'95% of Israelis think US Jewish support essential'
Five MKs from across the political spectrum arrived in the US on Sunday for a week of meetings with American Jewish community leaders in New York and Boston, as a poll shows that 95 percent of Israelis believe that American Jewish support of Israel is important.
Both the MK delegation and the poll are funded by the Ruderman Family Foundation, whose Ruderman Fellowship aims to educate Israeli politicians about US Jewry and sponsor the foundation of the Israel-American Jewish Knesset Caucus.
MKs Ofir Akunis (Likud), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) and Lea Shemtov (Israel Beiteinu) will meet with Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Chuck Schmumer (D-NY), as well as heads of major Jewish organizations, and will hold public events in New York and Boston.
The Teleseker poll, commissioned last week by the Ruderman Family Foundation, shows that nearly all Israelis perceive American Jewish support of Israel as important. Half think American Jews care or care greatly about Israel's treatment of women, 57.8% about treatment of Israeli Arabs and 38.8% about last summer's social protests.
According to NYU Professor Steven M. Cohen, a researcher for the Ruderman Family Foundation, most American Jews care about social justice issues, and the gap between this reality and Israelis' perception is a reflection of their priorities.
"[Israelis] think that American Jews care about the issues that Israelis care about. To some extent, that's true," Cohen explained.
However, he added, it is important "to make Israelis, especially political leaders, aware of the extent to which American Jews care about social justice issues, alongside their concern for Israeli security matters."
Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said the Fellowship is meant to encourage this conversation and expose Israeli politicians to the American Jewish community's priorities.
Ruderman expressed hope that the week-long trip will increase the MKs' sensitivity to and understanding of US Jewry and its implications to Israel's security and future.