For a brief moment, the audience at The Jerusalem Post annual conference in New York was able to see a world where diaspora Jews of the next generation were filled with pride because of their connection to Israel.
During a video broadcast at the paper’s conference on Sunday, young Jewish children, from Rome to Warsaw to Athens sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva,” with such conviction that gave hope that Israel and the diaspora are not so disconnected after all.
The children – who run the gamut between “semi-secular” and modern-Orthodox – all study in schools supported by the World Jewish Congress’s headed by President Ronald Lauder.
“My dream is for all Jewish children around the world to know the words to this song,” a visibly moved Lauder told the audience in a speech where he lamented a growing rift between diaspora Jewry and Israel.
“A couple years ago we celebrated Israel’s 70th birthday. Across the country, they were singing and dancing and we toasted to Israel’s strength and survival. ...It was not just a day of joy, but reflection. Right now, Israel stands at a crossroads,” he warned.
In order to become a “major global player,” Lauder said, Israel must revamp its image and ensure it has allies across the world.
The key to securing those two objectives is deepening the connection Israel has with the diaspora: “The diaspora today is not the same diaspora of my generation or my parent’s generation. They believed in Israel 100%. Too many in the young generation are turning their backs on Israel. We need to ask ourselves why they are doing that and what can be done?,” he said.
According to Lauder, Israel is failing in properly educating young Jews around the world about Israel.
“We are not doing enough to educate young people about the greatness of Israel,” he said, citing a recent protest conducted by a small group of anti-Israel students at Syracuse University who targeted Israel’s consul-general in New York City Dani Dayan.
“What upsets me even more than hearing about this incident, I saw no mention of anyone standing up to defend him or Israel and that’s shameful,” he said.
“Let me ask all of you a question: instead of it being a Jewish leader who was harassed, what if it was a black leader? Or a Muslim leader? Or any minority? Then it would be front page news. But when it’s a Jew, an Israeli, nobody stands up and speaks out. The complicity is frightening. the silence is deafening.”
To turn the tide against Israel, then, Lauder advocated for putting more resources into revamping Israel’s PR strategy.
However, despite the growing threat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Lauder remains optimistic.
“I believe Israel’s best days are ahead,” he predicted.
Specifically, Lauder is proud of US President Donald Trump’s unwavering support of the Jewish state and is looking forward the US Embassy move next month.
“I believe that peace is possible and within reach and we all thank President Trump for his courage to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Israel needs to understand they need the diaspora. and the next generation needs to understand they need Israel,” he added.