Israel Diaspora Relations - the Biblical Period
"Filler" after Jeremiah
The Modern Era - Zionism
Chaim Weitzman (1874-1952)
"Filler" after Weitzman
Sir Moses Montefiore
"Filler" after Montefiore
Professor Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Two terms are used to describe the Jewish world outside of Eretz Yisrael (The land of Israel).
They are very different in meaning although they actually relate to the same thing!
The word DIASPORA is a value free word which describes the Jewish world as one in which Jews live in many countries - not just in the State of Israel.
It originates from a Greek word meaning scattering - as the Jews were scattered among the other nations of the earth.
There is another word which even though it in effect means the same as Diaspora has a lot of values attached to it - this is GALUT - literally meaning exile.
The use of the term Galut or exile to describe the Jewish communities of the world indicates that these communities outside of Israel live an unnatural and undesirable existence. When people are in exile, the assumption is that they are living for some reason in the wrong place - it would be far more natural for them to be living in their homeland.
Diaspora does therefore not imply the same things as the word Galut does!
Israel Diaspora Relations - the Biblical Period
The first major community to develop outside Eretz Israel was clearly in Babylon, from just prior to the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
The Jews in Babylon accept the advice of the prophet Jeremiah and decide to settle down nto their new lives in Babylon. The general picture of the Jews in the Exile is of a people faithful to God and to Judaism. All the evidence is that they yearn to return to their native land:
" By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion ," says Psalm 137.
The great prophet of the Babylonian exile, Ezekiel, develops the same idea, promising freedom and a return to Zion as long as the Jews do not lose faith - this is portrayed in his famous vision of the 'dry bones' and futuristic visions of the temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem.
At the time it was seem as if the Jews were in Galut - exile from Israel. They believed the following to be true:
The Jews are punished by God;
They must reverse that punishment - they will do this by behaviour acceptable to God.
As reward, God will ultimately bring them back.
There is absolutely no question as to the real identity of the land of the Jews. Jeremiah's advice is a recipe for temporary diaspora living. They must be loyal to the land where they live - until God brings them back.
So much for the theory. The practice, however, is somewhat different. This very clearly evident when the Jews are granted the option to return and rebuild their temple and their land by Cyrus, their new ruler, after the conquest of Babylon by the Persians. Only a minority actually go! This is the first clear rift between declarations and actions; the first time - but hardly the last.
It is only in the period of the Second Temple that we see a proper large scale Jewish diaspora develops.
New centres of the Diaspora develop in Eastern lands and in the lands that came under the control of the Greeks from the time of Alexander the Great. One such place which attracted Jews like a magnet was Egypt with it's Capital Alexandria - about a million Jews are thought to have lived there by the first century CE.
Once the Greek lands were taken over by the Romans, Jews could soon be found throughout the Roman Empire, and in large numbers. A recent estimate for the Jewish population of Rome in the years preceding the destruction talked of over 50,000 Jews in that one city alone!
Contrary to popular belief, very few Jews were forced into exile after the exile that followed the destruction of the first Temple. This means that, by and large, Jews chose to live in the lands of diaspora rather than the Land of Israel. In effect they were attracted by the good life outside of Israel.
However, unquestionably, most - if not all - Jews seem to have remained faithful to their tradition. The Romans, for example, were wary of the Jews throughout their empire, because they felt that the Jews were very sensitive towards their traditions and wrong moves by their rulers could easily push them into open rebellion.
There are also other stories which touch on the loyalties of diaspora Jews. There is the case, for example, of two Jewish generals of the Queen of Egypt m the second century BCE who refused to lead their armies against the Maccabee leaders of Eretz Israel because they said that they could not fight their co-religionists. Moreover, they warned that the Jews of Egypt might turn against the Queen if she ordered the attack to take place.
Over the centuries it became clear that individual comfort and convenience were playing larger roles in people's lives. Even if they perceived themselves to be loyal Jews, it seems that national needs were lower down on their priority list. So they stayed in the diaspora - although the way was open for families and communities to pick up and move to Eretz Israel.
There were many Jews who went up to the Land of Israel in order to study, sometimes to stay there for ever. The story of Hillel, the great scholar who was born in Babylon is another such story.
