Am Echad weekly update for the week of August 1, 2021
Am Echad’s weekly brief takes a look at the latest developments in Israel, the Diaspora, and in the relationship between the two communities. Comments and requests for additional information can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Israel – Diaspora Relations
The 2021-2022 Israeli State budget, approved by the government this week includes an NIS 40 million allocation to the new Progressive Judaism Department within the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs. This amount to one half of the Ministry’s budget in 2020. The budget is meant for spending on Reform Movement’s programs inside Israel, not in the Diaspora
Besides departing from the Ministry’s mandate to promote Jewish identity in the Diaspora, we at Am Echad strongly oppose diverting any of this Ministry’s funding away from the paramount need to promote Jewish education and identity in the Diaspora, especially in light of the recent surveys showing deep erosion in Jewish identity and connection to Israel among younger American Jews.
· The Israeli cabinet has placed back on the agenda a proposal to reinstate the Kotel compromise and will vote on it in the near future. “It’s all a question of timing,” said Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai.
While the government hopes that altering the prayer spaces at the Kotel will improve the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, Am Echad representatives have stressed to the Minister of Diaspora Affairs that the move will not create the desired effect, since most American Jews do not care about the Kotel and in fact have never visited Israel (upwards of 60%). Investing in Jewish education and identity are much more potent and necessary measures for creating greater closeness between Israeli and American Jews.
· The Chief Rabbinate came out in strong opposition against the government-approved reform in the kashrut system. Rabbi Steven Pruzansky has drawn on the American experience of greater efficiency as a result of the consolidation of the kashrut market to inform the current Israeli debate.
“Reform Rabbis are afraid of speaking about Israel,” says prominent Reform Rabbi Amiel Hirsch in an interview to Makor Rishon (Hebrew). In his analysis, he suggests that many congregational leaders are afraid not only of their progressive colleagues, but also of small but vocal opposition groups among temple attendees. Hirsch suggests returning to Jewish particularity and values and leaving behind the ethos of overarching universalism as a way to preserve Jewish identity and the future of the Jewish people in America.
BDS and anti-Israel Bias
Ecuador’s largest supermarket chain, the El Rosado Group, has announced it will remove Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from the shelves of its 180 stores around the country. The company is joining a long list of other supermarket chains and restaurants around the world, who have decided to support Israel against such discrimination.
Meanwhile, Illinois officials have warned Unilever to reverse the decision or face divestment by the state. The Israeli Boycott Restrictions Committee of the Illinois Investment Policy Board is expected to meet in order to approve a 90-day deadline for Unilever to reverse the Ben and Jerry’s decision.
Am Echad in the News
· Following the passing of the reform in the kashrut services and the expected reform in conversion regulations, Am Echad argues in an op-ed in Jerusalem Post that to preserve its Jewish identity, Israel has to preserve a Jewish standard and ensure that a government body, like the rabbinate, uphold this standard.
· As part of the Am Echad effort to educate the Israeli public about the true dynamics of Diaspora Jewry, Am Echad Co-Chairman Dr. Irving Lebovics granted a long and detailed interview to Besheva weekly magazine (Hebrew).