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Isaac Herzog shares insights on relationship between Israel and American Jews

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Photo: Todd Cheney/UCLA

Isaac Herzog, chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, shared his insights on the relationship between Israel and American Jewry, including various factors affecting this relationship and the challenges it currently faces, as the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies held its inaugural Harry C. Sigman Distinguished Lecture in Israel Studies.

Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, February 6, 2020  Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told a UCLA audience Feb. 5 that Israel and the United States share a special bond among nations, but challenges remain, and differences in support for Israel even among members of the American Jewish community.

Herzog presented, "Israel and the American Jewish Community: The State of the Relationship." After an introduction by Professor Dov Waxman, Director of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, Herzog was introduced by Hillel Newman, Counsel General of Israel to the Pacific Southwest.

"The American Jewish community supported the creation and the strengthening of the State of Israel in enormous ways, which probably without it, Israel could not exist," Herzog said at the inaugural Harry C. Sigman Distinguished Lecture in Israel Studies, a program sponsored by the Y&S Nazarian Center

Herzog's lecture, held in UCLA Anderson School's Korn Hall, was co-sponsored by the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel at UCLA, and the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History. It was followed by a conversation with Professor Waxman, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies at UCLA.

Pictured: Professor Dov Waxman, Director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, left, and Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Photo: Todd Cheney/UCLA

Herzog said there are people and groups in the American Jewish community who have disappointment with the State of Israel. He said the situation creates "a certain divisive atmosphere in many quarters of the Jewish world and challenges us to do our utmost to change this course."

At the same time, he spoke about a need for understanding in the Jewish community, including between Jews living in Israel and those abroad, particularly in North America.

"We must find ways and means to at least get to understand each other," said Herzog. He also talked about how the Jewish Agency has programs designed "to create a togetherness, a connectivity between Jews, wherever they are - and Israel at heart. This is a huge challenge for us, and we focus heavily on it."

Herzog was appointed Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel in 2018. Before entering his position at the Jewish Agency, Herzog served as a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. He also held various several ministerial posts and was Chairman of the Israeli Labor Party.

Before entering politics, Herzog was a senior partner at the law firm of Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman. He is the son of the sixth President of Israel Chaim Herzog, grandson of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, and nephew of Israel's former Foreign Minister Abba Eban.

The distinguished lecture series is named for the late Harry C. Sigman, a longtime Los Angeles attorney, UCLA alumnus, and generous supporter of the Y&S Nazarian Center at UCLA. The series was created through a major endowment gift from Sigman’s estate and supports public presentations by leading experts on a range of Israel-related topics, as part of the program of the Nazarian Center.