A new American Jewish caucus is being launched to lobby the Knesset to consider Diaspora Jews and may challenge the definition of "Who is a Jew".
The Caucus was launched Wednesday morning to “heighten both the knowledge and sensitivity of Israel's Members of Knesset about the American Jewish community.”
A press release rolled out a poll sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which has sponsored programs to teach Knesset Members about the American Jewish community. The survey showed that 87.5 percent of Israelis “believe that the American Jewish community is important to the future and security of the State of Israel.”
The poll also disclosed that 70.8 percent of the Israeli public “believe that the Knesset should consider Diaspora Jews when legislating laws like 'Who is a Jew?'"
The “Who is a Jew” issue has been controversial for years and places many American Jews who are Reform-affiliated, or have intermarried, in disagreement with Jewish law that states that someone is a born Jew only if the mother is Jewish. Jewish law also does not recognize Reform and Conservative conversions. Reform Jews recognizes the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother as Jewish.
Jay Ruderman, who lives in Rehovot with his Israeli-born wife, is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. He said is concerned by what he called the negative impact that Israeli policy decisions and legislation can have on ties with the Diaspora.
"The fact that the Knesset members are now willing to examine and address the shifting dynamics in the American Jewish world is a huge step for Israeli political leaders, and it will have a direct impact on the future of Israel and Jewish unity," he added.
Ruderman has been instrumental in helping the handicapped to improve their lives in Israel. His foundation gave a $6 million grant to the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in partnership with the Israeli government.
He has said his focus is on helping the disadvantaged and improve the environment. Ruderman has not made any public statements concerning politics. Caucus spokesmen were not available for comment concerning the Caucus' area of interests.
Jews in the Diaspora, particularly in the United States, have tried several times to involve themselves in Israeli affairs, with most of the pressure coming from non-Orthodox leaders whose views usually tend to be pluralistic and dovish towards the Palestinian Authority.
MK Ronit Tirosh of Kadima is heading the Caucus in the Knesset. She said, "As times change, and the US Jewish population becomes less engaged and less attached to Israel, the bedrock of traditional US support of Israel becomes less of a certainty, too."
The Caucus said in its press release, “Expected to serve as a dynamic platform for open and candid conversation on relevant and controversial issues affecting the two communities, the new Caucus will become a central Knesset address for all issues related to the American Jewish community.”
Ruderman raised a ruckus several years ago when it was discovered that the IDF appointed him as IDF liaison to the Diaspora with the rank of officer even though he did not serve in the army before he asked to contribute his experience to the military.
He enlisted, went through basic training and worked as an IDF civilian worker with the rank of captain.