Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora started Shavua HaTfutsot (Diaspora Week) with the intention of giving Israeli Jews an opportunity to reflect on their personal Jewish identity through a better
understanding of and relationship with Jews abroad.
I truly believe this is a great way to start off the conversation, to make sure that Israelis are even aware that there are vibrant Jewis
communities outside of Israel. Shavua HaTfutsot is a campaign that targets 5-25 year olds – meaning that within a few years, we will have a generation that is well versed in this topic and we will
have the opportunity to create unique, ongoing learning opportunities rather than just have a campaign for one week each year.
Jewish identity and value
Personally, while I think the sentiment is very important, I don’t like the language at all. I am not the first to think this; many brilliant people have communicated this feeling before me.
‘Diaspora’ in Hebrew translates to ‘Tfutsa’ and the word deals with Jews spreading out and living in places other than Israel.
I don’t see Jews living in Israel to be “inside” and those living in other countries to be “outside”, rather I know that a strong relationship between Jewish communities in different countries gives
everyone an opportunity to see how others “do Jewish”. In Israel, it is often too easy to take your Jewish identity for granted, as the country “lives on Jewish time”
(Jewish holidays are days off country-wide, Saturdays are days off of work, Kosher food is easily found everywhere, etc.).
Personally, having choices, especially in my connection and definition of my Jewish identity, has been incredibly valuable to me.
I lived in Israel for most of my life, but interactions with Jews from around the world, whether in Israel or abroad,
have really affected my perception of the way I value my Jewish identity. I am far from being religious, but the prism in which I look at my work and my life is one of Jewish values.
Spending my Gap year with Americans and Brits was supposed to be a fun way to spend my year before the army.
It turned out to be a year of exploration and hard questions about the things I grew up doing (or not doing) and what I wanted for my future.
Getting to know the Jewish communities around the world
Working as a shlicha in a youth movement in England forced me to contemplate the weekly Torah portion with a modern perspective. I
didn’t know I could access the text, nor that I was even allowed to give my interpretation. It built my ownership and empowered me to feel comfortable about doing so.
I valued the opportunity to dive into the text each week and study it to find a relevant meaning for my current life,
rather than just to pass the exams in the Torah class I had to take in high school. By doing this each week, I found that I did have something to say about the text and that it was worth sharing.
One of my first ever social initiatives was a friendly and welcoming Kabbalat Shabbat in Be’er Sheva for students.
I was part of an amazing and creative team that wanted to make sure that as returning shlichim we have opportunities to share their experiences in other Jewish communities with
their fellow Israelis once back in the country. we dont keep it to ourselves. This was a life changing experience for me – I think that was exactly what Shvua Amiyut
Yehudit should be about. Getting to know Jewish communities around the world can help us to better understand our own Jewish identity.
Freedom of choice in Judaism
By learning about how other communities “do Jewish”, we can learn about the many different ways to celebrate holidays, mark life-cycle events,
and put Jewish texts and ideas into practice through community service. Learning about the different practices gives us a choice of which practices we want to have in our lives,
and which don’t speak to us. I believe that we all have a choice, but it is important to make an educated and conscious choice, rather than just having the choice made for us.
For Israelis, I think this notion of making an educated choice is particularly important because living in Israel makes it too easy for others to define what Jewish identity is,
whether or not we agree with it once we think about it. When we get to crucial life cycle events (marriage, birth of children, death),
we deserve to know what we want those experiences to be for us and what we don’t want it to be. The best way to enjoy having this freedom of choice in Judaism is to practice it!
Gili Yeshrun Dvash is the Director of Strategic Community Relations at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change //