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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Natan Sharansky’

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.”
 

JTA

Jews Flee Clashes in Ukraine, Make Aliya on Eve of J’lem Day

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Six new immigrants from Donetsk, Ukraine landed in Israel Tuesday, May 27, having narrowly escaped battles between Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in and around the city’s airport. The clashes shut down the airport and the immediate vicinity yesterday.

The group, including one couple with twin baby girls and another couple from the city of Mariupol, had planned to depart for Israel last night, but were prevented from leaving the country. In order to facilitate their immigration, Jewish Agency representative evacuated them overland to Dnepropetrovsk, paid for the families’ hotel costs until they departed for Israel this morning.

Natan Sharansky, chairman of  the Jewish Agency for Israel and a native of Donetsk, said  Agency representatives in Ukraine continue to be active in all areas of the country and have made plans for any eventuality. “Due to the current situation in the country, we have significantly expanded our activities, assisting those who wish to immigrate to Israel, bringing young people to experience life in Israel on a variety of Jewish Agency programs, providing Hebrew classes, and so on.”

According to The Agency’s Russian language department, approximately 30,000 Jews live in Donetsk Oblast, of whom some 11,000 live in the city of Donetsk. Agency said in a statement that representatives in Ukraine have been authorised to evacuate Jewish families from the conflict area, and added that Jewish Agency representatives are in close contact with the Jewish communities in the area and are prepared to offer immediate assistance, should the need arise.

The statement cited a 142 percent increase in Ukrainian aliyah during the first half of 2014, from 315 immigrants in 2013 to 762 between January and April of this year. During the month of March alone,  222 Ukrainian immigrants came to Israel, a 200% increase over the March 2013 total of 74.

April saw a dramatic increase in Ukrainian Aliyah, with 383 immigrants arriving, compared to 97 in April 2013 – a 295% increase. Jewish Agency representatives have also noted a dramatic increase in the number of individuals who have started the Aliyah process, as well as in the number of individuals who have contacted The Jewish Agency in order to receive counseling and information regarding Aliyah.

Meir Halevi Siegel

Presenting Arafat’s Dead Sea Tonic

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

The days of sefirah feature several special events here in Israel.

First, the week after Pesach we have Holocaust Memorial Day, which is deeply moving as we remember, in ceremonies and through radio and TV broadcasts, the horrors perpetrated in Europe that preceded the founding of our state.

A week later we mark Memorial Day as the nation grieves for its fallen heroes and the victims of terror attacks.

The following day brings a huge outpouring of joy as the nation celebrates Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s independence day.

The most outstanding event of Yom Ha’Atzmaut is the International Bible Quiz. This year’s theme was leadership. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein jokingly told the crowd he’d already signed certificates for the winners before their names were recorded, noting that “where I come from [Russia], they would sign certificates with the winner’s name even before the contest!”

Natan Sharansky quipped, “Yuli and I went to jail [as Prisoners of Zion] before we arrived in Israel to become leaders. But now we are witnessing people becoming leaders before they go to jail!”

In contrast to Edelstein and Sharansky, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke in sober tones about leadership, stating that “true leadership is to recognize reality and know how to address it.”

The audience grew extraordinarily quiet, seeming to recognize the truth of his words.

We have come to a point where most of this usually fractious country stands behind the decisions of our prime minister. In a newly released survey, 63 percent of Israelis agree peace talks should end now that the Palestine Authority has signed a pact with their Hamas terrorist brothers rather than make any compromise with Israel, which would require the PA’s recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Interestingly, Netanyahu employed a bit of political correctness to ensure that Israel would not cave to the Palestinians’ unrealistic demands. He was so cute in making Tzipi Livni justice minister (she needed the post for her political survival) as well as the government’s representative in negotiations with the PA – while positioning one of his loyalists behind her, looking over her shoulder to prevent her from offering unilateral concessions.

In the end it was Livni herself who would have to declare the peace talks dead. What a perfect ending!

This issue of The Jewish Press arrives on newsstands on Pesach Sheini, which, according to chassidic teaching, is the holiday of the second chance – or, better said, the celebration of a new beginning.

For Netanyahu this means, to use his own words, recognizing reality and knowing how to address it.

I’m thrilled that there are people who are right now reading our paper, and maybe even this article, on airplanes flying to Israel. Perhaps many of them are coming to Meron for Lag B’Omer, and maybe some of them will be bringing kinderlach for their first haircut in Meron.

The fact is, they’ll be arriving in an Israel that faces a new reality, and our prime minister needs to address it.

Political correctness has lost its currency. Putin proved it with his malicious destabilization of Ukraine, shortly after he played “peacemaker” during the crisis in Syria, which only allowed Syrian leaders to again use chemical weapons on their own people.

Obama proved it when, commenting on the limited legalization of marijuana in Colorado, he said with a chuckle, “I do hope it doesn’t lead to a whole lot of paranoid people who think that the federal government is…listening to their phone calls” – when he knows that we know that it in fact does.

