April 19, 2019

How to Bridge the Israel-Diaspora Gap

“On Sunday, a day before thousands of American Jews descended on this Israeli city to air their differences with the nation’s government, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had a listening session.

Rivlin invited a select group of about 100 American Jews to his official residence in Jerusalem. While he sat in the center of the room, in a cushioned chair, three leaders of the diaspora’s largest Jewish community explained their issues with the Jewish state.

“The Jewish identity of many young American Jews is reflected through the lens of tikkun olam, social justice values,” said Eric Goldstein, the CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “And they experience a mental discomfort when they use that lens to look at many current Israeli government policies: settlement policy, nation-state law, treatment of asylum seekers, marriage equality and marriage rights — more broadly, the monopoly that the Orthodox has over religion and state in Israel.”

That laundry list of grievances — everything from how Israel treats the Palestinians to whose marriages it recognizes — is what lies behind the “We Have to Talk” theme of this year’s General Assembly, the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America, which is taking place here from Monday to Wednesday.”

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