Proposed Policy Guidelines for the National Institutions of the Jewish People were drafted by Avraham Burg, former Israeli MK and prominent member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Finance Committee and the State Control Committee. In February 1995, Burg was elected Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization. His draft is made after his election to this influential position.
Brit Am: A Covenant of The People
June 1995-Sivan 5755
For three who are part of me: my God, my parents and my family. For three who are with me: my friends, my compatriots, my People.
These are the things which man performs and enjoys their fruits in this world, while the principal remains for him for the world to come, namely: honoring one's parents, the practice of loving deeds, and making peace between man and his fellow, while the study of the Torah surpasses them all. (Tractate Shabbat, p. 127a)
This is the tradition of the life of the Jew: the family in its generations, the friends who need him, the guests in his house, the indigent, the orphan and the infirm with whom he shares what he has; he pursues justice with all his might; his family is the core of his personal and national existence, and study surpasses them all: education and Jewish enlightment, for this is where all begins, and the purpose of all.
These are days of challenge. Difficult yet interesting times. The end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. The twentieth century draws to a close. We have been chosen to carry the torch of Judaism from our time into that of our children. It is we who shall be the standard-bearers of the Judaism of the twenty first century. As I stand before the public today, I am reminded of the Reader's Prayer during the High Holy Days:
Here I stand, impoverished in merit, trembling in Your presence, pleading on behalf of Your people Israel even though I am unfit and unworthy for the task …. make my errand successful when I seek mercy for myself and those who have commissioned me …. May they not be shamed for my deeds; and may their deeds cause me no shame …. Transform our afflictions to joy and gladness, life and peace. May we always love truth and peace …. For in mercy do You hear the prayer of Israel, Your people. Blessed are You, merciful God who hears prayer.
In the course of history, more than one enemy has risen to destroy us, but we have always found an answer. We had hope. Our paths were illumined by faith in our destiny and in our mission, in God and God's people. But the times we live in offer no answers. Questions and doubts abound. The common denominators, which held us together, are fast wearing thin. Assimilation ravages us, and among our children there is almost no language of values common to all.
Over the past few years we at the National Institutions, together with other dedicated men and women, have been doing all we can to rescue and resuscitate the last of the large Jewish communities in distress – the Jews of the former Soviet Union. When the revival of this remarkable Jewry is complete, it will mark the successful fulfillment of an historic mission of salvation undertaken by the Jewish People, the Zionist Movement and the State of Israel. And then we will be face to face with ourselves and the painful dialogue between Israeli society and western Jewry. We will ask searching questions but find only partial answers. We will struggle daily under the weight of the responsibility of passing on to our children the splendors of the heritage we received from our parents. Are we to be the last Zionists? Are we to be the last generation of united Jewry? Will we have the strength to find an answer and prove that yes, the Jewish People can survive without an external enemy?
On the following pages, I have attempted to share my beliefs and hopes, to sketch both the broad strokes and the fine lines of what I envisage as our daily work in the years and the century to come. The future will bring with it many changes. Much that is unimportant and irrelevant will disappear. New issues will be born and become central in our lives. In two respects we shall all be tested: Will we prove wise enough to free ourselves of what were once assets and have become burdens, lest they enchain us until the end of our days, and will we know how to embrace the new and renew ourselves so that we are able to play a role in the future?
On one thing, I hope, we stand united: The belief that none of the organizations which comprise our National Institutions is an end in itself. We are all the servants of a network of goals greater than any that can be borne alone. Only if we are capable of change, of confronting these goals together, is there justification for our organizational existence.
I believe with perfect faith that, in view of the separatism which infuses the actions of so many Jewish groups today, there is a compelling need, now more than ever before, for a supreme Jewish national institution able to marshal the forces necessary to overcome the internal schisms and insensitivities which threaten to rip us apart.
This proposal is not all-inclusive; it is a draft. Together we shall write the final version. I look forward to your response, positive as well as negative. Each of us will take these ideas home to share with friends and colleagues and come up with new thoughts and ideas, which we urge you to communicate by letter, by fax, by E-Mail or any other available means. The wider the circle of respondents, the more numerous the participants, the better the chance that we will design a worthy plan of action. Together we shall weave a cloth of excellence, a joint creation providing a solid foundation for our endeavours.
Sivan 5755 June 1995