The first half of a two day mission to Jerusalem to raise awareness of the deep emotional, spiritual and financial connection that America’s Orthodox Jewish community shares with the State of Israel was extremely productive, as the more than three dozen members of the Am Echad delegation spent 12 consecutive hours in back to back meetings with top elected officials and Israel’s chief rabbis.
Am Echad is Agudath Israel of America’s third mission conducted to give high ranking Israeli leaders a firsthand and accurate portrayal of the American Orthodox perspective. Two Am Echad missions led in 1997 and 1998 by then-president of the Agudah, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l, eloquently made the case against religious pluralism, a theme being echoed once again two decades later.
Armed with facts, analyses and statistics, the delegation left their businesses, families and pre-Purim preparations behind in order to share their passion for the Am Echad cause, demonstrating the Orthodox community’s unparalleled commitment to the State of Israel, its institutions and its economy. The group included a nationwide contingent of the Agudah’s senior staff, both past and present, members of the Agudah’s board of trustees, well known American and Israeli community leaders, prominent businesspersons in a wide variety of fields including real estate, health care, law and media and representatives of multiple international institutions of higher learning and community service organizations.
The highlight of the day was a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shlomo Werdiger, chairman of the Agudah’s board of trustees, introduced the mission to the prime minister, explaining that while all religious choices are to be respected, America’s Orthodox Jewry has long been Israel’s most significant source of support overseas, despite claims to the contrary by other groups. Addressing the mission briefly before departing to a Knesset meeting, Netanyahu thanked America’s Orthodox Jewish community for its continued commitment and dedication, noting that the Jewish nation’s endurance and history is a direct result of its unwavering faith.
Members of the mission met with an impressive array of Israeli lawmakers throughout the day including Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Knesset members Dudi Amsalem (Likud), Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp), Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi Chaired by Naftali Bennett), Yudi Edelstein (Likud), Yisroel Eichler (United Torah Judaism), Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism), Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi Chaired by Naftali Bennett), Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi Chaired by Naftali Bennett) and multiple members of the Shas party.
The contingent ended their day at their home base, the Ramada Jerusalem Hotel, with an elegant dinner graced by Israel’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Dovid Lau and featuring guest speaker Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. Both spoke warmly to the mission’s members, praising them for their continued support that has had tremendously positively effects throughout the State of Israel.
“It was a privilege and an honor to be welcomed so warmly by so many esteemed officials. The time has come for the Israeli government to hear our story, one that is closely intertwined with that of contemporary Israel, woven together by the hundreds of millions of dollars that we invest annually in the local economy, the children that we share with the Jewish state and the deep personal commitment that bonds each and every Jew to our eternal homeland.”