The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia strongly condemns hate speech in our community and throughout the world. When anti-Semitic hate speech was expressed by Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, we immediately took action with national and local partners. We have and will continue to condemn comments that reject the state of Israel and the Jewish connection to our homeland.

Among the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s most important global partners is The Jewish Agency for Israel. So when the Jewish Agency recently named former Knesset member Isaac Herzog as its new chairman, we couldn’t wait to speak with him about his priorities. His answer? Tackling what he calls “the greatest challenge of our era of Jewish history”: Bringing together our increasingly divided global Jewry.

“The challenge is fostering the unity of our people,” Herzog told our Jewish Philly podcast. “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, no matter what he practices. If he or she practices, if he has a kippah or not, that’s not relevant. We are all brothers and sisters; we all must respect each other.”

The Jewish Agency operates in areas dear to our hearts. With the help of our funding, they support vulnerable populations in Israel; help Jews make aliyah and help immigrants adjust; connect young Israelis to their Jewish identity; and finally, connect Jews around the world to Israel — for example, through the shlichim (emissary) and Partnership2Gether programs that our own local communities enjoy.

But that valuable sense of Jewish connection, inside and outside Israel, has recently become strained over issues of religious pluralism. Explains Herzog, “In Israel, whilst most Jews are secular, they practice Orthodoxy because of the way the system is structured. Whilst in North America for example, the majority of Jews are reform and conservative.” During his tenure as chairman, he plans to bring everyone to the table. It’s an important conversation Herzog will help kick off at this month’s Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, with its theme Israel & the Diaspora: We Need to Talk. “We are one big family,” says Herzog. “We can debate and argue, but we must remain united.”

To hear our Jewish Philly podcast interview with Isaac Herzog, click here and go to episode 7.