There are high-level discussions taking place with the Office of the Prime Minister in Israel about an initiative that could significantly impact the relationship between young American Jews and the State of Israel.
According to an email that was widely disseminated among Jewish communal professional and philanthropic leaders, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is interested in increasing the number of young Jews traveling to Israel on a variety of meaningful experiences “through the expansion of current approaches and development of new ones.”
Among other initiatives: improving Israel education and engagement in various Jewish communal institutions through both Israeli emissaries and local educators; creating “Israel- engaged campuses” to reach 240,000 undergraduate and 70,000 graduate Jewish students on 100 North American college campuses (and perhaps a handful of others around the world); doubling the number of young professionals who make Aliyah.
More than one source involved in these discussions said the prime minister is interested in allocating government funds to make this happen. One source, who requested anonymity, quotes the allocation as 100 million dollars. That number could not be confirmed.
Misha Galperin, President and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development, would not confirm any details Ð and denied that any allocation had been made Ð but he told the Baltimore Jewish Times, the sister publication of the Washington Jewish Week, that the Prime Minister has had a long-standing interest in increasing the connection between young Jews in the Diaspora and the State of Israel. He cited the prime minister’s initial investment in Taglit Birthright Israel more than a decade ago as an example. Since then, said Galperin, there have been other investments, too.
“The Jewish Agency, as the link between Jewish communities and the Jewish State, is engaged in ongoing conversations with the Government of Israel and its partners in the Diaspora on how to address this and other issues relevant to the Israel-Diaspora connection,” Galperin said. “There have been conversations on the subject. Those conversations are ongoing and no decisions have been made, there are no announcements that are ready for publication.”
Michal Frank, Deputy Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, is the point person in Israel at this time. She was unable to be reached on short notice, but the JT will provide updates as they become available.