(March 14, 2019 / JNS) In a reversal of her prior decision to omit Diaspora Jewry as a represented group for Israel’s upcoming annual Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said she will reinstate the Diaspora torch at the behest of the Jewish community of France.
According to an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, Regev said she received numerous requests from Jewish communities around the world to reinstate the Diaspora torch, but was particularly touched by the pleas of French Jewry.
“Despite the hostile atmosphere, they continue to be proudly Jewish, wearing yarmulkes, praying in synagogues, and running kosher shops and restaurants,” said Regev. “I am a traditional woman, and so this really touched me.”
Representatives of the Jews of France reportedly wrote to Regev, noting the 74 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks against them.
“In light of the unshakable connection between the French Jewish community and our homeland of Israel, we would be honored if a member of the community would participate in the Independence Day torch this year,” the community said.
Regev began reserving a special torch for a Jew from the Diaspora starting in 2017, when Birthright founder Michael Steinhardt and Simon Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier were honored with the ceremonial position. However, the 2018 Diaspora torch-lighting did not pan out, due to a scheduling conflict for American actress Mayim Bialik and an inability to fill her spot at the last minutes.