There were also many who went on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, to the Temple, especially on the great festival days at Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. But it was not so easy. The tradition demanded that every Jew should journey to Jerusalem for each of the big pilgrim festivals. Whereas that might be possible for a Jew from the area around Jerusalem, and it might even be possible for a Jew from the Galilee for example, but it could hardly be demanded from a Jew who lived in North Africa or in Spain or Persia. Clearly, the ideal was an ideal - while the reality was something else. Probably, for many Jews it was a once in a lifetime journey and the rest of the time it was a pious thought or hope.
For the most part, the Jews in the diaspora affirmed their connection with Eretz Yisrael, with Jerusalem and with the Temple, by sending a monetary contribution towards the upkeep of the Temple - a half shekel to be paid by Jews and proselytes alike from throughout the diaspora. The tax had been instituted by the Maccabee kings and, despite the fact that Jews could not be forced to pay this money to Eretz Yisrael, the evidence indicates clearly that it was considered very important by the Jews themselves to pay the tax and thus help the upkeep of the Temple, and, incidentally, strengthen their own ties with their ancient land.
In addition, there are records of wealthy Jews - for example, from Alexandria - who made large extra financial contributions to the Temple for ornate decorations. Thus, in this period, financial contributions, visits and pilgrimages, and study visits to the academies of Eretz Israel were the major forms of a very practical connection.
Jeremiah was one of the great prophets at around time of the destruction of the first temple - and his works are recorded in the book of Jeremiah which is found in the writings of the Prophets
Jeremiah was probably born in around 650 BCE (before common era) and began his prophetic career in 627 BCE. He died soon after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. His prophetical work breaks an almost complete silence of prophecy in Israel since that of Isaiah some 70 years earlier.
Early in his career he was protected by powerful friends at the Court, but after the death of his main protector he came into increasing disfavor with the religious and civil leaders of his people; it seemed that people no longer had the same respect for the prophets which they once had in the past. He was, on various occasions, put under house arrest, denied public speaking rights, thrown into a dungeon, and widely regarded as a traitor a in time of war.
After the final defeat of Jerusalem (which he predicted), Jeremiah was carried off against his will to Egypt by Jews who continued to resist the Babylonian conquest. Tradition says that he was eventually murdered by these people.
Like all the prophetic books of the Bible, the book of Jeremiah was only written down after his death by his head disciple - Baruch.
The actual book of Jeremiah is written in three distinct parts:
The first portion deals with his prophecy about the destruction of the first temple and Jerusalem
The second section is all about Jeremiah's activities, trials, and persecutions from roughly 608 BC to his last days. He also prophesised that one day the two Kingdoms of the Jewish people (Judea and Israel) would one day be re-united and Jerusalem would be restored to them.
The third part is mainly about Jeremiah's predictions about what will happen to other nations.
Perhaps Jerimiah' biggest contribution is, however, that he told the Jews how to settle the land of the country they were exiled to: " Because that he hath sent us to Babylon, saying, It [exile] is long build ye houses and abide; and plant ye gardens and eat their fruit . " (Jeremiah: Chapter 29)
Jeremiah sends to them he gives them advice as to how to live their lives in Babylon. (Chapter 29). This is the first "recipe book" for diaspora living that we have. He urges them to accept their lives in Babylon, to raise their households and families, and to live in peace. If they are faithful to God and do what God wants them to do, God will bring their families back to Jerusalem after many years. In other words, they should not forget their origins and should remember that Judah is really their land, but should make no practical preparations to return. God will provide for that.
He also places an emphasis on the concept of individual responsibility which means each person has to find a new covenant (ie bond) between the Lord and him/herself
"Filler" after Jeremiah
The destruction of the second Temple was perhaps the great turning point in Jewish history.
From the traditional point of view, this is the start of the long period of Galut, that would only end with the foundation of the next Jewish state in the twentieth century.
The Jews weren't in the main forced to leave Israel - but due to the increased restrictions on their lives the vast majority chose to leave.
For the first time, the centers of Jewish life, qualitatively even more than numerically, would move to the lands of the Galut.
Babylon emerged as the first great center of Jewish life outside of Israel
Relations between the emerging center in Babylon and the declining centre in Eretz Israel were complex and difficult. Unquestionably, there was rivalry between them - for the first time there were two real centres of Judaism.
