Ambassador Shariv Bids Farewell
By Henry Litchfield
Outgoing Consul General of the State ofIsrael to New York, Ambassador Asaf Shariv,toured Boro Park before finishing his three years of outstanding service to the Jewish and Israeli communities of New York. The tour was provided by Mr. Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, and noted international governmental relations consultant.
The purpose of the tour was to provide the consul general with an idea of the state of religious Jewry in the Diaspora by using Boro Park as a sample of chareidi Jews living respectfully in the midst of the predominantly secular and diverse city of New York. After the tour, Mr. Shariv commented on his impression of Boro Park as a model community which accomplished the task of coexistence with its surroundings in a manner both respectable and self sustaining.
The tour began at Shema Kolainu’s School and Center for Autism located at 43rd Street and New Utrecht Ave. where he met with its founder, Mr. Joshua Weinstein, and members of the board. Mr. Weinstein enumerated the tasks that Shema Kolainu has undertaken in the complex field of child autism. He stressed the fact that the medical field is still far behind in everything from diagnostics to treatment and so the work that Shema Kolainu engages in is paradoxically both innovative and difficult at the same time. Shema Kolainu is one of its kind nationally in dealing with child autism with the most up to date therapies and treatments. They went on to discuss the icare4autismconference, an international conference, that took place in Israel, which combined U.S., Israeli, and worldwide expertise in the field. Icare4autism was also founded and is under the leadership of Mr. Weinstein. They then continued on to a tour of Shema Kolainu’s state-of-the-art facilities which contain some of the most modern equipment available in autism education. One of the most impressive aspects to Mr. Shariv was the diverse clientele benefitting from Shema Kolainu, which does not discriminate in providing education to both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities of the greater New York area.
From there the group moved onto Thirteenth Ave where the consul general was visibly impressed by the flourishing economic life in Boro Park. Stops were made in Eichler’s Judaica and other business establishments dotting Thirteenth Avenue. A stop was also made at Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office where Mr. Shariv was cordially greeted by Mr. Hikind. The party then moved on to lunch at Orchidea, one of Boro Park’s premier dairy restaurants. Conversation centered on the religious Jewish communities internationally in contrast to chareidi communities in Israel. A particular point of contention was the chareidi community in Israel’s outlook regarding participation in the workforce. Noting its obvious permissibility from Boro Park’s contribution to the labor force, Mr. Shariv wondered aloud why Israel’s chareidi communities weren’t doing the same and providing much needed relief to the already strained Israeli economy. He also noted that many secular Israelis get their negative impressions of chareidim because of their lack of participation in the work force. Continuing in this vein he said there is much needed integration of chareidim into general Israeli society and that much of the animus between the secular and religious in Israel is due to lack of communication, with much of everyday Israelis’ view of chareidim coming from the media rather than through direct interaction. This provides an obviously tainted view since the media is controlled by secular Israelis who are usually reporting a demonstration or some other flare-up, and are often unsympathetic to the chareidi cause. Being integrated in Israeli society through the labor force, though important in and of itself, would also allow for the quieting of a major obstacle to domestic peace, and would allow Israel to focus a more unified front internationally. Although not in agreement on all points, everybody sitting around the table agreed that much work is left to be done to fill the gaps in Israel’s domestic situation.
After lunch the group proceeded to engage the media where Mr. Shariv was interviewed regarding contemporary topics in Israel and internationally, as well as important issues that he faced in his tenure as consul general to New York. Included were questions about the Gaza flotilla raid and Israel’s tepid response to the international condemnation, an area of particular expertise to Mr. Shariv as he served as communication director to former Israeli prime ministers Sharon and Olmert. All in all it was obvious that Boro Park made a very positive impression on Mr. Shariv as a robustly productive Jewish community which can serve as a model to religious communities worldwide as a center for both religious and secular objectives reachable in tandem to each other. Mr. Shariv took leave from Mr. Friedlander and thanked him warmly for helping him get acquainted with the religious Jewish community living in Boro Park. Mr. Shariv leaves his post shortly to return to Israel where he will be joining the private sector.