During his visit to the United States this week, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yair Lapid sinned in the same way that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stumbled upon during his two visits to the United States. He ignored the large, flourishing and prosperous Jewish community, especially in New York.
In the practical sense on the ground, the disregard is reflected in the fact that the inaction continues and the indifference is fixed in dealing with the crisis of non-relations between Israel and the large Jewish community in the United States. It has not been a crisis for a long time. The world, “cried recently in an article published by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, to those who defined” Bennett and Lapid, two promising young leaders, two Jewish patriots who do not want to lose the Jewish people. “It is true, there is no doubt that Bennett and Lapid do not want to lose. The problem with the Jewish people is that this reluctance is not reflected in the conduct of the government.
According to reports, Lapid’s schedule for his stay in the United States includes a conversation with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, a United Arab Emirates minister and senior Republican officials. Meeting with Jews – Yuk. There is no such thing. It is true that the first understandable priority of a foreign minister is to take care of Israel’s foreign relations, especially with a friendly power like the United States. But how is it that it did not occur to Lapid to take a short stay in the United States Declarative and proof that he remembers that there are millions of Jewish communities in the United States?
Meetings with Jewish leaders and activists were in the past not just a procedure and practice at every visit of an Israeli prime minister to the United States. These meetings were an almost sacred tradition. , Have a long conversation, respond to the allegations or make allegations against them. The writer of these lines was present at many of these meetings. Benjamin Netanyahu interrupted the tradition of meetings and meetings between Israeli prime ministers and Jews in the United States.
Most of all, the previous prime minister had the largest number of visits to the United States. During no visit did Netanyahu bother to hold face-to-face meetings with senior Jewish officials known and recognized as community leaders. He openly and demonstratively ignored the Jewish leadership in the United States.
A senior Netanyahu entourage was once asked by a journalist why there is no meeting with Jews? The senior burst out laughing. “They have no right to vote in Israel,” he replied. In every conversation and interview with a senior Jewish official, with a veteran activist, with a Reform or Conservative rabbi, Netanyahu’s name emerges as the main cause of the crisis of non-relations between Israel and the community.
For senior Jewish officials, Netanyahu’s contempt for the community created an unflattering response, which made him an unpopular, unreliable and undesirable figure. “Look, Netanyahu as prime minister was proud and proud of his friendship with Donald Trump in his proximity to him,” said a well-known and esteemed Jewish official in New York. “In the presidential election, close to 80% of American Jews voted for Joe Biden. What else is needed to prove the distance and lack of appreciation for Netanyahu on the part of American Jews?”
The one who blames, and in harsh words, Netanyahu as responsible for the situation he defines as “the loss of the Jews of the world” is Lauder, who was previously Netanyahu’s friend and associate. “During most of his rule, the Foreign Ministry did not function and there was no creative and effective Israeli propaganda. The total surrender of the right-wing governments to the ultra-Orthodox parties caused Israel to abandon the liberal world and turn its back on Diaspora Jewry,” Lauder said in a recent article. By the way, a new article by Lauder is published in this issue.
Yair Lapid (Photo: Shlomi Amsalem, GPO)
Memories of the Begin era
It is not fair to criticize Bennett and accept against him that during his last visit to the United States he ignored the Jews. Bennett actually remembered the Jewish community. But the character, address and content that the prime minister gave to the community Between Israel and the community and its manifestations on the ground, they do not recognize the significant changes that have taken place in the balance of power in the community and are not updated on the identity of the factors influencing the Jewish public.
During his visit to New York, the prime minister had a conversation with the heads of the Jewish federations. “Bennett promised the Jews of the United States ‘I bring a new spirit with me from Jerusalem,'” was the headline of a report published in Israel about the conversation with the heads of the federations. Very nice. The Jew. They are not publicly known. They have no significant impact on community life and they do not aspire to such an impact. Thus, the Prime Minister’s meeting with the heads of the federations had zero significance.
The Prime Minister also has a conversation with the leadership of the Union of Communities in North America. Again, from a respectable establishment, but lacking direct access and influencing the Jewish public. On the eve of Yom Kippur, Bennett had a zoom conversation with members of the Conference of Jewish Presidents. come on? The Conference of Presidents is an archaic organization, whose presence for years has not been felt in the community arena in the United States.
This is an irrelevant and ineffective body. “A reformist or conservative rabbi in a small town in South Dakota or Oregon has a direct and intimate relationship with a larger number of Jews than all members of the Conference of Presidents combined,” a senior Jewish official who previously served as chairman of the Conference of Presidents said.
The Prime Minister must keep abreast, and as soon as possible, of the changes that have taken place in the map of influential and leading elements in the community in the United States. Old organizations have long since lost influence. Sectors and circles.
The rabbis are those who can and are able to work to rehabilitate and renew relations between the community and Israel. Rabbis from the three religious streams operating in American Jewry. There is no chief rabbinate and no chief rabbis. Religious existence takes place in and around the synagogue. A synagogue is not only a place of prayer, it is the center of religious, spiritual life.
The rabbi of the synagogue is in the eyes of the worshipers the supreme authority, not by the power and validity of a governmental factor, but by the free will and will of the worshipers. He marries their descendants, is a partner in mourning the families, conducts the funeral ceremonies and deals with family problems.
By virtue of their status and close ties with the families of synagogue members – the challenge and role of restoring relations between Israel and the community is tailor-made for the rabbis. The late Menachem Begin, during his first visit to the United States as Prime Minister, first turned to a meeting in New York with dozens of rabbis from the three streams. To this day, veteran rabbis recall memories of that conference with Begin.
In addition, Bennett and Lapid need to exercise extreme caution and a lot of careful thought in choosing a candidate for the position of new chairman of the Jewish Agency. A visit dedicated entirely to a series of meetings with rabbis in New York and major US cities.
He will be surprised by the good will and longing he will show on the part of the rabbis to join them in the effort to restore relations. Moreover, he will be surprised at the efficiency that the rabbis will prove in their efforts and the results on the ground. Levant has an opportunity to enter history as the one who initiated, led and brought about a reunification of parts of the Jewish people.