It was clear that without replacements for the central elements that had kept the Jews together as a nation - Jerusalem, the Temple, the Land as a physical center -there might be little future.
A great rescue plan developed to save the Jewish nation and enable it to survive in the lands of exile until such time as God decided to bring it home. A new way of life was shaped, based on an entire legal-halachic system, designed to bring the Jew into a framework of distinct behaviour that would separate him or her from outside society by a kind of invisible wall.
This system of halacha was designed so that the Jew was not at home in the neighbors' land and so the Jew must always remember the reality of Galut.
The following ideas were therefore built into Jewish life:
Jews would face Jerusalem in prayer.
In those prayers Jews would regularly remind themselves of their state of Galut and would pray to God to end the exile and to bring the exiles back home.
Traditions, both domestic and communal would be developed to confront the Jew with constant reminders of the unnatural situation. Glasses would be broken at weddings, walls would be left unplastered and songs would be sung - all to remind the Jew of the Land left behind.
Rituals from the temple period were also adapted to be used at home:
When the "arba minim" were waved at Sukkot
Or the prayer for rain was said during the winter months until Pesach
When the trees were remembered on Tu B'Shvat
Or the Omer was counted between Pesach and Shavuot
All these acts connected the Jew in with Eretz Yisrael. Jews could live at all four corners of the earth, but ritually they lived in the land of Israel, tied in through the details of ritual to a calendar and a reality that existed in the land they called their home. The system worked. For hundreds and hundreds of years Jews lived in distant lands all over the world and never related to those lands as home. Can there be any precedent for this in human history? A people which lived for twenty or thirty generations in the lands of Yemen or Poland and never considered themselves Yemenite or Polish by nationality? This was the achievement of ritual.
And so Jews continued to live as Jews throughout the Diaspora, until the birth of Zionism...
The dictionary definition of Zionism is as follows:
Movement establishing and developing a Jewish state: a worldwide movement, originating in the 19th century, that sought to establish and develop a Jewish nation in Palestine. Since 1948 its function has been to support the state of Israel.
The current day definition of Zionism and of a 'Zionist' (someone who believes in Zionism) is very much unclear - can you still be a Zionist and live outside of Israel?
Opinions about the definition of Zionism range from:
A love of lsrael
Giving money to Israel
Moving to Israel (i.e. making 'Aliyah')
Believing that Israelis the home for all Jews
There is no one answer about what the exact definition of Zionism is - the only thing that is undisputed is that it is a love for Israel.
The Modern Era - Zionism
When the modern movement of return to the land - which came to be known as Zionism - began in the last decades of the nineteenth century, for many Jews the relationship to the Land changed yet again. Israel was once more viewed as a genuine contemporary option for Jewish life.
In the last years of the 20th century, thousands of Jews began to move there with the intention of creating the basis for a modern Jewish society. For many Jews - who had relegated the country to the realm of the mythical - Zionism reclaimed it as a living, breathing land, a place where you could live and farm the earth; a place where, increasingly, you could speak again the ancient and somewhat fossilized Hebrew language, a place where you could talk about a real living Jewish future and not just a great Jewish past or a vague messianic hope. The name of the game was building a life - for many this became a real option, especially as numerous countries harshened their attitudes and their treatment of Jews.
Moneys were collected all over the world to support the new settlers and settlements or to buy land and plant trees. Fundraising - in the old pre-Temple destruction tradition of the half shekel for the Temple, together with the still practised tradition of sending money to the communities of scholars and residents of Eretz Yisrael - were now became harnessed to Zionism. Institutions like the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (the Jewish National Fund) developed and became increasingly prominent in the life of much of world Jewry. Zionism was on the map.
There were many Jews who were not pleased with the new developments. Traditional, orthodox Jews in central and eastern Europe struggled with the new idea and tried to find ways of merging their traditional messianic ideas with the new political ideas of Zionism. Some joined the movement and tried to work within it to influence the direction of Zionism, which they saw as a step on the way to the messianic redemption. Others remained outside and strongly criticized the movement for its brazen attempt to replace God's messianic plan with a human one. The Zionists were undermining God.
