Money's tight but we must still give to Israel

Last week, we highlighted the challenges facing welfare charities. Here, the UJIA makes its case

September 01, 2016 11:42

The Special report in last week's JC calls attention to the urgency of securing the financial future of our welfare charities. The ageing demographic of our community and the reduction in public funding makes this a compelling argument and not one that a trustee of any Israel charity disagrees with. While there are serious issues that need addressing, we cannot ignore other funding matters that are securing our communities future, both in the UK and in Israel.

The Jewish community in the UK, Israel, and around the world, all need support. Community priorities are rightly split between various causes, which all have a legitimate need. It is a fine balance, but we must ensure that Israel is not forgotten. A strong, flourishing Israel means higher levels of community engagement.

The Jewish people have turned to Israel as the centre of our religious, cultural and emotional world, for thousands of years. One of the purposes of UJIA is to support the most vulnerable in Israel, as well as to increase commitment to the country within the young in our community, educating them to be proud, confident Jews.

Israel is central to Jewish life in the diaspora. It cultivates our Jewish identity and embodies much of what world Jewry is, and aims, to be. Diaspora communities, particularly here in the UK, have an innate bond to the country.

We are united as one Jewish community and what affects Israel is all of our concern.

For the next generation to continue to reinforce their Jewish identity, it is crucial they have a strong affinity to the Jewish homeland. In the 21st century, when millennials have access to more media than ever before, it is real-life experiences that create lasting bonds. That is why it is vital that we invest in connecting our community to Israel.

Summer tours, gap years, Zionist Youth Movements, UJS, Maccabi, Birthright (Taglit) and school-twinning projects all depend heavily on UK funding to exist. UJIA programmes provide outstanding educational experiences to participants, which lead to a lifelong love of Israel and facilitate a critical engagement with its challenges.

This year, we will launch programmes for sixth-formers that will create new cadres of young people effectively equipped to lead their peers in Israel engagement. We will also be supporting new gap-year opportunities in Israel that are mindful of the resumé-building priorities of young people. It is these initiatives that allow more young people to engage with Israel and, in turn, ensure our community is able to flourish into the next generation.

Engagement with Israel is often the beginning of a lifelong commitment. Volunteers, workers and decision-makers in leading charities are often the graduates of these Israel programmes. It is that connection to Israel that inspires Jews of all ages and, for many of us, forms our Jewish identity.

We also have a wider Jewish community responsible for welfare that crosses borders. Israel, like many other OECD countries, is suffering from a huge gap between rich and poor. The poverty rate among families in Israel is the highest among developed countries. In 2014, 1.7 million people, 22 per cent of Israel's population, were classified as poor and 31 per cent of all children live under the poverty line.

In recent years, wealthy Israelis have made huge advances in philanthropic engagement and this trend is to be encouraged and supported.

Philanthropy has long been a core Jewish and Zionist value, connecting the diaspora with Israel. We all have a responsibility to build and secure the land.

As the educationalist Avraham Infeld said: "The state of Israel has made the phrase Jewish refugee obsolete". We all have a stake in its success.

It is crucial that we continue to look to provide opportunities for vulnerable communities in Israel through educational and employment initiatives. As a matter of policy, we search for Israeli partners to support our work.

By working together to strengthen those on Israel's fringes , we help the most needy and ensure that there will be a dynamic country to inspire our community in the decades to come.

After all, we are all stakeholders of the Jewish future, and we are all stakeholders of Israel's future.

September 01, 2016 11:42

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