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Jewish Agency Chairman, religious leaders discuss future of Jewish identity

Le chef de l'Agence juive pour Israël, Natan Sharansky, lors d'un discours à l'Assemblée générale des fédérations juives d'Amérique du Nord à Washington, le 9 novembre 2009
Israel's failure to engage Jewish Diaspora poses serious threat to Jewish solidarity, Sharanksy warns

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky on Thursday warned that the Jewish State's failure to properly engange in dialogue with Jews living in the Diaspora poses a serious threat to Jewish solidarity.

Speaking at a conference of the Israel Democracy Institute dedicated to the concept of “reevaluating the boundaries of Jewish identity,” Nathan Sharansky cautioned that “communities can be different, but if they feel like they are part of an historic process then this can be the basis of solidarity.”

A large number of Jewish public figures, religious leaders, and academics took part in the conference.

Sharansky pointed out that while worldwide Jewry is fighting to protect Israel in a myriad of ways, especially focussing on the deligitimization campaign against the Jewish State, Israel itself is not giving the different Jewish streams the legitimacy they deserve.

He singled out the bitterly fought battle over rights to worship at the Western Wall, stressing that representatives of progressive Judaism and Israel’s religious establishment never meet face to face but conduct all their talks through a mediator.

“This lack of dialogue is very harmful and is a real threat,” Sharansky said.

“The fact that until now we have managed to preserve the solidarity of non-Orthodox Jews with Israel is due to our shared history, but it will not continue forever,” he warned.

Religious leaders speaking at the same event focussed on the splintering of Jewish identity into a number of sub-tribes, referencing comments made by Israel's President Reuven Rivlin last year.

At the time, Rivlin warned that Israel was "splintering into four different tribes - haredi, religious-Zionist, secular, and Arab."

Rabbi Yaakov Medan, a prominent religious-Zionist leader and dean of one of the largest yeshivot in Israel, slammed Rivlin's statement, saying that “in Israel there are four tribes: secular, religious-Zionist, haredim, and the Jews of the Diaspora. The Arabs are a different people.”

Medan stressed that Jewish identity must be strengthened through descent from the biblical forefathers, through “the power of brit mila [Jewish circumcision] and through the power of “ascent to Mount Moriah.”

“If we go only in the direction of the new Jewish culture, then I am very concerned for the preservation of Jewish identity in the future,” Medan concluded.


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