Another group which vehemently rejected the new position proned by Zionism was much of emancipated western Jewry, who had invested so much effort over the last generations to prove to the outside world that they linked their fates with their non-Jewish neighbours in a common homeland of France, Germany or the United States. To them, Zionism was a threat, which risked undermining all their still precarious achievements, by proclaiming to the world what they themselves had utterly rejected: namely, that Eretz Yisrael was the homeland of the Jews. Thus, they fought it.
There were other Jews in the West who viewed Zionism as a reasonable and even an important option - but simply not for them. Zionism was a movement for those who needed a place of refuge from poverty or persecution, and they would support it as an important option for those less fortunate than themselves.
Zionism analyzed the world in general, and the Jewish world in particular, in extremely ideological terms. It tended to develop a very black and white attitude towards many aspects of Jewish life - including the Galut (meaning 'exile').
Zionism always defined itself as superior to Galut and the Jew of the Galut, whom it depicted in the most uncomplimentary terms: they were 'weak' and 'powerless; 'leechlike' and 'parasitic'; they represented the 'old' as opposed to the 'new'; their way of life was 'unnatural' and 'abnormal'. In short, they were portrayed in a totally negative light, in contradistinction to the new, brave, strong Zionist Jew who - living in her or his own land - represented the future - the only future - of the Jewish People. Zionism viewed the world around it in the strictest ideological terms, all was analyzed and categorized; there could be no deviation. Zion was good, ergo the Galut was bad.
This abrupt and wholesale dismissal of the Galut was something fundamentally unworthy of continued existence in most of the central Zionist thinkers. Some were more extreme than others, like Jacob Klatzkin, who wrote, for example;-
"Perhaps our people can maintain itself in the Galut, but it will not exist in its true dimensions - not in the prime of its national character. Galut can only drag out the disgrace of our people and sustain the existence of a people disfigured in both body and soul - in a word, of a horror. At the very most, it can maintain us in a state of national impurity and breed some sort of outlandish creature. ..neither Jew nor Gentile
- in any case not a true national type."
The stereotyped picture of 'Galut' and the 'Galut' Jew that Klatzkin and all the other major Zionist thinkers developed, actually derived from the Eastern European milieu with which they were so familiar - but which had declined considerably, a fact of which they were unaware. For that world was, in many ways, a world in process of disintegration: the vast majority of Jews were impoverished; community structures were in chaos; Jews were subject to the most terrible cruelties and were largely defenseless to deal with them and impotent in their reactions. These thinkers took the reality that they had experienced and even left behind them in Eastern Europe, and extrapolated the model to Jewries over the world. They could not do otherwise -Zionism was based on a total analysis, a very black and white theory which had no room for 'ifs' and 'buts'.
And in this way, the Zionist idea which developed as a reaction to the Eastern European Jewish world came to incorporate all Jewries, including the Jewries of the west.
Chaim Weitzman (1874-1952)
Weitzman was a Russian born chemist and Zionist leader, who became the first president of modern Israel (1949-1952).
Weizmann was born on November 27, 1874, in Motol, Russia (now in Belarus), and was educated in Germany and Switzerland at the universities of Berlin and Fribourg. He became lecturer in chemistry at the University of Geneva in 1901 and reader in biochemistry at the University of Manchester in 1904. In 1910 he became a British subject. While director (1916-1919) of the British admiralty laboratories, he was responsible for the discovery and development of a method for synthesizing acetone, used in explosives manufacturing.
During his student days, Weizmann had become interested in Zionism, and he was an early leader of the movement. He was instrumental in securing proclamation in 1917 by the British government of the Balfour Declaration, endorsing the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Weizmann was president (1921-1929) of the World Zionist Organization, acting as a force for compromise between those who wanted immediate implementation of the declaration and the British and Arabs who resisted any such moves. From 1929 to 1931 and from 1935 to 1946 he held the office of president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, a semi-governmental organization under the British mandatory authorities; he thus exercised some political authority over Jewish residents of Palestine.
Weizmarm moved to Palestine in 1934 and served also as director of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute at Rehovot and as president of the board of governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During World War II, he was honorary adviser to the British ministry of supply. In 1948 Weizmann was named president of the provisional government; the following year he became the first president of the new nation of Israel.
