For decades, Diaspora Jews have sent their young people to Israel to strengthen their Jewish identity. But on Monday, President Reuvlin Rivlin suggested the opposite.
In a speech to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Rivlin proposed what he termed a “Reverse Birthright” program, “to get to know Jewish communities worldwide.”
“Dear friends, we need to create wider circles of awareness here in Israel. For many young Israeli Jews, being a Jew means being Israeli. We must increase their exposure to your schools, camps and communities. They need to realize and feel that they have a family, a family they must take into account,” he said.
We “need to talk, we have to talk, and we need to listen,” he intoned.
Although he made no specific mention of it, the idea is part of Rivlin’s efforts to ease tensions between the religious community in Israel and Reform and Conservative groups abroad over such issues as recognition at the Kosel and in the conversion process.
Rivlin said that his staff has already begun exploring new ways to “inspire our relationship.”
The president stressed the importance of Israel and Diaspora collaboration in the developing world, citing a recent visit to Ethiopia in which he was joined by British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and leaders of Jewish organizations.