Give Israeli migrants absentee voting rights, Jerusalem institute recommends

Israel should give Israeli migrants absentee voting rights for their first four years abroad and finance schools for the children of Israelis in the Diaspora, a new policy paper recommends.

The policy paper released this week by the Jewish People Policy Institute based in Jerusalem argues that Israelis residing abroad, especially in North America, can be a strategic asset to Israel, and help facilitate a process of demographic and identity regeneration within Diaspora Jewry as well as serve as a bridge between Israel and Jewish communities abroad.

The paper, titled “Helping Yordim Remain Jewish: A new policy for the treatment of Israeli migrants abroad,” was authored by JPPI fellow Yogev Karasenty. It calls on Israeli decision makers to give Israeli migrants absentee voting rights for their first four years abroad to strengthen ties with Israel, and to finance the establishment of kindergartens and schools for children of Israelis in the Diaspora, as well as to finance special study tracks for the children of Israeli migrants studying in Jewish schools.

Yordim, which literally means those who descend, is the Hebrew term used to describe Israelis who leave for the Diaspora.

The paper pointed out that the second-generation Israeli migrant community is exposed to an accelerated assimilation process and that Israeli parents abroad face difficulties in instilling an “Israeli” identity in the next generation.

JPPI President Avinoam Bar-Yosef said that “Israel should make a real effort to embrace the children of Yordim, who have moved away from Israel as a result of the negative attitude of the Israeli state and public opinion toward their parents, in order to strengthen their Jewish identity and long-term ties to Israel. This approach must be accompanied by economic investment and a shift of strategy, especially in an era when distances are decreasing, allowing many people to live their lives in more than one country.”

The Next American-Israeli Idol

Last week a handful of yordim (Israelis who “descended” to America) were given the rare opportunity to make aliyah; that is, to rise back up to Israel—and to stardom. Kochav Nolad (“A Star is Born”), Israel’s “American Idol” knock-off, came to Hollywood, literally, to scout talent for its seventh season. After stops in New York, Florida, and Atlanta, the show’s director, host, and two judges held a round of auditions at the Vanguard nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard for Israeli ex-pats aspiring to become Zion’s Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood but whose Hebrew accents would probably horrify “Idol” judge Simon Cowell.

Auditions were advertised in the American-Israeli press, and singers were asked to prepare two songs—at least one in Hebrew—along with a Hebrew song written specially for the show. The Hollywood leg of the tryouts culminated in an Independence Day party hosted by DJ Eliran and DJ Tal at Vanguard on April 23, where the top five L.A. contenders auditioned live on stage for a few hundred of the show’s fans. For the record, this reporter was among the unsuccessful auditioners.

The party was an Israeli pop culture fest with nary an English word heard amidst a techno version of the hora and other Israeli disco tunes, although the dance floor only reached a quarter capacity—probably due to the hefty $35 entrance fee at the door.
Nevertheless, toward midnight, the crowd managed to squish together near the stage to watch Tzvika Hadar, Israel’s Ryan Seacrest, (although much more round and informal than the “Idol” host), move along the audition. The show’s veteran judges, Israeli singer Margalit “Margol” Tzanani and journalist/filmmaker Gal Uhovsky, raked the talents with true Simon Cowell severity, choosing only two potential “stars” from the batch. The evening ended with a classically tacky tribute to America with Tzanani singing a dance remix of Springstein’s “Born in the USA.”

Footage of the American auditions will be aired as part of the program in the summer, broadcast in the U.S. on the Israeli Channel. Israeli-Angelenos who made the cut have good reason to exile their Hollywood dreams to the Holy Land. Kochav Nolad has been a ratings hit from the start—a favorite among the tweens—launching successful careers of several pop and television stars, including Ninette Tayeb, Shiri Maimon, and Harel Skaat.