The board members of the Jewish Agency convened this week for a meeting in Jerusalem, during which representatives from Jewish communities around the world discussed ways to implement the Agency’s new strategic plan.
The new program focuses on strengthening Jewish identity among Diaspora Jews, especially in Russian-speaking Jewish communities around the world and in Jewish communities in the United States. It also focuses on saving communities at risk.
At the same time, the Jewish Agency has eliminated its long-running and well-known aliyah department. This fact, along with the new program, has left the Council of Immigrant Associations concerned. They sent an urgent press release to the media.
The Council of Immigrant Associations is a registered charity that consolidates, represents and coordinates the activities of the 22 immigrant organizations that provide a wide range of vital services to many thousands of olim (new immigrants) from 65 different countries, from the moment of their arrival in Israel until their successful absorption into Israeli society.
“We are very concerned and upset that the strategic plan ignores the Jewish communities in Europe, South America, South Africa and France, which is the world’s second largest Jewish community,” wrote Avi Zana, Director of the AMI French Immigrants Fund, an organization affiliated with the Council of Immigrant Associations.
The release noted that due to this concern, an “Aliyah Rescue” committee has been formed and met on Wednesday. During the meeting, the committee came up with a new term to define those Jewish communities that have been left outside the new plan: ROW, meaning Rest of the World.
According to the Agency's new strategic plan, the ROW Jewish communities no longer need as they did before any services to encourage aliyah, and do not require exposure to absorption programs that would allow them to make a decision to immigrate to Israel.
The Council of Immigrant Associations noted that in today’s global world, where many Jews move from their homes to other countries, Israel has to be attractive to those Jews and must be able to compete against countries with attractive inducements for Jewish immigrants.
The Council said that to date, the Agency’s executive and the planners of the new strategic program have not consulted with other experienced organizations on the subject, in order to understand the serious implications of the new plan for the ROW communities.
The Council stated that Jews in France, South Africa, South America, England etc. each have their own unique characteristics which should be considered separately as part of the strategic plan to strengthen them and encourage them to make aliyah to Israel.
Creating a new term which lumps together the various communities which are different from one another and drastically reducing the resources available to those communities will be a severe blow to their continued existence, claimed the Council.
“I think there’s a huge difference between having a common ideological base with the Diaspora and providing legitimization to a Jewish identity without the obligation to realize the Zionist vision,” said Mario Lev, Chairman of the Immigrant Associations Council in Israel.
“We, the representatives of immigrant groups from around the world who have partnered with the Jewish Agency for 50 years, will continue to implement the Zionist vision at all costs,” he added. “We are ready to take on the issue of encouraging aliyah and call upon Israel to take an historical responsibility for the issue.”
The Jewish Agency has not as yet responded to the press release. Arutz Sheva will be in touch with them for their response.