responsible for one another,’ and it is the hour for decisive leadership, to take effective steps needed to ensure Jewish communities around the world weather this crisis.”
In late April, The Jewish Agency announced the establishment of the ‘COVID 19 LoanFund for Communities in Crisis,’ a $10 million fund that will provide no-interest loans to organizations providing services essential to the continuing existence of Jewish communities which are now at-risk to survive the pandemic.
Applications from over 70 countries have already been received and are currently being reviewed.
Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Omer Yankelevich, said: “I’m humbled to see how Jewish communities everywhere are faring in these troubled times and how they are striving to share ideas, learn from each other’s mistakes and grow together. Their united spirit is inspiring as they work together to provide a stable platform for assistance on a regular basis. Together as world Jewry, we will build a strong working forum that will provide and achieve concrete solutions for all of our communities.”
She added: “Our ministry would like to work together with our communities everywhere so that they have a connection to the people of Israel and we in Israel have a connection to them.’’
The global forum was comprised of 30 regional umbrella organizations, representing Jewish communities around the world, ‘’that are able to provide a community-wide assessment, and who together are committed to gathering all knowledge, experience and leadership needed for strengthening communities’ resilience, as well as for the restoration of global Jewish life.’’
Organizations participating in the forum included the Government of Israel – represented by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister, The Jewish Federations – North America, Keren Hayesod – UIA, World Zionist Organization, ADL, Conference of Presidents, Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish National Fund, Orthodox Union, United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, URJ Union for Reform Judaism, World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, WUPJ-World Union Progressive Judaism, B’nai Brith International, Claims Conference, Conference of Europeans Rabbis, Russian Jewish Congress, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Latin American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, Chabad, Hillel International, World Union of Jewish Students, Maccabi World Union, Moishe House, Commonwealth Jewish Communities, Israeli American Council, OAM, Organization of Orthodox Synagogues.