The Weizmarm Institute of Science, incorporating the Sieff Institute, was founded at Rehovot in 1949, and Weizmann was appointed director. His research there, largely in agronomy, involved crop production and soil management and the development of new protein foodstuffs. The Weitzman institute is still an excellence for science today.
His autobiography, Trial and Error, was published in 1949. He died in Rehovot (Israel) on November 9, 1952.
"Filler" after Weitzman
To be read in the style of a news report:
1917 - Balfour Declaration. Letter from British Foreign Secretary to Lord Rothschild expressing support "for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Furthermore the British Government pledged to "use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this objective"
1920 - Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) transferred to the control of the British - under
something called the British Mandate. Great home for the quick establishment of a
Jewish State - this was not the case.
1922 onwards - Various papers were submitted about the future of Palestine
1936 - Peel Commission established as a result of Arab rioting. He recommended that Palestine was partitioned into two - an Arab and a Jewish part. This was rejected by the Arabs.
July 1946 - Bombing of the King David Hotel and the hanging of two British Sergeants by the Jewish Etzel organisation in order to try and force the British out of Palestine.
1947- United Nations Special Committee on Palestine approved partitioning Palestine into two States with Jerusalem being an International city.
May 14th 1948 - British depart from Palestine
The state of Israel is declared....
But how will it be transformed from it's current status to the homeland for the Jews?
The dictionary definition of Philanthropy is as follows.
1. desire to benefit humanity: a desire to improve the material, social, and spiritual
welfare of humanity. especially through charitable activities
2. philanthropic act or group: a philanthropic action or organization
3. love for all humanity: general love for, or benevolence toward, the whole of humankind (formal)
The word comes from the Greek philanthrpos meaning "humane," from phi/os meaning "loving" and from anthrpos meaning "human being."
In connection with the State of Israel, a philanthropist is someone who gives large sums of money for no personal gain (apart from widespread recognition) for good of the country.
From even before the establishment of the State of Israel Jews from around the world were already giving their money to buy and build the state of Israel. Organisations like the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (in England called the Jewish National Fund) for instance brought up large portions of Israel with countless other organizations involved.
One such organisation - The Keren Hayesod (in England the UJIA) began with the Zionist Congress in London on July 26, 1920. In the wake of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people", the Zionist leaders, realizing the financial investment necessary to build and develop the Jewish homeland, established a fundraising mechanism for this purpose: the "Foundation Fund", commonly known by its Hebrew name the "Keren Hayesod".
The Talmud says that "All Jews are responsible for one another" and this is very much the slogan which was adopted by Jews around the world - no least in the United
The United Kingdom through many charitable organisations has been supporting Israel in hundreds of different ways. Areas of involvement of British Jews and Jewry have included:
Helping new immigrants - such as those from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union
And perhaps most noticably - physical projects such as buildings.
One of the largest Anglo-Jewish charities the JIA (and now its successor the UJIA) has for instance contributed to over 1000 projects all around Israel - a very significant contribution when one considers the size of Anglo-Jewry (280,000). A list of these physical projects is provided for your interest. Note also that the UJIA is one of many organisations which raises money for Israel so there are many more projects.
The British community (like other communities around the world) tended to react emmotively every time Israel was in trouble. For instance the war in 1973 saw a 10 fold increase in donations to Israel - with similarly large increases during the war in
Likewise there were substantial increases in the campaign for Israel not only during the Gulf and the Lebonese wars, but also in response to operations to 'rescue' Jews from around the world. Such operations include 'operation Exodus' to help Russian Jewry and 'operation Moses' for Ethiopian Jewry.
Some possible reasons of why British Jewry supported Israel financially are as follows:
They were truly Zionistic - they believed in that there should be a State of Israel and therefore wanted to support setting up the new state
There was real need for aid from the Diaspora - Israel was underdeveloped and
needed a new infrastructure - this was something it could not afford to pay for itself
Thousands of new Jewish immigrants were arriving in Israel each week and the Diaspora felt like it had to pay for them
Jews in the Diaspora felt guilty about not doing more to help their Jewish Brethren during the holocaust
Jews feared a second holocaust happening again due to Israels hostile neighbours
- and thus wanted to make sure that Israel was strong enough to defend itself
They felt guilty about not moving to Israel
They remembered what life was like before the establishment of the State of Israel - with it's antisemitism and the like. This is why they saw it as so important that the new state succeeded.
