Knesset Holds First Ever “Jewish Identity Day”

Knesset Holds First Ever “Jewish Identity Day”

Initiative of the Tzohar Organization Designed to Promote Centrality of Jewish Social Values in the Legislative Process

Yuri Edelstein, Minister for the Diaspora and Public Affairs addresses the Knesset. Photo credit: Avi Friedman, Seret Lemazkeret

(JERUSALEM- February 8th, 2011) Tuesday, February 8th marked the first ever “Jewish Identity Day” in the Knesset, an initiative of the Tzohar rabbinical organization and a highlight of its Tzohar Legislation Project. The Project acts as an apolitical forum designed to provide Knesset members with Jewish outlook and context in the law making process. The Project has gained the support of Knesset parliamentarians from all across the political landscape.

Yuli Edelstein, who serves as Israel’s Minister for the Diaspora and Public Affairs saluted the initiative at a special ceremony marking the Day saying that

Without Jewish identity, there is no real link between Israel and our brethren in the Diaspora.”

“Our goal is to help our lawmakers show that Jewish identity can serve as the ultimate guidepost in making Israel an international role model of integrity and values,” said Rabbi David Stav, Chairman and Founder of Tzohar. “We take great pride in the fact that we have been welcomed with open arms from lawmakers from nearly all parties and backgrounds.”

Rabbi Stav cautioned that the initiative is not centered on Jewish religious practice but rather on social values. “We are not here to say that Knesset members should abide by more strict interpretations of halacha or be coerced to make changes in how he or she lives their lives,” Stav said. “Our objective is to show that values centered around Judaism and Jewish identity must become more deeply embedded in how Israel operates as a democratic society – and there is nowhere better to highlight this than in our national lawmaking body.”

Anastassia Michaeli, who moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union and underwent a Jewish conversion today represents the Yisrael Beiteinu party in the Knesset. MK Michaeli said that the role of an organization like Tzohar to help promote Jewish values in Israeli society is invaluable. “The work of an organization like this to bring Jewish texts and Jewish understanding into the heart of Israel’s legislative center here in the Knesset is sure to help Israel further develop itself both as a Jewish and democratic country,” she said.

A day of this kind is so important to our country,” said MK Rachel Adatto of Kadima. “There must be a bridge to connect Jews of all backgrounds and opinions.”

At a special meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs committee held as part of the day’s activities, MK David Azulai of the Shas party called on the Chief Rabbinate and The Ministry of the Interior to work together to better deal with issues of those recognized Jewish by the Rabbinate and yet refused citizenship by the Ministry of the Interior. He specifically proposed that Tzohar as a non-governmental party should be consulted to help facilitate this process.

Although I am from a different ideological background,” said MK Chaim Amsalem, “I support Tzohar’s efforts in trying to help solve the conversion crisis which in my opinion is one of the greatest dangers to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has also commended the initiative saying, “I believe this program can enlighten the Members of Knesset with a clear perspective of Jewish values, which they may choose to incorporate into their legislative work,” Rivlin said. “I hope that this will be a significant contribution to strengthening the Jewish character of the State of Israel.”

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They call me "NewsHound IV," because I'm a clever Finnegan, sniffing out stories all over the Boulder area. I love Jewish holidays because the food is GREAT, especially the brisket. Well all the food. I was a rescue pup and glad to be on the scent!

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