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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Birthright’

Diaspora Leaders Score $100 Million from Israel

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Its leaders call it a “historic development,” a “paradigm shift” and a “change in the relationship” between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

But when it comes to the details of the Joint Initiative of the Government of Israel and World Jewry, key questions have yet to be answered — including what it will do and who will fund it.

Conceived last year as a partnership between the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel and major Diaspora Jewish bodies, the initiative aims to strengthen Diaspora Jewish identity and connections between Israel and Jews worldwide.

On Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet voted to invest upward of $50 million on the initiative through 2017. The government intends to increase the sum to $100 million annually by 2022.

The government wants Diaspora sources — federations, philanthropic foundations and individual donors — to contribute double those sums for two-thirds of the initiative’s total budget.

The funding will go both toward expanding existing programs for young adults and creating new ones.

“It’s a historic development that the Israeli government has decided to take more responsibility for strengthening the identity of Jewish communities,” the Jewish Agency’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, told JTA. “We’re talking about Jewish identity built on a connection to Israel.”

Given the success of Birthright Israel, a free, 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish young adults, the initiative will focus on immersive experiences in Israel, college campus programs, Jewish summer camps and experiential learning, Sharansky said.

But though the Israeli government has set aside money for the initiative, it has neither lined up the matching grants from Diaspora foundations nor has it outlined the specific programs that would receive the funding.

A planning meeting for the initiative in November 2013 drew a virtual who’s who of major Jewish organizations and foundations. But Sharansky mentioned only Jewish Federations of North America as a potential initial source of funding from the United States, saying he didn’t want to single others out before a plan had been set.

“There are many unanswered questions at this point,” the Jewish Federations’ CEO, Jerry Silverman, told JTA. “Six months from now many of those questions will be answered. We’re not at the finish line. We’re at the 30-yard line. We feel confident we’ll get to the finish line together on this.”

Silverman said that the Jewish Federations had yet to decide on an initial sum to contribute to the initiative and that his network was not involved in setting the budget passed by the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday.

Sharansky set a timetable of one to two months for program proposals to be drawn up. Following the initiative’s lengthy planning process thus far, which has included conferences and an online forum for young Jews worldwide to suggest programs, Sharansky said that “coming to practical decisions comes very quickly.”

Dvir Kahana, the director-general of Israel’s Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, said the initiative still requires strategic planning in addition to practical steps.

The Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry, will provide Israeli government funding for the initiative. It will be run by a body including representatives from the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and Diaspora funders.

“We’re going to have a strategic plan for the next 25 years,” he said. “Not what we know to do now but what we should and should not do. From that strategic perspective, with key people, we’ll make decisions both regarding existing programs and programs we need to create. We’re not set on any specific program.”

According to the text of the resolution passed by Israel’s Cabinet, a key portion of the initiative is strengthening the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. The first stage of the initiative will focus both on bringing young Diaspora Jews to Israel and on Israel education in Diaspora communities. There has not been a decision whether the project’s initial stage will also educate Israeli Jews about world Jewry, Sharansky said.

The Jewish Agency, historically focused on promoting immigration to Israel, has in recent years taken up a new mission of strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora and peoplehood. It now offers Diaspora Jews long-term experiences in Israel without a commitment to immigrate.

Sharansky said that while Orthodox Jews can count on ritual observance to keep them engaged in the Jewish community, Israel is the only proven anchor to ensure Jewish identity for non-Orthodox Jews.

“In the non-Orthodox world nothing stops assimilation except connection to Israel,” he said. “In Orthodox communities, awareness of Jewish identity is very high. They live through their faith and Jewish tradition. When you move to others you find out that this deep feeling of your belonging to this Jewish story and your desire to stay inside of it is becoming thinner and thinner.”
 

Taglit-Birthright to Allow Visits to Parts of Judea and Samaria

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Taglit-Birthright will, for the first time, allow participants to freely visit more parts of the historical heartland of the Jewish People, according to a report in Makor Rishon.

Taglit-Birthright takes Jewish youths to Israel for free, so they can connect to their historical roots, see what Israel is today, and meet other Jews, and hopefully marry Jewish.

Until now, Taglit-Birthright has not allowed visits to many areas in Judea and Samaria as part of their program, purportedly to avoid the (internal) political conflicts that those trips might raise, and in part because of the exorbitant cost of the armored buses they feel they need.

But during the past month, Taglit-Birthright has begun allowing groups to visit Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, without requiring special permissions in advance.

Among those places that can now be visited are Kfar Etion, the ancient aqueduct to Jerusalem underneath Efrat (Emet HaBiyar), and Machon Tzomet.

We can only hope that at some point Taglit-Birthright will also include trips to Hebron, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Come Home, Ms. Shapiro, It’s All Good

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Lynne Shapiro commented on my article Am I Jewish Enough? Depends which Government Ministry You’re Asking, which in turn was my comment on an article by Judy Maltz, in both Haaretz and the Forward, Jewish Enough for Birthright — But Not for Israel: Kafkaesque Dilemmas Bedevil Would-Be Immigrants.

