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Lobby to 'strengthen Diaspora’ launched in Knesset

A new lobby launched by the Knesset will focus on the problems of increased assimilation and declining attachment to Judaism abroad.


Credits: By Roman Yanushevsky

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A Knesset lobby to strengthen the Jewish people in the Diaspora was launched on Wednesday by United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Findrus, and focused to a large extent on the problem of increased assimilation and declining attachment to Judaism in the US.

The lobby was addressed almost exclusively by officials and representatives of Orthodox organizations, including the Orthodox Union, Chabad, Aish Hatorah, the Council of European Rabbis and others. Representatives of non-Orthodox organizations were not invited to the meeting.

Other speakers included Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai and World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel.

“We pray every day that Jews will manage to preserve their Jewish identity,” Findrus said. “We managed to preserve over many years in all situations in all corners of the world, our identity and remain a part of a people which is different.

“This lobby will try and see how we can continue to preserve Jewish identity wherever Jews are around the world.”

Leah Aharoni of the Am Echad organization presented data regarding the weakening of the non-Orthodox denominations in the US. She noted that the percentage of young US Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 identifying with the Reform and Conservative Movements is dramatically lower than those over the age of 65, according to data from the 2020 Pew Report on American Jewry.

She also noted the large number of synagogue closures among these denominations in the last 20 years, and juxtaposed it with the greatly increased activity of the Orthodox Chabad movement.

Speaking next, Shai took exception to what he described as “a denominational dialogue” noting that he represented the Israeli government, which sees “one Jewish people, and not denominations,” and which has one goal of preserving the entire Jewish people.

“It doesn’t make me happy at all that one denomination sells synagogues and another denomination buys them, or increases its influence,” said Shai.

“I want to see everyone increasing their activities, making them deeper, and bringing in new participants... and that everyone in the Jewish people is involved in Judaism and has an attachment to Israel.”

He said, therefore, that the government “approaches the issue of the Jewish people in an equitable manner... we want to give everyone their place.”

Rabbi Yehudah Weinberg of the Aish Hatorah yeshiva noted that his father and Aish Hatorah founder Rabbi Noah Weinberg had dedicated his life to the new lobby’s goal, “to try as hard as possible to connect Jews from all the denominations and of all types to Judaism and the Land of Israel.”

“He would have called this lobby ‘the rescue committee,’” said Weinberg.

“We need to create a situation that everyone is working to save these people. The motto of Aish Hatorah is to create a generation of leaders. This is the only way to get to these Jews and to strengthen Diaspora Jewry.”


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