For the first time, a global Corona roundtable was convened by the Diaspora and Jewish Agency with around 30 global and regional Jewish organizations to discuss the challenges of the Jewish people and the rehabilitation of Jewish communities.
Jewish Agency chairman Yitzhak Herzog (pictured) and Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich led the roundtable, which set out to assess the impact of the coronavirus on Jewish communities around the world and prepare a practical plan for their rehabilitation on the “day after.” The organizations discussed the current state of affairs in the communities. They discussed the consequences of the current crisis for each community, as well as the challenges faced, the opportunities and the possible responses.
The Global Roundtable held on Zoom from around the world opened with comments by Yankelevich and Herzog, who presented the key issues that organizations will discuss over the next few months until the rehabilitation of the affected Jewish communities.
The key issues included:
- steps for the rehabilitation of communities,
- coping with routine and crisis,
- raising resources for the period of rehabilitation,
- strengthening leadership,
- cohesion and mutual commitment,
- future community needs,
- preparing for other challenges, such as increasing anti-Semitism worldwide.
Afterward, the leaders of the organizations presented their views on challenges.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said:
“Today we are making history. This is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that the bodies of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency are setting up a formal forum to assist Jewish communities around the world, apart from an emergency situation facing one specific community. This is a paradigm shift of ‘All Israel becoming guarantors for each other.’ The Roundtable will identify, map and broadly analyze and assess the steps needed to strengthen Jewish communities and community institutions throughout the Jewish world, in addressing the implications of the Corona crisis over a period of rehabilitation that is expected to be long.”
Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevich said:
“I marvel at the conduct of Jewish communities during these troubled times and how they strive to share ideas, learn from mistakes and grow together. Their unified spirit is inspiring, as they establish a system to provide stable and permanent aid to those in need. Together with worldwide Jewry, we will set up an active, strong forum to find practical solutions for all communities. Our office wants to work with all communities everywhere, so that they will have a connection to Israel and Israel to them. This will make them proud that Israel is a real part of their lives and their identities, just as we in Israel are proud to realize that Jewish life abroad is a real and active part of our own identity.”
The roundtable is expected to convene in its broad forum once every two weeks over the next few months. Subcommittees will be set up to discuss in depth the challenges leading up to a global recovery from the Corona crisis. The forum will be run and coordinated operatively by the Director General of the Diaspora Ministry, Dvir Kahana, and the Director General of the Jewish Agency, Amira Aharonovitch. Shirley Heller, Senior Advisor to the Jewish Agency Chairman, will manage the forum’s office. The office will function together with the Jewish Agency office, headed by Jewish Agency Secretary General Josh Schwartz.
Among the organizations and bodies that participated in the roundtable: a distinguished representation of the Israeli government from the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office; the Jewish Federation of North America, the Keren Hayesod, World Zionist Organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Conference of Presidents, JDC, JNF , Orthodox Union, Conservative Movement, Reform Movement, World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, European Conference of Rabbis and more.
In April, the Jewish Agency together with Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Federation of North America, launched a special loan fund, with $10 million, to help the Jewish communities affected by the Corona virus. Since the foundation was established, dozens of communities in over 70 countries around the world have asked for assistance. Since the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, there have been numerous reports of the great damage the Corona virus has caused to Jewish communities around the world, including a high number of fatalities.
According to data compiled by the Diaspora Ministry and the Jewish Agency, fatalities among Jewish communities around the world number in the thousands. Many of these communities have been paralyzed or are on the brink of collapse.