Lieberman: American Jews Are Facing Demographic Catastrophe

The foreign minister vows to push through $365 million for Jewish education outside Israel.

Jewish education in the diaspora is "the most pressing issue on the global Jewish agenda ... more pressing than any other issue, including the Palestinian negotiations or the Iranian nuclear threat," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday.

Addressing the annual Israel mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the foreign minister said he would act to have the Israeli government budget $365 million for Jewish education outside Israel and called on the Jewish leaders to provide matching funding.

Only through a combined diaspora-Israeli effort to improve Jewish education "can we ensure our endurance as a people," Lieberman said.

He added that he and his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, will be "very active" in promoting the allocation of such a sum in the Israeli budget.

Statistics from the recent Pew survey on American Jewry "demonstrate that the Jews of America are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe," Lieberman said.

In order to prevent this tragedy, he added, "all Jewish children should have the capacity and capability to attend a school where they will receive an education that will teach them about Jewish history, values and traditions, to treasure their Jewish identity and to have a strong attachment to Israel and Zionism."

Strengthening Jewish education around the world "needs to be the central point of partnership between us," Lieberman told the Jewish leaders. He proposed the creation of a "global network of Jewish schools that are superior in standard to the American and international school network."

However, the forteign minister added, the creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of his vision. His goal over the next 10 years is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the diaspora to Israel, bringing the local population to in excess of 10 million.
 

Olivier Fitoussi