Big Money Makes the Jewish World Go Around

The Jewish world has been pretty quiet lately but there have been a few interesting stories playing out beneath the surface – all of which will incur great interest over the coming year.

This week, in Brussels, we have the launch of Jewish News One (JN1) an English language Jewish interest news channel broadcasting to North America, Europe and Israel. The channel will be available in these regions via satellite and cable packages, via an online version and an iPad app. The money behind the venture: Ukrainian billionaires Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich. The latter is a media tycoon and President of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress. With the recent U.S. launch of Joint News Service, ongoing changes at both Jewish Journal and The Forward, and now the [apparently] well-heeled JN1, the global Jewish media applecart is set for a shake-up.

Here in Israel, a marriage of corporate money and a long-time Jewish world professional is sparking significant conversation around the Birthright Israel community. As we wrote in April, Egged Tours, a subsidiary company of the Egged Bus Cooperative, purchased Oranim Education Initiatives, a leader in Jewish educational travel programming and former major provider of Birthright Israel trips. Now comes word that Avraham Infeld has joined the initiative as President. With the intent of playing a significant role as a provider to Birthright and MasaIsrael, Egged Tours is clearly aiming at the Jewish Agency’s Israel Experience subsidiary. Not only did they hire Danny Mor (a former IE exec)  as CEO, but the majority of Egged Tours staff have been recruited from Israel Experience. Leveraging the logistics (and economic muscle) side, with Infeld’s global wealth of contacts and well-earned reputation in Jewish informal education circles, places this new endeavor in an envious position. We’re told the folks at Israel Experience are “furious” and many other providers “nervous”.

And finally for today, we come to the 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference.

Now, as everyone involved in Jewish world conference planning knows, June/July is a busy time. As one senior executive recently told eJP, “conflicts are unavoidable”. Though, in our opinion, some conflicts create real headaches for planners and participants alike. So when the powers that be firmed up the 2012 Presidential Conference they threw many other event schedules “out the window”. The June 19-21st dates have caused major replanning by other organizations.

The Conference, originally discussed for the following week, was both finalized for 2012 and moved up as the result of securing of a major donor to assist with the event (ala Miriam and Sheldon Adelson in 2008). The donor, Swiss businessman Philippe Amon, was not available to be in Israel for the planed dates. Not surprising about the Swiss, there is little publicly known about Amon or his philanthropy. In one of the few public references, Hadassah International lists him, along with his wife Catarina, as “major supporters of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower Campaign.” As the Conference approaches, Amon’s public profile is likely to increase.

When we sought confirmation from the Presidential Conference staff, eJP was told, “The 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference is scheduled to be held at the end of June 2012 and will include the participation of leading academics, politicians, businesspeople, technologists and Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world. Additional information about the 2012 conference will be made available closer to the event.” We hope the organizing committee is also using this time wisely in developing a more gender-balanced series of panels than they presented this year.

Back to calendars, among the many organizations that are rethinking planned datelines are the Jewish Agency (Assembly and Board meeting) and the World Council of Jewish Communal Service (Quadrennial conference). Part of the former’s scheduling dilemma, JFNA/UIA was dragging its collective feet in responding to requests for input.

Stay tuned – all three of these items will hold continuing interest for us in 2012.