NEW YORK – Newly elected Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay met with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in Tel Aviv in his first official encounter with American Jewry.

During the Tuesday meeting, the two discussed a wide range of issues regarding Israel’s domestic and foreign policies, US-Israel relations, as well as Israel’s relationship with American Jews.

Hoenlein, who has had a long relationship with Isaac Herzog and other Labor Party leaders over the years, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he was “quite impressed” by Gabbay.

“He’s a very open person. We had a very good discussion. He was sensitive to the issues,” he said. “He prides himself on being a good listener, and he was. He did not hesitate to discuss the issues.”

“We agreed to continue discussions,” Hoenlein added. “He wants very much to maintain an open relationship with the community.”

Hoenlein stressed that the Conference of Presidents is “nonpartisan and multi-partisan, as [its] membership covers every association from Friends of Likud to Labor Zionist organizations and others.”

“We relate to everybody; we try to be open,” he told the Post. “It doesn’t mean we agree all the time within the Conference or the parties, but that’s not our job. Our job is to advance the interests of the American Jewish community and their concerns for Israel and for the issues we address.”

These concerns have recently deepened, after Israel’s decision to freeze the agreement on an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and the push for a bill that would grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over conversions in Israel. The new Labor chairman, Hoenlein said, was very understanding in this regard.

“People of all sectors are aware and concerned,” Hoenlein told the Post. “But I think these issues should not become partisan or political, and it is important to address them in a way that addresses the substance and strengthens the unity of the Jewish people.

“We want to have open channels with the political leadership, to be able to both support Israel and the interests of the Jewish community,” he added.

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