Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the AJC Board of Governors to the President’s House, ahead of the official opening of the AJC Global Forum in Jerusalem yesterday.

Rivlin spoke extensively to the audience of 200 about the relationship between Israel and American Jews, stressing the need to overcome differences. “The gaps are getting deeper and deeper,” he said. “First, we must fix relations between us. We are one family…You are part of Israel’s flesh and part of our soul.”

The fissures in the relations that Rivlin referred to are reflected in a new comparative survey of American and Israeli Jews that AJC just released.

Rivlin recalled that the 1950 agreement between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and AJC President Jacob Blaustein “determined the status quo between Israel and the Diaspora, particularly American Jews.”

But, he added, “after 70 years of statehood, the Ben-Gurion-Blaustein agreement is no longer enough. We need a new vision for the next 70 years.”

Importantly, to deal with differences over religious and political issues, “we must establish channels that will promise your voice will be heard,” Rivlin said. “That will allow us to communicate both when there are good things and when there are things of concern.”

He worried that Israeli children “know too little” about American Jews. “We need to create a sort of Taglit (Birthright) program in which Israelis are reaching out to the Diaspora.”

Rivlin also suggested that Israelis and American Jews “find ways to work together in a better way, a more creative way,” such as cooperating in humanitarian efforts in countries in need around the world. He noted that AJC already is actively engaged in this area as “the leading global Jewish advocacy organization.”

The president emphasized the centrality of democracy to Jewish life. “No Jews can live fully in a non-democratic state,” he said. A Jewish democratic state of Israel “is a must and will be forever.”

Rivlin also spoke about U.S.-Israel relations, praising AJC and the American Jewish community for striving to maintain “the bipartisan attitude of the U.S.” towards Israel.

“AJC was the leading organization in the Jewish world even before the state of Israel was established. To this day, AJC continues to be a leader in the American Jewish community and promotes its goals all over the world,” said Rivlin.

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