Isaac Herzog, the newly appointed chairman of the Jewish Agency has said that he didn’t mean anything negative when he referred to the “plague” of intermarriage earlier this week, according to the Jewish Agency.
On Sunday, the day he was approved by the Agency board for the post, Herzog told Ynet it was a “mageifah,” Hebrew for “plague,” and that “a solution” must be found.
This, his first gaffe since the appointment, immediately drew the ire of certain segments of American Jewry, the Jewish Agency’s main constituency.
Herzog subsequently claimed in a phone interview with The Forward that reactions “distorted the meaning and intention of what I said. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, no matter which stream he belongs to, if he wears a skullcap or not,” a line he had used in his acceptance speech.
According to Herzog, mageifah has a different connotation in the Israeli context. He was using it as a slang word.
“I didn’t mean it in any negative terms,” Herzog said.
The irony of it is that he was chosen expressly for his vaunted understanding of such sensitive topics.
“Herzog has a good understanding of Diaspora Jewry, especially some of the major challenges we are facing,” Ken Bob, national president of Ameinu and a JAFI board member, said. “Addressing the distancing of liberal young Jews from Israel is a defined project of JAFI now; and he is well-equipped to lead a process that will creatively provide programs and engagement.”
Herzog accepted the accolade: “I’m a liberal in my political beliefs. It is not my role in life to be judgmental.”