Through giving money to Israel they felt like they could discharge their responsibility to the Jewish people
Tzedakah (charity) is a Jewish ideal - and giving to the new Jewish state was a great expression of Tzedakah.
Whatever the reasons for British Jewry giving large amounts of money - they did so, and continue to do so. Their philanthropic donations, like those from other countries around the world were crucial in the early days of the establishment of the State.
Without the early philanthropy of Diaspora Jewry it is unlikely that Israel would be in the same advance state which it is in today.
Other expressions of Diaspora aid for Israel is through political lobbying - the best example of which being AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) which works to promote Israel to the United States Government. Over recent months AIPAC has succeeded in persuading America to adopt a number of measures which will strengthen Israel.
AIPAC is considered to be the second most powerful political lobbying organisation in America - and therefore has a lot of influence and does much good for Israel.
In the words of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore:
"AIPAC members have been leaders in the effort to do so much to sustain the relationship between the United States and Israel and to ensure Israel 's security."
Sir Moses Montefiore
Born: Oct. 24, 1784, Livorno, Italy
Died: July 28, 1885, near Ramsgate in Kent
Sir Moses Montefiore was not only one of the first modern day Philantropist but perhaps one of the most outstanding Jewish philanthropists ever.
Born to an old Italian Jewish merchant family, Montefiore was taken to England as an child. As a young man he accumulated such a fortune on the London stock exchange that he was able to retire in 1824. He subsequently helped found the Alliance Assurance Company, the Imperial Continental Gas Association (which pioneered gas lighting for homes), and the Provincial Bank of Ireland.
In 1837 he was elected sheriff of London (otherwise known as 'Lord Mayor), the second Jew so honoured (note: the current Lord Mayor of London is Jewish), and in 1847 he became high sheriff of Kent. He was knighted in 1837, he became a baron in 1846.
An Orthodox Sefardic Jew (a Jew of Portuguese-Spanish descent), Montefiore is best remembered as a philanthropist and zealous fighter for the rights of oppressed Jews all over the world. Besides visiting such countries as Italy, Russia, and Romania on behalf of his co-religionists, he also made seven journeys to Palestine.
During his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1827 he established a friendship with Muhammad 'Ali Pasha, sultan of Egypt. In 1840 Montefiore utilized this relationship when he helped secure the release of a number of Damascan Jews (Damascus was then part of 'Au's domain) who had been falsely accused of using Christian blood for religious rites. That year he also persuaded the Turkish sultan to extend to Jews the maximum privileges enjoyed by 'aliens', privileges he persuaded a later sultan to reaffirm in 1863. In Russia he convinced Tsar Nicholas Ito rescind a decree of 1844 that had ordered all Jews to withdraw from the western frontier areas of Russia. In addition he performed a great many private acts of charity, and he contributed a fortune to establish hospitals and charitable institutions in Palestine.
Montefiore made a final pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1875 and retired afterwards to his house, East Cliff Lodge, where he maintained a centre of religious observance and theological research. Though he was married, he died without children, and the baroncy became extinct.
"Filler" after Montefiore
Inter-marriage rates hits over 50%
Israel withdraw from Southern Lebanon after a 18 year occupation - which was unpopular with both Israelis and Diaspora Jews
Israel's Jewish Agency is near to bankruptcy because of a drop in U.S. aid
One of the 'catchphrases' at the centre of Anglo-Jewish life today is "Jewish Renewal" -but what exactly does this mean?
In short the aim of Jewish Renewal is to connect Jews with Judaism by finding meaning for the individual in Judaism. This connection can take what ever the form the individual desires - as long as the connection is strong enough to ensure that they have the desire to remain Jewish.
At the root of Jewish Renewal is a renewed encounter with Judaism (in whatever form it takes for the individual) and an understanding and appreciation of Jewish history and Judaism in any of its facets.
Jewish renewal is "maximalist" about Judaism - it applies Judaism in many down-to-earth life-dimensions (food, money, sex, health, politics, etc.) as well as to prayer, festivals, and Torah-study.
Through Jewish Renewal it is hoped that the communities of the Diaspora will survive as opposed to slowly dying out.