“OK Mr.,” Shapiro opened with an admirable vigor, “I am Jewish through a Reform Converted mother and a born to a Jewish mother father and have been more so living a Jewish life since he died and I became his Kaddish in my uncle’s Conservative Egalitarian synagogue (at his insistence). So if I’m not Jewish enough for you to return to Israel, why would I want to give any funds to any group that gives money to Israel as I have done over the years?”

And she added, in a separate comment:

“Also my Reform Convert mother was a total and complete Zionist and made me one! This ‘who is Jew’ is like what the Nazis did to determine who went to the camps IMHO (in my humble opinion)!”

Dear Ms. Shapiro,

First, whatever money you’ve donated to Israel through any group, most of it stays in America, to support the group’s works there, and to pay for the fundraising overhead. Israel’s economy at this point is a lot stronger and more boisterous than that of the U.S., and you should keep your money over there, we don’t need it.

Especially if you’re going to wave it in our faces every time we do something you dislike. Hold on to the money, buy yourself something nice, let’s not base our friendship on your ever diminishing U.S. dollar.

Next, as I understand the current Law of Return, your credentials are good enough to be accepted here as a citizen as soon as your arrive. In fact, they’ll probably make you a citizen even earlier, at the nearest Israeli consulate. They did that with my wife, Nancy, back in NYC, in the fall of 2011.

But why do you care about that? You ain’t planning to come here – you’re just working out a sweat over the fact that if ever you had decided to come over and make aliyah, then Israel would reject you. The problem is not with Israel in this case, but with you.

If you and the rest of America’s Jews knew what’s good for them, they’d be cramming the airports, looking to get out and make it to a safe haven in the Jewish State. IMHO, if you’re so familiar with what the Nazis did—use that acquired wisdom and get out of there while the getouting is good. We will embrace you and accept you and love you, no matter how your Mom converted. You can check it with your local Jewish Agency or Nefesh B’Nesfesh. Locate your nearest office of either and give them a call.

I wish all of us have learned a lesson from the Nazis. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory (who departed almost 20 years ago), used to say that we should learn from the Gestapo: how dedicated they were in seeking out every last Jew, no matter how far and how well hidden. We, too, must seek the hidden, faraway Jews, with the same dedication and self sacrifice as those Nazis, may God obliterate their memory.

So now you have it, holy sister – come home, call me up, I’ll take you to the Netanya beach, buy you a drink, point at the baby blue sky and the blue-green Mediterranean and say, Welcome home.

Am I Jewish Enough? Depends which Government Ministry You’re Asking

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Things always go nuts when state meets church, or synagogue, in the case of the Jewish State. It would have been a lot simpler had the State of Israel adopted the Torah and the Shulchan Aruch as its constitution. If you ask me, Israel would have developed a lot more like the United States than like the Soviet Union—but that’s a different debate.

For many cultural and historical but mostly for political reasons, the founding fathers and mothers of the fledgling state for all the Jews came up for their own mix of legal systems, not so much a constitution as an open-ended melange of precedence and foreign systems and smidgens of “Hebrew Law.”

Judy Maltz, writing in the Forward this week, sums it aptly with the headline: Jewish Enough for Birthright — But Not for Israel: Kafkaesque Dilemmas Bedevil Would-Be Immigrants.

I suppose Kafkaesque states make for Kafkaesque dilemmas.

The original Law of Return 5710-1950 declares the right of Jews to come to Israel: “Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh.” There was some follow-up legislation in the Nationality Law of 1952, and some reupholstering in 1970, extending the right of return to non-Jews with a Jewish grandparent, and their spouses.

So that the current definition of the law of “who is a Jew” includes, in writing, non-Jews.

I know it probably had to be done at the time, in anticipation of the much needed arrival of Polish and Russian Jews. But it stretched the gap between the Shulchan Aruch and the state’s definitions so wide, it stopped making sense.

Kafkaesque stories rise when the law stops making sense.

The law since 1970 applies to:

People born Jews, having a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother.

People with Jewish ancestry, having a Jewish father or grandfather.

People who converted to Judaism within the Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations. Except the Reform and Conservative conversions are only recognized if they were done outside Israel.

So, to reiterate, a Jew is a non-Jew, or one converted in a non-Jewish conversion.

Kafkaesque? Maybe. I’m leaning towards Jospeh Heller.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to advocate against Reform rabbis or against gentiles, only to point out that once you created a Jewish State that’s not based on Jewish Law you’re bound to mess up and victimize a lot of innocent civilians.

There are three essential authorities dealing with the status of Jews immigrating to Israel: the Ministry of Absorption, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Religious Services via the Chief Rabbinate.

Anyone with an IQ in the two-digits and up will tell you there’s no way in the world these three authorities, staffed by officials from three-dimensionally opposed political and philosophical points of view, could ever cooperate on anything. The fact that they’re doing as well as they are is nothing short of a proof of the existence of a benign and loving God.

