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      '500 Jews a Day Lost to Assimilation'

      The Jewish Agency plans a major campaign to provide Jewish education in the Diaspora. 'Strong Diaspora is an Israeli interest.'
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 1/25/2011, 9:16 PM / Last Update: 1/25/2011, 9:31 PM

      Sasson Tiram

      The Jewish Agency pushed an initiative to education Diaspora Jews during a meeting of the Knesset's Education Committee on Tuesday. “We are losing 500 Jews a day to assimilation,” warned Jewish Agency Director-General Alan Hoffman.

      “We must not let education in the Diaspora replace aliyah [immigration to Israel],” said Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky.  However, he continued, “There is naturally a close connection between Jewish identity and aliyah.”

      “The State of Israel has come to understand that a strong Jewish Diaspora is a strategic asset for Israel,” he added.

      According to Jewish Agency data, in the United States only one Jewish child out of seven is educated in a Jewish school. In Russia, there are 800,000 people eligible to make aliyah.

      The Jewish Agency currently sends roughly 400 teachers to schools and campuses worldwide each year, and another 1,500 representatives to Zionist and Jewish camps, where they reach an estimated 14,000 participants.

      Agency officials would like to do more. MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, filling in for the head of the Education Committee, challenged Sharansky, “If the Prime Minister were to give you a huge budget and ask you to save the Jewish people, would you be ready?” Sharansky replied that his agency has plans for how to boost its programs if it were given one billion shekels a year, a four-fold increase over its current budget.