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JFNA Discusses Future of Diaspora Jews, Israel

Jewish Federations of North America holds conference in Jerusalem, not in US; interview with CEO Jerry Silverman on Arutz 7 TV.
By Yoni Kempinski, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/10/2013, 1:12 PM

Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations for North America, discussed this year's General Assembly (GA) - which is taking place in Jerusalem this year - in an interview with Arutz Sheva TV. 

"Annually, Jewish federations and the Jewish world come together to discuss, debate, and think about Jewish issues, Jewish challenges, and Jewish opportunities together," Silverman explained. "We listen to leaders from our country, leaders from Israel and across frankly the world to really try to understand where we are as a Jewish people and where we're going." 

While the conference has been held for over 50 years, this one is specifically being held in Jerusalem, a break from the locale of past conferences.  "Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people. To be hosting the conference here - and to have Israelis come en masse to have this debate and dialogue together - is something very special. To have Israel leadership, to have the Prime Minister, to have the President, to have great ministers and new members of Knesset in dialogue with leaders from the Diaspora - here in Yerushalayim - adds on a whole new meaning." 

"We are here to discuss the two futures - the future of the Diaspora relationship with the State of Israel, and also to really discuss what's happening with North American Jewry today, especially based on the new information which we received from the Pew Report." 

This year's Pew report revealed that most Jews in America are moving steadily away from a relationship with Israel - a phenomenon that the JFNA is trying ardently to change. "I think that the Diaspora plays a very critical role in its relationship with Israel and its relationship to the world. The fact is that almost half of Jews in the world live in the United States, the new study comes out and says that 6.8 million Jews live in the United States, out of a total Jewish population of 14 million. That 6.8 million can have incredible influence - influence in debate, influence in opinion in our countries across the world, influence in our connections, influence in our relationship with our countries to the Jewish world." 

Silverman's comments also follow heightened tensions this week between Israel and the US over peace talks with the Palestinian Arabs and differences regarding how to handle a nuclear Iran. US Secretary of State John Kerry made threats this week of a third intifada; US President Barack Obama has reportedly been pushing for reaching a diplomatic agreement with Iran.

In response, Economics Minister Naftali Bennet has launched both a letter campaign to Jewish organizations abroad and a US lobbying initiative to prevent the talks from advancing in a renewed effort to ensure Israel's security.