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Israel must reflect all Jewish values, think tank tells government

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Diaspora Jews believe that Israel must reflect all Jewish values, The Jewish People Policy Institute told Israel’s Cabinet in a report.

The 10th annual Assessment of the Situation & Dynamics of the Jewish People was presented to the Cabinet on Sunday by JPPI president Avinoam Bar-Yosef alongside co-chairs and former U.S. ambassadors Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, the independent policy think tank’s co-chairs and former U.S. ambassadors.

The non-Orthodox majority in the Diaspora feels religiously disenfranchised by Israeli policy; is critical of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on personal-status issues such as conversion, marriage and divorce; and expects that Israel better respect and reflect religious pluralism, Eizenstat told the Cabinet.

The institute conducted some 40 seminars in the Diaspora on the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel in creating this year’s assessment. In addition to the seminars in dozens of communities in the United States and Canada, as well as Europe and Latin America, there were questionnaires and analysis of other research.

“Diaspora Jews do not see a contradiction between Israel as a Jewish state and Israel as a democratic state. They see the two as complementary,” the report said.

“As Israel ponders changes to its Basic Laws, it should consider carefully the views of the Diaspora to assure it does not compromise standards of equality and tolerance, which our study found crucial for Diaspora Jews. World Jewry fully appreciates the difficulties Israel faces in a hostile region with major security threats, but a majority of Diaspora Jews does not see this as a justification for Israel lowering its own principles of democracy and adherence to human rights.”

In another finding, the report found that European Jews feel under siege. The institute called on the Cabinet to ease the process of aliyah from Diaspora communities, especially from France, including making it easier to transfer professions to Israel.

The institute also criticized the government for not providing a budget to the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to work to counter delegitimization of Israel in the international community.

“As important as it is to be sure to draw all of the resources of the Israeli government together to tackle the challenge of delegitimization, Israel’s policies must also take into account the effect they have on the international community and how some seek to exploit them,” Ross said.

Bar-Yosef said after the Cabinet meeting, “A decision was made to continue dialogue between Diaspora communities and Israel, and Prime Minister Netanyahu endorsed JPPI’s initiative to explore, in the next year, the parameters, representatives, and subjects for discussion.”

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