Jewish Agency chairman warns of Israel-Diaspora rift but also calls it best of times

“The Jewish people are in the best state in which they have found themselves in many years,” Isaac Herzog tells Israel Hayom.

By World Israel News Staff

Marking a year since he took on the position, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog insists, in a special interview with Israel Hayom, that even after 71 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Agency continues to be important as “a home for every Jew” and in the “fight with leaders and the authorities in every country for the status of Jews.”

The Jewish Agency was founded in 1929 as the operative branch of the World Zionist Organization. and arguments have been made over time that it has become antiquated and redundant after the establishment of the Jewish State.

Even in facilitating the return of the Jews to their homeland, the Jewish Agency has seen its influence diminished with an organization like Nefesh B’Nefesh taking on a leading role in the immigration and absorption process.

“In our generation, the Jewish people face immense challenges,” Herzog told Israel Hayom, adding that the agency is the entity which can spearhead the efforts to counter “growing anti-Semitism in the world, in preserving the Jewish identity especially among the younger generation, and in continuing immigration to Israel, among other challenges” says the chairman.

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He says that the body is still involved with philanthropic work, raising monies for educational activities, as well as efforts toward bringing tens of thousands of new immigrants to Israel each year and “rescuing them from danger and duress.”

Herzog explains that the Jewish Agency is involved in secret operations in which Jews are brought from “enemy” countries which cannot be named publicly even after these Jews arrive in Israel, over the fear for the lives of family members.

He tells Israel Hayom that there are still Jews “across the ocean” whose lives are in danger.

At the same time, Herzog stresses the challenge that his organization faces in grappling with tensions among different streams of Judaism and between those who live in Israel and those in the Diaspora.

On the one hand, he tells the newspaper, the Jewish people face the “real danger of a serious split that could result in the creation of two different peoples on the two sides of the ocean,” an apparent reference to tensions between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. The solution for that, he says, is “connection, dialog, discourse, and mutual respect.”

He encourages interaction between Israeli and Diaspora Jews toward nurturing relationships.

Otherwise, he warns, “six million Jews in Israel and six million Jews in North America who are moving further away from one another…would be a disaster for generations.”

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On the other hand, says Herzog, “the Jewish people are in the best state in which they have found themselves in many years… a successful sovereign country with the strongest military in the Middle East after 2,000 years in exile.”