US/World News

At Federation conference, Israeli president calls for ‘reverse Birthright’

By Ben Sales (JTA) – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has called for a “reverse Birthright” that would take Israelis to see the American Jewish community firsthand. Rivlin made his remarks Monday, Oct. 22, at the opening of the General Assembly, the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America, in Tel Aviv. Titled “We Need to Talk,” the three-day conference focused on the divisions between Israeli and Diaspora Jews. More than 3,000 participants are on hand for the event.

Several controversial events in recent years have created rifts between the views of U.S. Jewish organizations and Israeli government policies. The groups have objected to, among other things, the government’s freezing of a plan to expand a non-Orthodox prayer area at the Kotel; the passage of a law officially defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jews; a proposed reform of Israel’s conversion policy; and a 2017 law barring entry to supporters of the boycott Israel movement.

Rivlin said that while Diaspora and Israeli Jews have differences, they need to prioritize maintaining their relationship. He said that Israelis need to take it upon themselves to learn more about Diaspora Jews, in part through a “reverse Taglit,” Hebrew for Birthright, the free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. “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 to feel that they have a family, a family that [they] must take into account,” he said.

CAP: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Oct. 21, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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