And the Palestinians have abandoned political correctness by signing certificates that pronounced them the winners even before the contest (in this case, sincere negotiations).

Dov Shurin

Reform and Conservative Jews Upset over Plans for Robinson’s Arch

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Reform and Conservative Jewish groups are upset with a reported draft agreement that would  put the City of David Foundation in charge of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch area, where they can pray in a women’s minyan with a Torah scroll.

The tentative agreement calls for the government to transfer control of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center to the City of David Foundation, Haaretz reported. The foundation runs the extremely popular City of David tourist site in Jerusalem’s Old City and works to settle Jews in the Silwan neighborhood, across the road from the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

Avoid conflict at the widely-visited area of the Western Wall.

Israeli Conservative movement CEO Yizhar Hess told JTA that the draft agreement concerning the Davidson Center caught non-Orthodox groups by surprise.

“We were negotiating the final details of how it would be managed,” Hess said. “It was never mentioned that the City of David Foundation would be the one to actually run the place.”

Hess said that the Reform and Conservative do not take a stance on the foundation’s political leanings, which they claim are decidedly rightwing, but explained that if implemented, the draft agreement would depart from a compromise on the Western Wall outlined by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky last year. Sharansky’s outline proposed creating a pluralist council to manage the site.

JTA

Jewish Agency Offers Emergency Help to Ukraine’s Jews

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The Jewish Agency said it would offer immediate emergency assistance to Ukraine’s Jewish community and will help secure the country’s Jewish institutions.

Saturday evening’s announcement by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky came hours after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev and the Ukrainian parliament announced new presidential elections for late May. Violent protests led to the deaths of dozens in the days leading up to the coup.

There are about 200,000 Jews living in Ukraine, most in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, according to the Jewish Agency.

Sharanksky said in a statement that Ukraine “one of most vibrant Jewish communities in the world, with dozens of active Jewish organizations and institutions. Recent events have shown that we must strengthen these institutions’ security measures. We have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s Jews,” said Sharansky.

Sharansky told Jewish Agency leadership on Saturday night that the organization is in “constant contact” with the Jewish community leadership in Ukraine, and is following events there closely.

Assistance will come from The Jewish Agency’s Emergency Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities, which provides financial assistance to enable Jewish communities to strengthen security measures in Jewish communities at risk.

Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman told the Israeli daily Maariv that he advised his congregation to leave Kiev and the country, if possible. Azman closed the Kiev Jewish community’s schools due to the violence, Maariv reported. Azman also told the newspaper that the Israeli embassy advised the members of the Jewish community to remain in their homes.

JTA

Facebook’s Sandberg Recalls BBYO Experience

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, described how the Jewish youth movement BBYO helped to shape her.

Sandberg, also the author of the best-seller “Lean In” on empowering women in the workplace, spoke in a video message to the annual BBYO conference in Dallas over the weekend.

She said her experience in the organization helped her “stay close to the Jewish identity as a Jewish women that has really mattered to me.”

Sandberg advised using the monthly “Lean In” empowerment circles she advocates in her book in a BBYO context.

Also delivering video messages to the conference, which drew 2,000 teen leaders from across the United States and other countries, were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency.

Sharansky spoke of the vital role Jewish youth movements played in sustaining his hopes when he was a prisoner of the Soviet gulag.

JTA

Sharansky to Congress: Keep Up Awareness of Political Prisoners

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Natan Sharansky joined the parents and spouses of political prisoners in asking the U.S. Congress to speak of their loved ones during meetings with foreign officials.

Sharansky, imprisoned by the Soviets for nine years because of his activism on behalf of Soviet Jews, recalled at a hearing Thursday that his jailers told him, “You are in our hands. If you disappear, no one will notice.”

Instead, Sharansky told Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that thousands of activists wrote letters, attended marches and wore bracelets in support of Jewish refuseniks.

Sharansky, who now chairs the Jewish Agency for Israel, said he believes he was finally freed because of these activists, according to a Washington Jewish Week report.

Keeping these prisoners in the news is key, he said, urging members of Congress to speak of specific political and religious prisoners whenever they meet with the leaders of the country in which they are imprisoned.

Sharansky and the other speakers said it was important for U.S. ambassadors to frequently ask about the fate of any political prisoners and hold press conferences whenever they are denied the right to meet with such prisoners.

Commission chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested that those working to free political and religious prisoners use Gal Beckerman’s book, “When They Come for us We’ll be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” as a model for activism.

“If you think the Congress and the administration will save you, you are sadly mistaken,” Wolf said, explaining that a groundswell of support worldwide is what is needed.

Beckerman, who also testified during the hearing at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, said the Soviet Jewry movement was successful because it combined “a tribal motivation” to help one’s own people with a general sense of outrage that someone was being imprisoned for their beliefs.

Countries holding political and religious prisoners that were discussed at the hearing include Bahrain, China, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

The commission is named for the late Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress, whose hallmark was human rights advocacy.

JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/sharansky-to-congress-keep-up-awareness-of-political-prisoners/2014/01/18/

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