The Jewish people are not a monolithic group, contrary to popular belief and perception. We are certainly not “all the same.” A multitude of backgrounds, traditions and upbringings over the past 5,000 years has created numerous groupings and unique individual stories.
Yet all Jews, especially those in the Diaspora, must deal with the question of how to relate to the only Jewish state and the ways in which Israel is connected to their identity.
Cracks have unfortunately appeared in the Israel-Diaspora relationship, especially of late and in large part due to divergent cultural experiences and evolving societal and political dynamics. These fault lines have to do with myriad issues that range from religious pluralism in the Jewish state to the future balance between Israeli branches of government.
Still, there is surely more that unites us than divides us. Our fates are intertwined. That is why I am committed to working towards building a shared Jewish future.
My own story has informed both my personal and professional goals. I am the son of Polish refugees who came to Sweden after World War II. I grew up in Malmö, Sweden, served in the IDF and now live in New York. I still have family in Malmö, and the World Jewish Congress recently opened a Nordic office to better address regional expressions of antisemitism, especially anti-Israel sentiment, and to work with local Jewish communities to strengthen an open and proud Jewish presence.
This week, I am part of a World Jewish Congress delegation to Jerusalem of over 120 Jewish leaders from 50 countries, including our senior leadership, representatives of affiliated Jewish communities worldwide and over 75 members of our leadership development programs, known as WJC Elevate.
Together, we will gather to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Israel’s birth. We will also launch an innovative forum in partnership with the Reut Institute—the Jewish Leadership Bridge for the Future. Israeli President Isaac Herzog will speak at the forum’s launch, where emerging Diaspora leaders will work to find common ground with their Israeli counterparts.
This delegation will have an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and support for the people and the State of Israel. It will embark upon additional close collaborations through such events as meetings with representatives of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
More specifically, by educating and empowering a new cadre of Jewish leaders and connecting them to each other, these leaders will be better equipped to facilitate difficult yet respectful conversations that lead to meaningful outcomes.
This approach necessitates recognizing and respecting differences while simultaneously building upon unifying factors. It goes beyond mere intellectual discussions at conferences and focuses on translating those discussions into practical actions within the everyday lives of individuals and families, leading to greater understanding and unity within the Jewish community.
The work will continue after the launch with actions such as smaller-scale meetings that seek to promote Jewish unity worldwide. This work is a core mission of the World Jewish Congress, which unites more than 100 affiliated Jewish communities from around the globe.
In spite of our differences, we must hold tightly to our people’s shared purpose. By working through tough conversations grounded in this shared unity, we can navigate the complexities of our diverse world and build a better future for generations to come.
By identifying and exploring rifts between Jews in Israel and those in the Diaspora, as well as finding and understanding our own roles in bridging those gaps, we will be better positioned to effectively meet future challenges.
Action on this front has never been more important.