Last week the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation, along with The Jewish Agency for Israel, Haaretz, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem hosted the inaugural Judaism, Israel and Diaspora Conference in Jerusalem.
The conference sought to expand the definitions of Judaism beyond the narrow-religious boundaries, and to illuminate the existence of Judaism as a culture, a nation and a shared identity for Israelis and Diaspora Jews. Speakers at the conference included President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog and Shira Ruderman, Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, among others.
“This conference proves that Israel’s understanding of its relationship with the American Jewish community is undergoing a transformation. Until today we were used to this conversation taking place in a closed room, but today that changes,” Shira Ruderman said in her keynote speech.
Ruderman added: “[This event] is happening, in Hebrew, with an audience of over 1,500 people. This proves the topic is of utmost importance, relevant and affecting all fields of life. This relationship touches upon all of us, including issues of national security, health and higher education budget resources, and also the very essence of Jewish identity. Finally, this topic is in a worthy place on the public agenda. And this is only the beginning. Today’s conference opens the door on turning Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community into a relevant issue, with the public having a voice as it does on issues of security or the economy. Today we are turning up the volume on this crucial discussion, so that as many people as possible participate in it.”
At the conference, a poll revealed that 51 percent of Israeli Jews believe American Jews are not sufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. And while 33 percent said they are supportive enough, only 3 percent said they would prefer to see a higher level of criticism of Israel by American Jews.