Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors' June meetings in Jerusalem, Sharansky announced that the Jewish Agency estimates French aliyah will surpass 5,000 individuals by the end of 2014 – an all-time record and a full 1% of the 500,000-person French Jewish community.
Never before has such a large proportion of a Western Jewish community made aliyah in a single year.
"Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been a Jewish community in the free world that has sent such a large proportion of its Jews to Israel," Sharansky said. "We cannot take responsibility for the fact that so many Jews and so many French young people in general are leaving France, but the fact that Israel has become the number one destination for young French Jews is a testament to our success in connecting them to the Jewish state."
Sharansky noted that the Jewish Agency's Israel experience programs – including Masa Israel Journey and teen program Bac Bleu Blanc – have seen record growth amongst young French Jews over the past two years. He stated that it was the Jewish Agency's responsibility not only to facilitate French Jewish aliyah but also to strengthen Jewish life in France.
According to Jewish Agency data, a total of 7,912 individuals have made aliyah since the beginning of the year (June through May), compared to 5,092 during the comparable period in 2013 – a 55% increase.
This number does not include aliyah from Ethiopia, the pace of which is determined by the government of Israel. A total of 713 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel during this period in 2013, a number that dropped to 143 this year due to the conclusion of Operation Dove's Wings.
A total of 2,254 French Jews made aliyah during the first five months of 2014, compared to 580 during the equivalent period last year – a dramatic 289% increase.
The first five months of the year also saw a dramatic increase in immigration from Ukraine, with 1,587 Jews making aliyah compared to 684 during the same period in 2013 – a 132% increase.
Three-day discussionsHundreds of leaders from Jewish organizations and communities around the world have gathered in Israel to participate in The Jewish Agency's Board of Governors meetings this week, Sunday through Tuesday, in Jerusalem.
Speakers at the gathering will include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein, Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky.
The Board of Governors will bid outgoing board Chairman James S. Tisch a fond farewell at a gala event at the Knesset under the auspices of Speaker Edelstein and featuring an address by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and will also salute outgoing UJA-Federation of New York Executive Vice President and CEO John S. Ruskay.
Discussions during the three-day event will focus on initiatives spearheaded by the Jewish Agency in partnership with the government of Israel and world Jewry to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people and strengthen young Jews' connections to Jewish life and to the State of Israel.
Board members will be presented with reports on the dramatic increases in aliyah from France and Ukraine and the expansion of Jewish Agency activities in those countries and elsewhere around the world.
The participants will also discuss the fight against rising anti-Semitism and efforts to combat the de-legitimization of Israel.
Additionally, members of the Board of Governors will go to the Knesset to meet with Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum and discuss issues affecting the Jewish world and Israel-Diaspora relations.