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Jewish Agency head warns incoming government against alienating world Jewry

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Doron Almog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, gives his inaugural speech after being elected in Jerusalem on July 10, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Doron Almog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, gives his inaugural speech after being elected in Jerusalem on July 10, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of the Jewish Agency for Israel warns the presumed coalition against alienating world Jewry, after its members proposed legislation that would radically cut immigration to Israel and delegitimize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism.

“As the challenging task of forming a new government gets underway, we believe that it is critical to ensure our relations with world Jewry remain intact and that the everlasting commitment to enable Jews from all corners of the globe to make aliyah must be upheld,” Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog says in a statement.

The Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body tasked with encouraging and facilitating immigration to Israel and with maintaining Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry, has found itself in an uncomfortable position over the past week and a half, as the likely coalition has raised a number of proposals that would dramatically alter or threaten that mission. Last week, the religious parties called for ending the so-called “grandchild clause” that allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate freely to Israel so long as they do not practice another religion.

Today, the Otzma Yehudit party called for ending official recognition of non-Orthodox conversions for the purposes of citizenship, a move with limited practical implication, but a deep symbolic slight against the Reform and Conservative movements. However, as a non-partisan body that operates largely at the whim of the government, the organization has sought to avoid direct confrontations with the nascent coalition.

In his statement, Almog stresses the importance of unity and respect for all denominations of Judaism.

“At this hour, we believe that nothing is more important than the unity of the Jewish people, including all its denominations, as well as protecting the strategic relations with world Jewry through ongoing dialogue. The Jewish Agency will continue to be the bridge connecting Israel and Jews the world over,” Almog says.

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