President Isaac Herzog announced on Sunday that he would be launching a “Jewish Davos” to bridge the wide gaps between Diaspora and Israel.
Speaking to some 3,000 people at the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly, Herzog said he was launching the initiative “Kol Ha’am—Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue.”
The initiative is a “first-of-its-kind global council for Jewish dialogue” and will remain “nonpartisan and apolitical.”
Diaspora Jews have been at odds with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition on several issues in recent months, such as proposed changes to the Law of Return and the controversial judicial reforms.
“Voice of the People will be a collaborative forum. One that can hold and reflect the full and diverse range of Jewish voices. It will be a place where we can engage in serious, sensitive and strategic discussions on the most complex and pressing issues facing our people,” Herzog said.
Tonight I announced a landmark initiative: “Voice of the People—The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue.” This global council for Jewish dialogue will host serious and strategic discussions about the challenges facing the Jewish People, and advise me on them. pic.twitter.com/adJwuKDxaN
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) April 23, 2023
“A place where we formulate concrete proposals and action items to address them. But, most importantly, a place to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders,” the president added.
Herzog acknowledged that the gaps between Jewish communities were growing “more distant from one another.”
“The gaps between us are growing wider. On some of the most essential questions, we are unable to agree. But, more concerning, often, we are unable even to discuss. That critical web of connectedness—the sense of shared purpose and destiny that has sustained our people for millennia—seems to be loosening,” he said.
“Growing numbers of Jews are choosing either stricter affiliations, or no affiliations at all. And for many in the next generation, Israel has not been as accessible as the binding thread that has united our people through the turbulent changes of the last century,” Herzog added.
Herzog also stated that the biggest threat to the Jewish people “come from within: our own polarisation and alienation from one another.”
Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog also touched on the deepening rift between Diaspora Jews and Israel in recent months, saying: “We have all been engulfed in the important and passionate public debate about Israel’s very structure that has brought us all the way back to the Declaration of Independence 75 years ago.”
“These debates exposed how fragile our unity can be and how hard one needs to work to maintain it. Recent events also emphasised how robust Israeli democracy is,” he added.
Netanyahu had been scheduled to speak at the event as well but canceled last minute, with media speculating that the large number of protesters waiting for him outside the event had made him change his mind.
Julie Platt, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, mentioned the mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul that swept Israel in the past three months, saying: “We hear you, we see you and we’re inspired.”