The coronavirus pandemic hit many communities in Israel and the Diaspora hard. Although the most common method for dealing with the pandemic was, and remains, quarantine and isolation, the unique challenges spawned new tools – particularly technological tools – that were previously unknown (or were in limited use). These tools allowed states and organizations to continue their routine activities while offering aid and support, developing collaborations, and other launching new initiatives.
The Jewish establishment’s large organizations took steps to adapt and cope with the challenge. The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, local community leaders and major Jewish organizations provided support networks and a variety of resources to assist communities and individuals socially and economically impacted by the pandemic. This article examines the main initiatives undertaken by Israel’s official establishment to reinforce Israel-Diaspora relations, and also describes various trends in Israel-Diaspora relations.
Israel has two official bodies for whom a primary goal is to reinforce the Israel-Diaspora relationship: The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. There are also various organizations that maintain relations with the Diaspora under the umbrella of other government ministries (such as the Education Ministry). During the last year and a half, these two bodies have worked to adapt their ongoing programs and activities to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide new programs that address actual needs on the ground.
The Jewish Agency initiated several programs tailored to help and support Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Table 1 describes the most prominent of these.1
In addition to these, JAFI initiated several programs to provide assistance in Israel.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs also worked to enhance and adapt its activities to the pandemic period with an emphasis on transitioning to a digital platform. The ministry received special budgets for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic totaling NIS 40,500,000.2 Below are the most prominent initiatives promoted by the ministry:
It is important to note that larger and more established organizations also worked in the Diaspora to initiate programs aimed at assisting Jews throughout the world. The JCRIF, JFNA, JFN, large and small Jewish federations, Jewish organizations such as Hillel and IsraAID, and many others, offered assistance – each according to its capabilities – with resources and initiatives to the benefit of many.