Special Interview Kedar Ecstatic About American Jewry

Yosef “Paul” Kedar, Israel’s Consul General in New York for the lost seven months, sounds ecstatic when asked to describe his impressions of the American Jewish community. “It has been a revelation,” Kedar said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The size of it the power, the warmth, the commitment and affection to Israel on all levels. This is a very heartwarming thing to discover,” Kedar said.

He also said that he found among Jews here commitment to the idea of remaining Jewish and upholding the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. “Those Jews I have met expressed their love and warmth for Israel, but at the same time they expressed concern about how to assure Jewish continuity and how to maintain Israel as the focal point of Jewish life,” Kedar said.

He said that in his view there is a “complementary effect” between American Jewry and Israel. “The American Jewish community is a very generous Jewish diaspora. Its support for Israel is complementary. Israel is not just another Jewish community in distress–Israel is a product of the whole Jewish-people. At the same time, Kedar pointed out, Israel, in return helps maintain Jewish continuity. But despite the enormous support, financial and otherwise, given Israel by American Jewry, Kedar stated that “I would prefer to have the six million (American) Jews in Israel.”

THE ISSUES OF OLIM AND YORDIM

What are the reasons that American Jews do not contribute a significant number of olim to Israel? he was asked. “The image of Israel today is such that it does not encourage aliya,” Kedar said. “In a way we have not created in Israel a society that we wanted to create. Israel faces social difficulties, economic difficulties and even difficulties in defining to itself what its ideals are. Therefore, it is difficult to project those ideals to others. Apparently we are not projecting the right image since 1967. But, of course, there have been many, many achievements in Israel….”

To attract American Jews to Israel, Kedar said, “we should find our own way based on our particular genius, our resources and our possibilities.” He said that Israel can offer, “the realization of the Zionist dream of a just Jewish society.

Kedar, a sabra who was born in 1925 in Neveh Zedek the first Jewish suburb of Jaffa, was asked what he thought about the estimated 200,000 Israeli yordim in North America. He responded by emphasizing that he feels that bringing the yordim back to Israel is as important as attracting olim.

“Recently I met with a group of yordim here and one sentence I heard really hurt. One of the yordim said: ‘The first year we were here Israel was close to our hearts, the next year less and a year later even less. The longer we stay here the distance between us and Israel is growing.’

“I am not sure,” Kedar added, “that we gave sufficient thought to how to maintain the centrality of Israel in the lives of the Israelis here. I think that any yored, that any Israeli who could live in Israel but lives here is a cause of sorrow and a less to the State of Israel.”

Kedar maintained that the reasons that cause so many Israelis to leave their country still exist but stressed that the yordim cannot change things in Israel from abroad. “They must return to Israel and change things from within,” he declared.

Turning to the issue of the information services the Consulate provides about Israel, Kedar said that a great deal of work and effort is devoted to disseminating “Israel’s message” at any suitable occasion and in different forms. He said the Consulate is now striving to project Israel’s image but with less emphasis on politics, stressing Israel’s achievements in education, culture and science. He also contended that the American Jewish media does not give sufficient coverage to cultural events.

NEXT STORY