Three years ago, on the 7th of Tammuz 5780, we lost Ilia Salita (z”l) - a beloved friend, an ardent Zionist, and an exceptional Jewish leader. Not a day passes without us reflecting on the profound legacy he left behind and the countless individuals who benefited from his tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish people, particularly those among us who are Russian speakers.
While much has changed in the many months since Ilia died, most of the challenges and conflicts to which he dedicated the bulk of his time and energy persist. Indeed, some of them are more problematic than ever.
One of the projects most dear to Ilia at the time of his passing was Our Common Destiny, a global effort to build stronger bonds between and among Jews all over the world. As a direct beneficiary of the Soviet Jewry movement – the last great moment world Jewry united for a common purpose -- Ilia understood better than most the power of Jewish collective action, and he sought to harness that energy once again for the good of his beloved Jewish people. Many of us listed at the close of this opinion piece were honored to be a part of that effort, and we remain deeply committed to fulfilling Ilia’s mission of uniting global Jewry in unprecedented ways using our shared values and cutting-edge technology to achieve that lofty goal.
Fortunately, we are not alone in our pursuits. We are heartened by the work of others dedicated to similar objectives. We applaud the work of the Re'ut Group, the Z3 Project and ENTER: The Jewish Peoplehood Alliance, each of which is striving in its own way to strengthen the ties between and among global Jewry. These projects, along with numerous other innovative programs pursuing the same objectives, deserve greater recognition and attention.
We are particularly pleased by the recent announcement made by Israeli President Isaac Herzog regarding the launch of an effort to “leverage his unique position to assemble all parts of the Jewish nation and create a safe and apolitical discussion space to engage with the Jewish world’s challenges.” This initiative, to be known as “Kol Ha’am – Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue,” represents an important step towards realizing the vision of a united Jewish people so many of us wish to help realize. Indeed, we hope those guiding the development of Kol Ha’am will take full advantage of the lessons learned and recommendations on Jewish peoplehood that many of us developed in 2019. Not only will doing so bolster the success of the President’s initiative, it will also honor Ilia’s legacy in a meaningful and wonderful way.
In the meantime, both individually and collectively, we will persist in advocating for every possible avenue to strengthen the bonds among the Jews of Israel, United States, and the rest of the world. Since forging a sense of unity and belonging is an arduous task, if not impossible, from the top down, it will take as many of us as possible working together to realize the dream of a Jewish world in which every Jew feels recognized, valued, and appreciated. It will also necessitate our active participation whenever invited to share our thoughts, cast our votes, otherwise proclaim “hineni” (“here I am”) at every opportunity to help connect one Jew to another.
To that end, we are currently in the process of enlisting others who share our passion for Jewish unity to help us develop a new, grassroots global initiative. The aim of the project is to provide a platform for Jews of all ages celebrate their appreciation for the Jewish values, principles, and heritage we all share, reaffirm the importance of Jewish peoplehood, and declare their commitment to strengthening the global Jewish community. Since we know such an initiative could take many forms, we invite you to share your ideas with us at email@example.com.
While we realize the goals we have set for ourselves are quite ambitious, we are emboldened and inspired by the teachings of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from trying.”
We hope you will join us in this effort.