The New Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, bringing together representatives from Jewish communities around the world this week at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, approved a new structure for the organization which will focus on connecting young Diaspora Jews with Israel and increasing aliyah, according to a strategic plan led by the Chairman of the organization Natan Sharansky. The new plan is aimed at providing solutions to the challenges the Jewish world faces in light of changing realities, including a distancing of young Diaspora Jews from their Jewish identity, and the end of era of “aliyah of distress” to Israel.

Up until this week, the Jewish Agency operated through three departments working in three distinct areas: aliyah, education in the Diaspora, and strengthening Israeli society. The new Jewish Agency will have a structure centered on the various programs of the organization and increased synergy among them. The goals of the new structure are increasing the organization’s activity and expanding the circle of its clients, while decreasing bureaucratic hurdles and improving service to the client.

The new Jewish Agency will focus on two main activity areas:

The first area will deal with connecting young Jews from around the world to Israel and increasing aliyah through creating a series of Israel experiences and building unique aliyah tracks. Various studies show that the “Israel experience” for young Jews from the Diaspora is the most effective means of deepening their sense of belonging to the Jewish People, strengthening their support of Israel and increasing the motivation of many of them to make aliyah. The goal is to create a series of programs which will strengthen the bond of young Jews from around the world with Israel and expose them to living opportunities here: ranging from existing short-term programs such as Birthright through to the creation of mid-term programs enabling young people to spend a few weeks or months in Israel, and integrating them in long term programs such as MASA which entail stays in Israel of 6 months to a year.

In parallel, unique aliyah tracks will be designed, centering on young adults from the West. The Jewish Agency will initiate aliyah tracks for doctors, English teachers and other professions in demand in Israel; there will be special centers providing personal assistance to young olim; volunteers will be recruited to help new olim integrate socially and a world-wide information center will be operated connecting Jews around the world with each other and exposing them to Israel through advanced technology. All Jewish Agency shlichim around the world will encourage participation in the variety of programs in Israel and expose Diaspora Jews to opportunities of living in Israel.

The second area of focus will be increasing social activism of young Israelis and young Jews from around the world in projects for strengthening Israeli society and “tikkun olam”. Programs will be developed which will enable young Israelis and young Diaspora Jews to work together on projects of “tikkun olam” and programs for helping vulnerable populations in Israel. So, for instance, young people will be integrated in programs aimed at youth-at-risk or new olim, and communities of young Israelis choosing to be social activists in the periphery will be developed. The new approach will also focus on cooperation with the government in the aim of increasing the number of Israeli youths who join the year program of volunteering, in Israel or abroad, before their army service.

In parallel to these activity areas, the Jewish Agency will continue to assist Jews who live in countries of distress. The Jewish Agency will work to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel and prepare them for life in Israel. The Jewish Agency will provide special attention to the unique needs of Russian-speakers and new immigrants from the FSU. Additional programs will focus on building partnerships between Israelis and Jews from the Diaspora. It will also focus special effort on placing shlichim on campuses in North America in light of the de-legitimization campaign against Israel.

Coming up: The Jewish Agency Faces the Future