(PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
On his first trip abroad since assuming office, Yitzchak Herzog, The Jewish Agency for Israel’s new Chairman of the Executive, visited Jewish Federations in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Herzog, who assumed office on August 1, is due to visit Cleveland and other Jewish communities in North America in early September.
Herzog met with the leadership of these Federations and The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to promote enhanced cooperation and dialogue with the organized Jewish world. He considers these meetings to be of utmost importance in a reality of growing misgivings and misconceptions between Israel and Jews around the world in the Diaspora.
At the same time, Herzog made clear his intention to examine new ways for more Jews to connect to Jewish life and Israel. He believes engaging the diversity of Jewish people is a top priority because doing so is essential to further Jewish unity.
“I intentionally went out to the field in my first week in office to learn about the unique needs of American communities and to explain my vision for The Jewish Agency to Jewish leaders and activists,” said Herzog. “In the coming weeks and months, I’ll continue these meetings in North America and the rest of the world. I also look forward to seeing many of them at JFNA’s upcoming General Assembly that’s taking place in Israel this October.”
Herzog continued, “Jewish people around the world and in Israel share a love for the Land of Israel and the State of Israel. While we have a sincere desire to maintain and strengthen the connection between us, I’m very aware of the growing feeling that Diaspora Jews are drifting away from Israel. I will do everything in my power to act against this trend that’s increasingly dividing us. We are one nation, small amongst nations, that’s facing huge challenges. Only when we are together can we overcome them.”
Underscoring the importance of a unified Jewish people, on Thursday morning in Boston, Herzog declared: “To all those people living in southern Israel and the Gaza perimeter who are now sitting inside shelters due to the dozens of rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas, and also to the IDF soldiers defending the State of Israel and its residents, the Jewish people – from Boston, from the US, from North America, from around the world – they are all with you in their hearts and minds, supporting your well-being during this time of escalation.”
Herzog is a former Cabinet Minister and headed the Machane Tzioni party. He is the son of Israel’s sixth president, the grandson of its first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and in his college years was a student at Cornell and NYU Universities. Herzog has been involved in Diaspora relations for many years. Most notably, in one of his ministerial tenures he served as the Israeli Minister for the Jewish Diaspora, Society and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism (2007-2009). In that capacity, he played a major role in anti-boycott initiatives and led the International Forum Against Anti-Semitism.
“There are few people as qualified as Isaac Herzog to take the helm of The Jewish Agency for Israel at this critical moment. His knowledge of Israeli-Diaspora relations and his familiarity with the issues and concerns we are currently grappling with make him the right leader at the right time,” said Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of JFNA, who accompanied Herzog on these visits.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)