Jerusalem, Israel - Dec. 25, 2018  - President Reuven Rivlin Tuesday evening December 25 / 17 Tevet, spoke at an event for ‘COMMUNITY’, a joint program of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Gesher, which aims to familiarize participants with the range of Jewish communities around the world and the challenges the State of Israel faces in its relations with the global Jewish community. Minister of Education and of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett and the leadership of Gesher also participated in the event with the program graduates, including Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz. 

Former Director-General of Beit HaNasi, Harel Tubi, opened the event by welcoming the participants, saying “the global Jewish community is the fifth tribe. They are part of us and we are part of them. We have a great responsibility towards them and the first thing we need to do is to get to know each other in a real and thorough way. We have to listen honestly, modestly, without preconceptions. Without rushing to offer solutions. Simply to talk, person to person, as equals. This is the first element of a reverse Birthright initiative, so that we can get to know the global Jewish community better.”

The president welcomed the participants, saying “Welcome. You are the ambassadors of the global Jewish community to Israeli society and our partners in building and advancing the relations between us. I am one president, but you are many ambassadors, and significant ones. Together, we can make a difference. This house is open to you and we see you as our partners in this task.”

In a conversation with the journalist Asaf Liberman, a graduate of ‘COMMUNITY’, the president was asked about his feelings when he first encountered the global Jewish community. He said “once you meet Jews and say ‘you are not Jews’ you exclude them and you can find yourself excluded. If we were to say to the Jews of the United States, heaven forbid, that they are not part of us, they could say to us, heaven forbid, do not be part of us. We must not get to that situation. The connection between us is of strategic value both to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel. I am the President of the State of Israel, and I am the president of the state of the Jewish people – not the president of the Jewish people. The Jewish people did not elect a president. But the State of Israel is the state and the home of the Jewish people, not only those who live here, and that imposes obligations on me as president.”

The president ended by saying “we must continue to familiarize the people of Israel with our large family, the fifth tribe. The State of Israel needs to make every effort so that every Jew can feel as comfortable and as respected here as he or she is in their own home. We have a shared task ahead of us and if we face it together, our success will be shared.”

Minister of Education and Diaspora, Naftali Bennett told the audience at the end of the evening, "When I entered politics, my dream was to bring unity between secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox, to connect the different sectors and audiences, people who think differently from each other. It's the story of my life. My wife originally came from the secular, I am a religious person, and we have a wonderful family together. There were differences and disagreements, but we were able to bridge all through love and joint interests. So the State of Israel and the Jewish people - with a lot of love and a shared vision, we can bridge any gaps. This is one of the most important tasks State of Israel faces in the current generation. I ask you to continue to share what you have seen in the Diaspora, to help the Israeli public to understand the situation. This is a national challenge and responsibility, on each and every one of you, on all of us."  

Each Gesher Leadership course consists of four sessions and a week-long mission to a major Diaspora Jewish community. The trip abroad exposes the participants to the multi-faceted ways Judaism is practiced around the world as well as the unique challenges that each community is forced to confront. Participants learn first-hand how various Jewish communities relate to Israel and how this has evolved over the last number of years.  

Also in the program was a short video which included remarks from Jewish US personalities and a panel discussion with four 'COMMUNITY' graduates.