Roi Abecassis, Head of WZO Spiritual Services Department, who will be speaking at the Arutz Sheva Jerusalem Conference on May 22 in New York, tells Israel National News that his mission is all about connecting Jewish communities from Israel and the Diaspora.
“It’s all about connecting both ways, how the State of Israel can be relevant for Diaspora Jews by sending our emissaries to the communities,” he says. “How to bring the State of Israel to the center of the Jewish community.”
But he says that Israel needs a wakeup call in terms of how to connect with Diaspora Jews.
“Very few in Israeli society know that 50 percent of the Jewish people are still in the Diaspora and we’re asking ourselves about how to raise awareness in Israel society about this situation," Abecassis says.
When asked if it’s a harder challenge talking to the Orthodox community, who may feel that they already have a strong connection to Israel, he explains: “Absolutely. Thank G-d, with this community you have a very good Jewish education but what about the Zionist component? Do we need something else? I think our emissaries definitely bring the second level of connecting to the Jewish State. How to bring them to Israel and how to encourage aliyah.”
He also points out that their mission isn’t only with the Orthodox community.
“Our mission is also to go to those communities of Jews that were not raised in a Jewish environment. We’re talking about those that didn’t have the privilege to be connected to Judaism and to the Jewish State," he says. "Those Jews are our top priority now, to send the Zionist message to them and to bring the Land of Israel to their communities.”
Are some communities afraid of defining themselves as pro-Israel, as pro-Zionist, in the wake of the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism?
“The opposite. In recent years, more and more Jewish communities want to be identified with the State of Israel," he says. "Israel is a success story and people around the world want to be connected to this.”
Abecassis explains that the best way to put in practice the ideas he speaks about is to have Diaspora Jews meet with Israelis.
“In a survey of alumni of Birthright Israel, they were asked what was the most powerful experience in the 10 days of Birthright. They said the meeting with Israelis, Israeli soldiers in the bus for 10 days. When you’re creating an experience between Israelis and non-Israelis, this will have a lot of impact.”