Jewish Agency head warns incoming government not to alienate world Jewry

The head of the Jewish Agency for Israel on Sunday warned the alleged incoming coalition against alienating global Jewry, after its members recently proposed legislation that would drastically reduce immigration to Israel and delegitimize non-conversions. Orthodox to Judaism.

“As the difficult task of forming a new government begins, we believe it is essential to ensure that our relationship with global Jewry remains intact, and that the undying commitment to enable Jews from all corners of the globe to make aliyah must be maintained,” Jewish Agency Chairman Doron Almog said in a statement, using a Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Israel.

The Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body charged with encouraging and facilitating immigration to Israel and maintaining Israel’s relations with the Jewish community in the Diaspora, found itself in an awkward position during the past week and a half, as the likely coalition has raised a number of proposals that would dramatically alter or threaten its mission. However, as a technically independent body that nonetheless operates largely in close collaboration with the Israeli government, the organization has sought to avoid direct confrontations with the fledgling coalition.

This proclivity for non-interference became more difficult to maintain as statements by religious lawmakers became more bellicose, leading to Almog’s statement, which used a reserved tone but was subtly critical.

Last Monday, a member of the far-right Religious Zionist party demanded that the government close the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, an area partly funded and supported by the Jewish Agency.

Last Wednesday, religious parties called for an end to the so-called “grandchildren clause” that allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate freely to Israel as long as they do not practice a other religion.

The Jewish Agency officially supports the Law of Return and dedicates a significant amount of its resources to encouraging all who meet the requirements for Israeli citizenship – including a significant number of “grandchildren” – to immigrate to Israel .

Religious Zionist party leader Bezalel Smotrich at the party’s campaign headquarters after election day, November 1, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

On Sunday, the Otzma Yehudit party called for an end to official recognition of non-Orthodox conversions for citizenship purposes, a move with limited practical implications but a deep symbolic affront to the Reform and Conservative movements.

Here too, the Jewish Agency has officially supported religious pluralism. The organization is also financially supported largely by mostly Reform and Conservative American Jews.

In his statement, Almog stressed the importance of unity and respect for all faiths in Judaism.

“At this time, we believe that nothing is more important than the unity of the Jewish people, including all of their faiths, as well as the protection of strategic relations with global Jewry through continued dialogue. The Jewish Agency will continue to be the bridge connecting Israel and Jews around the world,” Almog said.

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