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      Israeli MKs Arrive in U.S. to Hold Dialogue with Local Jews

      Second annual MK delegation of Ruderman Fellows arrives in the U.S. for a week of meetings with members of the American Jewish community.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 3/26/2012, 4:13 AM

      MK Ofir Akunis
      MK Ofir Akunis
      Flash 90

      The second annual MK delegation of Ruderman Fellows, including Ofir Akunis, (Likud), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Fainia Kirshenbaum, (Yisrael Beitenu), Raleb Majadele, (Labor), and Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beitenu) arrived in the United States on Sunday for a week of meetings across the spectrum of the American Jewish community.

      Sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with Brandeis University, the MKs are set to meet with, among others, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Treasurer Steve Grossman, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Brandeis President Fred Lawrence, heads of the major religious and Jewish organizations, Brandeis Board of Trustees and prominent Boston community and philanthropic leaders. Two public events will take place on March 26 in Boston and March 28 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

      According to a recent Teleseker poll commissioned last week by The Ruderman Family Foundation, Israelis continue to perceive American Jews as essential to Israeli security.

      The poll found that 95 percent of Israelis believe that American Jewish support of Israel is important (63.3 percent said that it is very important) to the state's security. On the social front, the poll found that 49.3 percent of Israelis think American Jews care or care greatly about Israel's treatment of women.  57.8 percent said they believe Americans care or greatly care about Israel's treatment of Israeli Arabs, and 38.8 percent said they believe U.S. Jews care or greatly care about last summer's social protests.

      According to Professor Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner, who is doing research with the Ruderman Family Foundation, the responses of these 500 Israeli respondents show that “Israelis think that American Jews care more about Israel's handling of security matters than the social justice concerns.”

      Cohen explained, “Israelis’ views of American Jews are, in part, a reflection of Israelis' own identities; thinking that American Jews care about the issues that Israelis care about. To some extent, that's true. But American Jews most involved with Israel are also very tuned into Israel's treatment of women, Arabs, and Conservative and Reform Judaism.”

      Cohen said that “This gap -- between reality and perception -- suggests an important educational mission: To make Israelis, especially political leaders, aware of the extent to which American Jews care about social justice issues, alongside their concern for Israeli security issues.”

      Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said that the Fellows program is designed “to open wide this conversation; to expose Israeli political leaders to the priorities and perspectives of this vital American Jewish community by exploring these and other issues throughout the week.”

      The expectation, he said, is that “Israeli legislators will emerge from this encounter with increased sensitivity to the largest and most influential Diaspora community and with a greater understanding of its implications to Israel's security and future.”