To a large extent, the impetus for active Zionism in the UK has come from the youth and the younger elements of the community and, from a Zionist perspective, there is no question that this has proved impressive. Since the foundation of Israel over 26,000 British Jews have gone on Aliyah, representing a very large number for a community which has been upwardly mobile and decidedly middle class for most of that period -a community moreover which has not been threatened by any real anti-Semitism or strong hostility throughout that period.
Many British Jews today feel that they are most definitely prepared to help Israel in important ways: either financially - in the tradition of their parents - or politically, using their skills and their knowledge of their country's governmental process to lobby on Israel's behalf.
There are, however, problems in Israel which are driving away Diaspora Jews from Israel. Whether these problems be political, social or religious - they all seem to suggest that Israel is another Jewish community, albeit clearly major and clearly different, that is in trouble: enthusiasm amongst Diaspora supporters dwindled.
Political arguments which developed in Israel spilled over into the diaspora arena. It could not be denied that there were, indeed, problems in Zion.
Moreover, the new generation of young Jewish leaders differed from their parents in another important way: they had not witnessed a world without a Jewish state and had not felt for themselves the price that the Jews had paid in the 1930's for the lack of a state. Nor had they known the early days of struggle in the new Jewish state when Israel seemed to be facing an endless uphill struggle against heroic odds to survive and put herself on the permanent map of nation states. Many did not even remember the threat against Israel's existence that preceded the 1967 Six Day War: they had not thrilled with pride - as had many of their parents - in the aftermath of that war, as the myth of the Superjew - the new Jewish fighter - had caused much of diaspora Jewry to walk with a new pride in their native lands.
This was a Jewry whose knowledge of Israel's war was more likely to be the Lebanese war which caused intense controversy within Israel itself and was a source of pride for very few. This was a Jewry who knew the reality of the intifada, portrayed by most of the international media as a David and Goliath scenario - with Israel in the role of Goliath. This was a generation which tended to see Israel without illusions: indeed, for many of them, there was a feeeling that their own Jewish life was, if anything, superior to the life of the Jews in the Jewish state.
In addition, there were growing reservations about the sort of Judaism developing in Israel - a strictly orthodox Judaism that did not recognise the validity of other non-orthodox streams: non- orthodox conversions were coming under increasing fire in Israel; pronouncements from mainstream, orthodox circles in Israel were increasingly militant in their denunciation of other forms of Judaism. It was a Jewish climate with which many leading diaspora Jews felt increasingly uncomfortable.
Zionism had been saying for years that western Jewry could live a more fulfilling life as Jews in Israel, but when many Western Jews looked towards Israel they were increasingly confronted with a reality in which they felt disenfranchised: if this was the Jewish life that Zion had to offer them, they saw no reason to be at all envious.
That was the story of the involved part of world Jewry, but there was another important part of Jewry, uninvolved, assimilating, increasingly unaware of, and indifferent to, organised Jewish life. For many of these people, Israel was simply another place in the news. Many felt little - if anything - for the Jewish state.
A number of years ago, something strange and interesting began to happen. As the leaderships and elite groups of many western Jewries looked around themselves, they started to notice the uninvolved and the assimilating Jew. Suddenly, their voices could be heard proclaiming - like prophets of doom - that Jewish life in the lands of diaspora was standing on the edge of a chasm. A new watchword was coined throughout the lands of the western diaspora - Jewish continuity or Jewish Renewal: this was the priority of the day. The outcome of this process was a new, hard look at the possibilities of"saving" the Jewish future in the diaspora began to be taken.
In the United Kingdom the problems of assimilation and un-interest in Judaism were first highlighted by the incoming Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. In his book "Will we have Jewish Grandchildren" he writes:
"We face crisis, a crisis of continuity. It can be defined by a simple question and a far from simple answer. The question is: will we have Jewish grandchildren? The answer is: Yes - this book, and others I hope to write on the subject are about continuity."
The challenge of 'Jewish Continuity' is therefore one which must be risen to - if we want to ensure that there is a Jewish community in Britain in the future. It is vital and urgent.
On the other hand there is another issue which must be addressed - and that is strengthening the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. If the Jewish people as a whole are to survive and prosper they can only do so as one Jewish people - and therefore warts and all Israel must be accepted and loved by the Diaspora. And likewise the Diaspora must be embraced by Israel - only then can we move onto address the worldwide Jewish issues.
