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By Guest Blogger Roberta Fahn Schoffman, MindSet CEO
Members of Knesset participating in the upcoming Ruderman Fellows Program braved stormy weather last night to attend an informal pre-trip dinner at the Rehovot home of Jay and Shira Ruderman. A unique initiative by the Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with Brandeis University, the program brings a diverse group of MKs to Boston and New York to cultivate a deeper understanding of the priorities and sensibilities of the American Jewish community. This year’s delegation, which departs for the US on March 24, includes Ofir Akunis (Likud), Yitzhak Cohen (Shas), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beitenu), and Raleb Majadele (Labor).
After welcoming the MKs to his home, Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, introduced Danny Ayalon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.S., who emphasized the great value of the Fellows program: “While the US-Israel relationship is based on important interests, the American Jewish community makes possible the true intimacy of the partnership,” he said, praising the Rudermans for creating a new “platform and bridge” that will greatly contribute to better understanding and dialogue.
Labor MK Danny Ben Simon, who participated in last year’s delegation, told the group that the program was so packed with sessions and meetings that even hard-working MKs had a hard time keeping up. But, he explained, this is a rare opportunity to engage in open exchange with so many different elements of the American Jewish community. Bradley Burston, Haaretz columnist and senior editor of Haaretz.com, pointed out the very different perspectives of the two largest Jewish communities in the world. Israelis are conditioned to see the world through the prism of threats while American Jews have built their future security on the unfettered democratic foundation that upholds the critical separation of church and state. Recognizing that the delegation’s visit coincides with the current presidential election season, he said, some of these issues remain at the core of national debate.
The group will be exposed to a spectrum of views and opinions, spanning the political, religious and social attitudes of the community, with sessions like “Consensus and Diversity in the Communal Agenda,” “Conflicting Perspectives: What is Pro-Israel,” “Religious Movements in American Communal Life,” “Trends in Jewish Innovation – a Conversation with Young Social Entrepreneurs,” and “Tikkun Olam Goes Global.” Meetings are scheduled with, among others, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Treasurer Steve Grossman, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Brandeis President Fred Lawrence, heads of major Jewish organizations and religious streams, the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University and leading philanthropists. In addition, two Town Hall meetings in Boston and New York will enable the MKs to interact directly with the public.
— Roberta Fahn Schoffman