"To talk about Israel without Tikkun Olam is to deny Israel's soul"
On November 23, OLAM Executive Director Dyonna Ginsburg addressed hundreds of attendees at this year’s Jersualem Post Diplomatic Conference. Her message: Israel can and should do more to address global injustices. “To talk about Israel without Tikkun Olam is to deny Israel’s soul,” said Ginsburg. “Helping others is not a renunciation of our commitment to internal needs; it is an extension of it.”
Read the full transcript below, or watch the speech here (3:13):
Several years ago, an educator working in an American Jewish social justice nonprofit confided in me: “I feel like I’m forced to choose,” she said. “Either I can be a Tikkun Olam Jew or an Israel Jew. I cannot be both.”
Much concern has been expressed about ‘Tikkun Olam Jews’ who are disengaged from Israel – a concern I share.
Far less attention has been given to ‘Israel Jews’ who fail to appreciate the importance of Tikkun Olam, our collective responsibility to the wider world.
To talk about Tikkun Olam without Israel is to deny Israel’s tremendous potential to do good in the world. To talk about Israel without Tikkun Olam is to deny Israel’s soul.
OLAM, the organization I head, is a coalition 46 Jewish and Israeli organizations that work in the developing world. Together, we raise awareness about the importance of this work and look forward to a day when significantly more Israelis and Jews will volunteer with and provide support for the world’s most vulnerable.
David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir understood the importance – political, economic and moral – of reaching beyond Israel’s borders to help the rest of humanity. They invested in international development despite the fledgling state’s many challenges: wars, mass immigration, a strict food ration.
While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent trip to Africa and President Rivlin’s visit to India are steps in the right direction, we could be doing much more – not only to open markets, but also to promote social impact. In the 1960s, Israel had twice the ratio of development experts to population as the OECD average. Today, despite our unprecedented resources, Israeli foreign assistance as a percentage of GNI is the smallest of OECD nations.
We Israelis can and should do more, in partnership with the international community. Helping others is not a renunciation of our commitment to internal needs; it is an extension of it.
Some may dismiss these efforts as window-dressing compared to the ‘real’ issues impacting Israel. This is a mistake. Israel’s involvement in this arena has political and economic significance. But it’s not simply a public diplomacy tool. It’s who we are. It’s who we should be.