A letter was sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu, seemingly representing the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors, expressing concern and warning against the results of the new government's non-acceptance of non-halakhic conversion and its rescinding the Law of Return Grandfather Clause (which was not in the 1950 original law, but added in 1970 providing for absorption aid packages and immediate citizenship to non-Jewish grandchildren born to non-Jews who are themselves non-halakhically Jewish children of a mixed marriage).
It turns out that the Board of Governors was not consulted before the letter was sent and two board members of the Jewish Agency Eretz Hakodesh faction sent a second letter protesting the attempt to make it seem that the letter represents the Agency. The two members represent a large part of Diaspora Jewry which supports the new coalition's opinions and agreements on both issues.
Letter dated January 1, 2023:
MK Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister
Dear Mr. Netanyahu,
It gives me great pleasure to extend our congratulations to you on your election to head the 37th Government of the State of Israel. The leadership of the Jewish people are committed to assist you as much as necessary.
We know that the unity of the Jewish people is as important to you as it is to us. It is this unity that explains the miracle of our survival as a people and as a nation for over three thousand years. It allowed us, despite all the difficult differences that arose between us over the years, to maintain a strong and cohesive sense of belonging to each other and to our common national home.
It is our duty to share with you our deep concern regarding voices in the government on issues that could undermine the long-standing status quo on religious affairs that could affect the Diaspora. Any change in the delicate and sensitive status quo on issues such as the Law of Return or conversion, could threaten to unravel the ties between us and keep us away from each other.
We look forward to meeting with you as soon as possible to voice our concerns and we expect to be part of any future discussions or dialogues regarding possible changes to the status quo.
We are determined to work together with you and your government to ensure the continued prosperity of the entire Jewish people, and we are sure that together we can find respectful, inclusive and constructive solutions to every challenge at hand without harming the delicate fabric that holds us together as one united people.
Mark Wilf, Chair, Jewish Agency Board of Governors
Doron Almog, Chair, Jewish Agency Executive
Yaakov Hagoel, Chair, World Zionist Organization
Steven Lowy, Chair, World Board of Trustees, Keren Hayesod
Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO, Jewish Federations of North America
Julie Platt, Chair, Jewish Federations of North America
Sam Grundwerg, World Chair, Keren Hayesod
Letter dated January 4, 2023
To the esteemed Prime Minister of Israel
Mr. Binyomin Netanyahu
At the outset, we would like to join the many well-wishers from around the world in congratulating you on your success in establishing and forming the 37th government of the State of Israel.
In a letter from the heads of Israel's national institutions dated January 1, 2023, signed by the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive and others, their concern was expressed to you about the voices of members of the new government and their positions vis-à-vis issues relating to religious and state affairs in the State of Israel.
It must be noted that these comments that have been made to you do not represent the voices of all Diaspora Jewry.
We wish to bring to your attention, as members of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, that the letter that was sent to you was issued without any discussion amongst the members of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and the national institutions. We deeply regret that the voices of Diaspora Jewry were used to express a position in Israel's political discourse against the government, headed by you.
As representatives of the Eretz Hakodesh movement, which represents thousands of Jews in the Diaspora, we hereby share with you the true stance of many of the members of the Jewish communities in the United States and all over the world, who share in the joy of the establishment of a strong national government. They, like us, support your coalition and pray for the government's success. Despite the fact that they do not live in Israel, these Jews have their eyes on the Holy Land and stand by it, unconditionally, at all times. They visit the country very often, participate in economic investments in Israel, donate to the country's institutions, send their children to study for many years, and feel they are an integral part of Israel's fabric and existence.
As an expression of our unreserved support for the policies of the government under your leadership, we would be grateful if you would be able to hold a joint meeting, soon, with rabbis and prominent community leaders, from the United States and across the world, who will depict for you our strong bond and commitment to the State of Israel as a Jewish state that is a home for every Jew in the world.
Yes, there are issues relating to religious and state affairs in the State of Israel that need to be discussed. We hope that will be invited to be part of those discussions.
On behalf of thousands of Jews from the Diaspora, we wholeheartedly congratulate you upon the establishment of the government under your leadership. May your work be blessed by the Al-Mighty, with success, and may your vision for strengthening Israel's security and economy come to fruition.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Chairman, Eretz HaKodesh, World Zionist Organization, Member, Board of Governors, Jewish Agency
Stephen L. Rosedale, Delegate, Eretz HaKodesh Member, Board of Governors, Jewish Agency