In a first since 2017, Israel marked “Diaspora Day” on Monday in the Knesset under the direction of Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich.

To mark the occasion, the Knesset held a series of discussions—both in-person and virtually—about the connection between Israel and world Jewry, as well as on the shared challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish people today. In the evening, Yankelevich, along with Israel’s Government Press Office, hosted the Jewish Media Summit for members of the Jewish press from around the world.

“I am thrilled to bring back Diaspora Day in the Knesset,” Yankelevich, the first female haredi minister to serve in an Israeli government, said in a statement. “Especially now, as the entire Jewish people face a shared health, economic and social crisis, Israelis and world Jewry must come together to support one another.”

A member of Knesset from the Blue and White Party, she told JNS about her hope to create a new paradigm for the Israeli-Diaspora relationship.

Blue and White Party Knesset member Omer Yankelevich, Aug. 5, 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

“In my role, I see it as central to bring the needs, interests and concerns of world Jewry into the government of Israel and Israeli society at large,” she said.

“Israelis, as a part of a larger Jewish people, ought to feel a sense of both commitment and responsibility to Jews living around the world. This all-day event provides an opportunity to bring the voices and experiences of world Jewry into the halls of the Knesset and Israeli society at large,” she added.

Topics of discussion at the event included meetings with members of the Jewish community of Georgia and Bahrain; initiatives to empower women in the Diaspora; discussions about the present challenges of Diaspora Jewry; Jewish education in the Diaspora; and world Jewry’s contribution to the Israeli economy.

Yankelevitch said that throughout the day, “we heard from representatives across the Jewish world, who shared directly with the Israeli government their needs, interests and concerns. We highlighted and discussed the current status and future of government-supported programs from Birthright to Momentum and Masa.”

“It is crucial that world Jewry have a space to be heard and celebrated within the government,” she continued. “It was a meaningful and powerful day that takes place within an ongoing conversation between the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the Knesset and Jewish communities around the world. We must use this moment in time to unite all parts of the Jewish people.”

On the eve of Hanukkah, said Yankelevich, “only together can we, as one nation, spread light throughout the world.”

JNS

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