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May 9, 2012 3:13 pm

Keeping it in the Family

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, keynote speaker of the ACCESS 20/20 Conference in Washington, D.C. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

When it comes to the Jewish people, says Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, it’s all in the family.

Speaking to an international gathering of the members of ACCESS, the Young Leadership Division of the American Jewish Committee, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Michael Oren, discussed the responsibilities and opportunities of being part of the Jewish family.  Introduced to the 400 participants from 30 countries by ACCESS National Chairman Matthew Bronfman, Oren began his pre-Shabbat address with conversation about the challenges to his immediate family -“big Israeli kids, with big Israeli problems.” Among these he listed rockets and roadblocks, housing and Haredim, the search for a true peace partner and the threat of a nuclear Iran – then reminded his international audience that they were part of the same Jewish family.

“Something is wrong here,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.  “When the UJA logo, “Am Ehad – we are one” is more likely to raise eyebrows than funds, the Jewish family is in trouble.  When Jews call for boycott of Israeli products because of a misplaced sense of caring about Israel, it becomes clear the Israelis inhabit a difference universe and face a different reality.”   Oren noted that while support for Israel in the United States “is at an all-time high, Jews seem to more divided.”  At stake, he said, is nothing less than the unity of the Jewish people.

Oren spoke about the tradition of mishpocha inherent to the Jewish people.  For millennia, he noted, Jews pulled together to protect one another in often hostile environments.  The Haschalah – Enlightenment – collapsed ghetto walls, and opened “a wellspring of creative energy” in the Jewish community.  It took the Holocaust to cause rethinking about Jewish peoplehood.”

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“Who is pro-Israel?” asked the Ambassador.   “One who recalls Jewish life without the Jewish State, who   works for the Jewish State.  A pro-Israeli person understands that Israel must have ability to defend  itself, by itself and take pride in Israeli achievement.  A pro-Israel person appreciates that Israel alone cannot bring peace with the Palestinians.  The Palestinians have the responsibility to denounce terror and accept the legitimacy of a Jewish State of Israel.”

“We are a small people facing big problems,” cautioned Oren.  “We are a people,” emphasized the Ambassador.  “Peoplehood is the secret to our success.  It must be nurtured, strengthened and invigorated.”  There is, he assured, a place at our table for divergent groups.

“The nation state of the Jewish people is the reason d’etre on which the State of Israel is predicated.” When it comes to the Jewish people, says Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, it’s all in the family.

Matthew Bronfman (right), Chairman of the American Jewish Committee Young Leadership Division. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Mathew Bronfman, philanthropist and business man, is Chairman of the AJC Young Leadership Division. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

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