The Maltz article describes young people who make spontaneous decisions to come live in Israel, and soon run into trouble with the various authorities. What about those who plan their immigration well in advance, taking months, if not years, lining up all their ducks in order, only to discover they are short a couple of ducks, and where’s the chicken? You were supposed to bring a chicken.

I’d like to propose a solution.

First, regarding people who come to Israel, fall in love and wish to stay, only to discover Grandma Miriam was a goy—they should be granted a visitor’s status good for three years, something akin to the American green card. It will entitle them to work in Israel, and in the end of three years they can apply for citizenship. In reality, the only setback they would have to endure is a little bit of hurt pride, and they won’t get the aid package, which comes to only a few thousand dollars these days.

Birthright Expands Eligibility for Free Trips to Israel

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The Taglit-Birthright Israel program has expanded eligibility for its free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18-26 to include teenagers who went on an educational trip to Israel during high school

Birthright’s eligibility guidelines previously stated, “If you have been to Israel before but only with your family or on other personal business, you are still eligible. However, if you have been to Israel as part of a touring group, educational program, study program or an organized extended residential program since you were 12 years old, you are not eligible.”

“I think everybody thought about [the change in the eligibility guidelines] for many years, and everybody wanted to have it,” Noa Bauer, Birthright’s vice president of international marketing, told JNS.org.

“It was a matter of funding, and I think today you see more anti-Israel things on campus, and we realized over the years that people that have been to Israel again have more confidence for talking about Israel, and geopolitics, and anything pertaining to Israel after visiting with Birthright Israel. I think we’re one of the best platforms to do that for college students.”

In the 13-plus years since philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt joined forces with the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel, global Jewish communities, and other philanthropists to fund Birthright, the program has taken about 350,000 young Jews to Israel.

A series of studies by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies have shown that former Birthright participants are 42 percent more likely to feel “very much” connected to Israel compared to people who didn’t go on the trip. Program participants are also more likely to belong to a religious congregation than those who did not attend Birthright, and participants are also slightly more likely than non-participants to make charitable contributions to Jewish or Israeli causes, according to the Cohen Center research.

Wealthy Argentine Chabadnik Set to Take over Israel’s Giant IDB

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Eduardo Elsztain, Argentina’s richest man and a follower of Lubavitch-Chabad, along with Israeli entrepreneur Motti Ben-Moshe, is set to take control of 75 percent of Israel’s giant and debt-ridden IDB Holding conglomerate that has its fingers in supermarkets, paper, mobile phone, insurance and cement companies.

Credit holders have overwhelming voted for Elsztain and Ben Moshe to enter and take control from Nochi Dankner, who says he will put up a fight against the buy-out.

Israel’s Big Business elite, approximately seven companies that control more than half of the manufacturing in the country, is dominated by Israel’s richest families, almost all of them left-leaning and secular, a term that does not necessarily mean anti-religious and often includes men like Dankner who observe traditions and are respectful of Judaism.

The entry of a Haredi could be a sign of something spiritual happening, or it could not.

The facts are that Elztain’s representative in Israel has been Shlomo Lapidus, a Haredi businessman and also from one of the wealthiest families in Buenos Aires. A textile company founded by his father is translated into English as “With G-d’s Help.”

Elsztain is president of Chabad, has served as treasurer of the World Jewish Congress, founded Hillel in Argentina and is a big investor in the Taglit-Birthright program.

Big Bucks execs like to jet around the world and visit expensive hotels, but Elsztain does not let that keep him from visiting the graves of righteous Jews when he visits Israel.

This may not be a new trend, but it bears watching.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a chain of markets in Israel welcoming buyers with an image of the Rebbe?

Summit on Israel-Diaspora Relations

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Some 120 Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world convened for a two-day summit on formulating a plan to strengthen the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.

Run in conjunction with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the summit on Wednesday and Thursday will focus, in part, on strengthening Jewish identity among Jewish young adults worldwide.

Organizers said it will build on the 10-day Birthright Israel trips offered to young adults and on the long-term Masa Israel study, internship and volunteer programs in Israel – both of which are partially funded by the Israeli government. Israel invests $127 million annually in these and other programs meant to build bridges between Israel and world Jewry.

“Building on past success, the Government of Israel is determined to champion and co-create, with world Jewry, a multi-layered initiative that guarantees a thriving future for the next generation of Jews,” a planning document for the summit read. “This new initiative has the potential to move to another and more mature level, in terms of cooperation, commitment, content and funding.”

Planning for the summit began last year under the supervision of a task force led by Harel Locker, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office. The summit aims to formulate plans to increase Israel education and advocacy – as well as enhance Jewish identity – in the Diaspora, and to promote immigration to Israel.

The plan detailing the summit’s conclusions is due out in 2014.

“The government of Israel believes it plays a central and crucial role in ensuring the future and continuity of the Jewish people in full partnership with Jewish communities of the Diaspora,” Locker said at the summit’s opening event. “Jewish communities play a central and crucial role in fighting the attacks on the legitimacy of the state of Israel, in full partnership with the state of Israel.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/summit-on-israel-diaspora-relations/2013/11/07/

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