Professor Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Despite being an at times controversial figure, Jonathan Sacks is internationally renown as being at the forefront of promoting Jewish Renewal.
He has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since September 1, 1991, the sixth incumbent since 1845.
At the time his appointment was announced, he was Principal of Jews' College, London, the world's oldest rabbinical seminary, where he also held the Chair in Modern Jewish Thought. He himself gained his rabbinic ordination from Jews' College as well as from London's Yeshiva Etz Chaim. He was also the rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch Synagogues in London.
His secular academic career included education at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in Philosophy, and pursued postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford, and King's College, London. During 1998 became visiting professor of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
At his installation as Chief Rabbi in 1991, Professor Sacks set out his vision of a reinvigorated Anglo-Jewry and launched it with a Decade of Jewish Renewal, followed by a series of innovative communal projects. These included:
Jewish Continuity (a national foundation funding programmes in Jewish education and outreach)
the Association of Jewish Business Ethics
the Chief Rabbinate Awards for Excellence
The Chief Rabbi's award
the Chief Rabbinate Bursaries,
and Community Development, a national programme to enhance Jewish community life.
In 1995, he received the Jerusalem Prize for his contribution to Diaspora Jewish life.
The organisation 'Jewish continuity' paved the way for the much of the Jewish communal organisations we have today; proper funding for youth movements, the Israel Experience and many other organizations that come under the umbrella of 'renewal' - in effect it succeeded in putting Jewish Renewal well and truly on the map of Anglo Jewry.
As you have seen throughout this programme the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora is one that is constantly changing and evolving depending on the current day issues.
One such ever changing relationship has been with British Jewry's connection with Israel over the years.
From even before the creation of the State British Jews such as Sir Moses Montefiore and Lord Rothschild were lobbying and supporting a Jewish Homeland - and when eventually the State of Israel was established British Jews support for Israel did not relinquish but expanded in the form of huge philantropic donations.
This financial support for Israel was the prime destination of Jewish charitable donations until recently when British Jewry finally woke up to the troubles in its own back yard - it suddenly realised that unless they acted quickly there would be no Jewish Community in Britain in the future.
Thus twin aims were developed for Jewish Zionist oganisations - continued support for Israel but at the same time ensuring Jewish Renewal in the UK.
Both now happen - there is a twin agenda throughout Diaspora Jewry - support for Israel and support for their own community.
Both are equally as hard to achieve. In the past every Diaspora Jew has automatically felt a connection to the State of Israel as they have watch history unfold itself about Israel. They saw the miracle of the creation of the state and the horrific aftermath of the holocaust which lead to it, they saw the precarious situation of Israel during the various wars and they wanted to help the plight of the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. This was a strong connection because they had watched history unfold between their eyes.
The current generation - our generation - has not seen these events unfold and therefore can not be expected to feel the same connection to Israel our parents and grandparents generation did. Yet it is vital that this connection is created - if not the Diaspora and Israel will continue to grow further apart and thus the Jewish people will be weakend.
The practical way that problem of both connection to Israel and Renewal has been approached for some 550 Jewish communities throughout the world is through a programme called Partnership 2000 - which is a joint programme between Diaspora communities, Israel and local communities throughout Israel.
Each Diaspora community is paired up with a region in Israel which needs developing - the UK is paired up with the municipal council of Shlomi and the Regional Councils of Ma'ale Yosef and Merom Ha'Galil which collectively are called the 'Confrontation Line' due to their proximity with Lebanon.
The key practical manifestation of this programme is through 'people-to-people' or living bridge projects which aim to link up British Jews with their counterparts from their Partnership 2000 region.
Our Mifgashim programme forms an integral part of our living bridge programmes -they aim to enable young British Jews like ourselves not only to form a connection with the places of Israel but also with its people - and by thus doing so strengthening their connection with Israel as a whole.
The UK's connection with the Confrontation Line runs back some 14 years - and these 'Living Bridge' programmes work - Jews in Britain have friends in Israel and visa versa. The gap between Israel and the Diaspora is thus lessened and we take one step further to becoming a united Jewish people.