Greetings for Rosh-Hashana from Natan Sharansky

September 7, 2010 / 28 Elul 5770

Dear Friends,

As Rosh Hashana approaches this is a good time to reflect on what we have accomplished and what yet remains to be done in the future.

This year we continued to face the persistent efforts of our enemies to delegitimize the state of Israel.  Isolation and boycott attempts negating the Jewish state’s right to exist, and campaigns to distance Jews from Israel are sweeping across college campuses and communities worldwide.

The Jewish Agency plays a unique role in this struggle.  Together with our partners, we combat these threats by inspiring Jews throughout the world to connect with their people, their heritage and their historic Land, and thus we help empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a vibrant, strong Israel."

Despite the constant budgetary restraints, looking over the past year, we can be proud of our achievements.

We succeeded in increasing the numbers of  people who made Aliyah this year: 17,880 people came on aliyah, This is an 18 percent increase over the previous year, with growing numbers from the former Soviet Union, Britain, France, Australia, South Africa and North America.

It is important to note that a significant number of new olim make aliya after  meaningful experiences in Israel through Jewish Agency programs such as MASA.

The number of young people in our summer camp programs also increased, and this summer, for the first time, the Jewish Agency organized summer camps in Israel for Russian speaking youth from around the world. This camp provides a unique opportunity not only for the children to enjoy themselves, but also to experience the global Jewish family in Israel, our spiritual home.  This experience will, no doubt, affect them in more ways than we can imagine.

In the FSU, we restored and expanded the vital Hebrew language ulpanim. ---from our experience we know that the study of the Hebrew language powerfully connects Jews all over the world to the State of Israel.

Responding to the urgent need, we more than doubled Israel Fellows on campuses (from 19-40). These Fellows do an incredible job to bring on-going Israel education and advocacy to Jewish students and work with them to counteract the vile, anti-Israel rhetoric.

Through Partnership 2000 (P2K), we continue to accomplish the important objectives of connecting the Jews from around the world to fellow Jews in Israel while providing crucial assistance and strengthening local communities here in Israel.  The program has been expanded and enriched to include Jewish communities in Europe and the FSU.

The Jewish Agency, working with our partners in the Diaspora led the effort to block the passage of a flawed conversion law. I have said this before –the threats that face the Jewish people are far too great to be overcome by a divided polity. In the larger battle to guarantee our shared future, we must all understand that we have no greater ally than each other.

After a rigorous, long and open process, the Jewish Agency's new strategic plan was unanimously approved at the June Board of Governors meeting. We are now working on the second stage of the plan- implementing the new strategic direction.

And in this regard, I want to share my thoughts on the two-day workshop held in Jerusalem for 50 of our top professionals. The workshop was organized to explore the foremost issues we face as we move forward to implement this plan.

As a former minister in the Israeli government, I know how difficult it is for professionals to put aside their immediate agendas and work together for the larger good. But at our workshops, I discovered a group of idealistic and diverse professionals from different departments with a deep understanding of the overall  objectives and of the needs of the organization as a whole, who were able to transcend departmental interests to work in unison for the collective good of the Jewish people  and the Jewish Agency. This experience gave me renewed hope and pride.

Having just returned from the Chanukat Habayit of the new Israeli Cultural Institute in Budapest, it is encouraging to see that this project embodies many of the major strategic goals we have set for ourselves. This Institute is a groundbreaking joint venture between Israeli and Hungarian Jewish businessmen, the almost 100,000 strong Jewish community of Hungary and the Jewish Agency. The beautiful building was a generous gift by Israeli businessman Motti Zisser.

Particularly impressive, is the presence and participation of young Hungarian Jews  who are involved in diversified Jewish identity-building and Israel connection activities. It was clear that this Institute serves as a social, educational and cultural hub for Jewish youth from Hungary and neighboring countries and that it can be a model for our work to support Jewish communities around the world.

I want to thank our wonderful partners, The Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod,  the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Your partnership makes all of this possible.

Please accept my personal wishes for a happy and healthy New Year- one which brings us joy and achievement.  May our prayers and wishes for our families and for the Jewish people be fulfilled.

Natan Sharansky

Chairman of the Executive

For further information contact:
Michael Jankelowitz,
Liaison to the Foreign Press, Jewish Agency for Israel
Mobile: +972-52-6130220;
Voice-mail: +972-2-620-2780



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07 Sep 2010 / 28 Elul 5770 0