March 29, 2007
By LYN STEGEMILLER
Tribune Staff Writer
"No matter if we still live in America or we live in other places of the world, we know that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish nation," says Ahuva Volk, a representative of the Jewish Agency of Israel.
Volk, Irina Kopytova and Elisheva Solomon recently spoke at the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley in South Bend as part of a "Faces of Aliyah" mission telling people about immigration to Israel. The trio spoke six times in South Bend, with stops also in Monmouth, N.J., Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Believing that Israel "stands at the heart of the Jewish future," the Jewish Agency states a dual purpose: "To keep the promise to every Jew who, for any reason, at any time, chooses to come home to Israel" and "to put Israel into the lives of the Jewish world's next generation." The agency also works to ensure equal opportunity within Israel.
On its Web site, the organization cites a "clear and mounting danger of Israel losing its Jewish majority in the future."
"Without steady immigration, the now 19 percent Arab minority could eventually outnumber Jews in Israel."
Through its global partnerships, the Jewish Agency has brought 3 million immigrants to Israel, more than two-thirds of the country's Jewish population, it says.
In 2005, Israel had the second largest population of Jews in the world. With 5,237,600 Jews, it was home to 40.2 percent of the world's Jewish population, the site states. With 5,280,000 Jews, the United States had 40.5 percent of the world's Jewish population.
Financial contributions for the agency's work come in from around the world.
Debra Barton Grant, executive vice president for the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley, says that approximately 42 percent, or $220,000, of the annual local Jewish Welfare Fund campaign finds its way to the Jewish Agency for use in Israel and around the world.
Israel belongs to Jews everywhere, Volk says.
Signs in airports around the world post "Welcome" signs for travelers, she notes. But in Israel, signs for immigrants read "Welcome home."