Communal leaders have welcomed a plan by Israel Economy Minister Naftali Bennett to inject around £240 million over the next five years into Jewish education in the diaspora.
According to a draft report leaked earlier this week, the plan, known as the “Israel-World Jewry Initiative”, will target the money at three main age groups — “teens, university-age students and young adults” — on issues related to Jewish identity and “Israel engagement”.
Speaking at Hampstead Garden Synagogue in north-west London last week, Mr Bennett said: “the diaspora had always traditionally been viewed as a “wallet or source of aliyah”, but now Israel had a responsibility to “strengthen Judaism and Jewish identity” in communities such as the UK.
Chief Executive of UJIA, Michael Wegier, who played a major role in drawing up the new plan, said: “This is a shifting of the sands. It’s not the diaspora funding Israel any more. It’s the diaspora and Israel jointly funding the strategic needs of the Jewish people.”
Benjamin Perl, a JNF UK trustee said: “This is Jewish education in action. [Israeli] government support for Jewish education in the diaspora will ensure a Jewish future and a future for Israel.”
The New Israel Fund’s chief executive in the UK, Adam Ognall, said he was not aware of the details but agreed that anything which strenghthened ties between Israel and the diaspora was “of itself, a good thing”.