Feldman: The Jewish Agency Should not Host Anti-Semites
In my capacity as the President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, I am privileged to enjoy a very active and positive relationship with the Jewish Agency for Israel. I have the utmost respect for this historic body’s ongoing activities to preserve strong Jewish communities around the world and encourage continued immigration to Israel.
Because of my involvement and our mutual friendship, I welcome the opportunity to use this forum to gently express my concerns over one of the Jewish Agency’s activities which I believe deserves to be known. Among its many activities in Ukraine, JAFI holds regular meetings with the community to teach subjects on Jewish law and history. At one such meeting, we were startled to discover that a known provocateur who has made numerous anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying statements was invited to attend the session.
When I learned of this man’s involvement with the program I immediately sent a letter to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, a hero for whom I have the utmost regard. While I didn’t receive any direct response from Mr. Sharansky, I was later sent a correspondence from the Jewish Agency’s spokesperson attempting to dismiss my concerns, claiming that it had been a successful event from which everyone left satisfied and fulfilled. The letter further contended that if we don’t expose our youth to such figures, how will they ever know that such dangerous phenomena exist?
I have no option but to challenge this way of thinking. Do we really need to subject our precious youth, in the limited time that we have before them, to the vitriol of hate-mongers so that they can “understand” what anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial is all about?! Should we invite demagogues like Iranian President Ahmadinejad or the head of the Ukrainian Freedom Party Oleg Tyagnibok? Are these the cretins whom we want our children to spend time with?
The Jewish Agency remains the pre-eminent force in strengthening Jewish identity and love for Israel in communities like the Ukraine. I have no doubt that the episode I am describing was an aberration. But if this approach should persist and prevail, I would implore the leadership of the Agency—respectfully—to keep the distance between Jew haters and Jews. Such individuals should be ostracized, not invited to dialogue forums.