ROI Summit Raises the Bar In Conference Programming

Hailing from 37 countries, 150 young Jewish adults descended on Jerusalem last week for the ROI Community’s 8th annual Summit. The energy was high and the cohesiveness strong as this [now 1000 strong] network showed they have clearly morphed into a year-round community – one built on collaboration, mutual respect and support – dedicated to strengthening communities around the globe and redefining Jewish engagement from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv; to Rwanda, Budapest, Stockholm, Jerusalem and more.

Programing included ROI Community’s signature sessions such as Open Space, Community Case Studies and inspiring Morning Motivation (led by MK Ruth Calderon and author Joshua Prager, among others). But it was two new programs that set this year’s Summit apart from the past: 1) the addition of discussion groups led by leaders of major Jewish organizations in Israel and abroad, including Natan Fund’s Felicia Herman, Taglit’s Gidi Mark, Keshet’s Idit Klein and Teach First Israel’s Asaf Banner. And, 2), a two-hour panel discussion titled “The Global Jewish Community & Israel” that raised serious, and controversial questions about Judaism and Gender, the Kotel, and Identity.

The panel which included Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi (Shalom Hartman Institute), Lisa Eisen (Schusterman Foundation), Micah Goodman (Ein Prat) and Gidi Grinstein (The Reut Institute) and was moderated by Shlomit Naim-Naor (MAKOM/Jewish Agency), dove right in to tackling one of the hot issues of today, gender equality in Israel (note to President’s Conference planning committee – when you plan a panel titled ‘Judaism and Women’s Equality‘, it is not acceptable to have a male chair). Rabbi Sabath Beit-Halachmi framed the early discussion by raising the questions, “can women play all roles in the public sphere?” and “is non-Orthodox Judaism legitimate in the State of Israel?”. The panelists, and the ROI questioners, tackled the issues both pointedly and respectfully. Both ROI Community and the Schusterman Foundation should be commended for rising to the occasion and allowing this extremely important discussion to take place, uncensored, in the public sphere.

We encourage all to watch the panel video (above).

The Summit was not without entertainment and socializing, including [on the last night] a dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation held at the Israel Museum. Addressing those present, and speaking to the continued funding direction of the Foundation, president Sandy Cardin said, “what we see in you is the potential for the future – that is why we are investing in you.”

As we began dinner, I turned to the ROIer sitting across from me – the CEO of a European-based family foundation – and asked his thoughts on the week. He paused only briefly, and replied, “finally a conference with substance.”

The bar has been raised. The question is which of our communal organizations will have the courage to take it to the next level?