The American Jewish Committee today announced the formation of a project designed to study the relationship between the American Jewish community and the State of Israel.
The new project, to be known as the Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations, will be directed by Bertram Gold, executive vice president of the AJCommittee, upon his retirement from his position August I, following 15 years of service as an AJC executive, it was announced by Maynard Wishner, national president of the AJCommittee.
Speaking at a press conference here, Gold described the Institute as “an American-centered enterprise that will seek to study the changing nature of the relationship between American Jews and Israel. It will identify areas of tension and delineate opportunities to achieve a more effective interaction between them. It will also undertake specific programs both in the United States and in Israel aimed at improving understanding between the two communities.”
SEVERAL BASIC PREMISES
The Institute is based on several basic premises which include that the future of Israel and the American Jewish community are interwoven with both Jews in Israel and in the United States sharing a status of mutual concern, Gold said. But he added that there has developed in recent years new realities concerning American Jewry.
This, Gold pointed out, includes the realization of the permanence of American Jewry in the United States, feeling that their future is rooted here and not in Israel. Furthermore, partof the new realities of relations between Jews in the U.S. and in Israel also stem from the changing character of the Jewish State with the increasing political activity of the Sephardic community, and finally the changing relationship between Israel and the United States.
CHANGE IN THE ISRAELI SOCIETY
Addressing the issue of a change in the nature of Israeli society, Gold said it has been “from a Western type of society into a Middle Eastern one, due to the reduction in Jewish immigration to Israel, Israeli’s increased emigration from Israel, and the high birthrate of Oriental Jews compared to Ashkenazic Jews.”
These factors, along with the international isolation of Israel, and the almost total dependence on the U.S. by Israel for its security and economic viability, place a large responsibility on American Jewry, Gold said.
According to the AJCommittee, the Institute will serve as an arm of the Committee and be housed at their headquarters in New York. Gold said the Institute will consult with knowledgeable Israelis from various disciplines, representing diverse points of view, and also will appoint small ad hoc panels of Israelis and Americans, as necessary, to oversee the pilot programs to be undertaken.
He added that the Institute will be administered by an advisory board of some 30-35 American Jewish leaders from the religious, civic and communal fields who will select and approve its programs.
Some areas under consideration for study, Gold said, is the question of religious pluralism in Israel and its significance for Israel and American Jewry; common elements of identity between American Jewry and Israelis; the American Jewish relationship to Israelis living in the U.S.; and the question of dissent within Israel and within American Jewry. These issues are under consideration for study and no decision has yet been finalized on their status. Gold also noted that the Institute would act as a clearing house for other research on these topics.
DISMAYED AT MEDIA COVERAGE
At the same time, Gold and Wishner reported on their four-day trip last week to Lebanon and Israel, conferring with Premier Menachem Begin and other leading officials, both Israeli and Lebanese. Wishner said he was dismayed that American media coverage of the situation in Lebanon has not presented a totally clear picture of the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorist forces.
He noted the huge arms caches found by Israel Defense Force, the absolute control of Sidon by the PLO command forces and, what he said, was a positive reaction by Lebanese officials to the Israeli action that would rid the PLO from that country’s southern-region.
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