Roundtables on ‘The Challenges and Decisions Facing the Jewish People’ were held at this year’s Israeli Presidential Conference. Moderated by David Horovitz, the discussion proceeded in two rounds. During the first round each participant stated what he/she thought were the three central challenges for the Jewish People. The second round facilitated a free discussion regarding solutions or steps toward meeting these challenges.

An excerpt from the summation paper, Tomorrow’s Jewish Discourse: The Challenges and Decisions Facing the Jewish People:

The response that elicited the most attention was the creation of a forum or chamber within the framework of the Israeli government that would represent Jewish people from all over the world and that would have mandatory consultative powers vis-à-vis the government especially on issues that affect the Jewish people as a whole. The forum should convene members at the institutional and organizational helm as well as cultural and economic leaders. The group discussed the level that a forum of this nature be placed. The initiative’s sponsor suggested the level of the presidency; however other participants thought that the forum should be placed at a more operational level where decisions are made.

The composition of this representative body was deliberated. One speaker assumed that as the system of organized Jewish life is voluntary, the body could not be democratically elected but should represent the major world Jewish organizations. He also suggested that the forum represent the “best minds of the Jewish world”.

Another speaker pointed out that in addition to an elitist chamber embodied by the best minds, two further principles should be considered in constituting the forum: 1) demographics – Israel and the US would get 80 per cent of the seats. 2) Pluralism – seats would be reserved for small and remote sectors and communities.

Some speakers raised the doubt of needing another Jewish institution. One participant forcefully stated that we could give an adequate response to the challenges facing us if the existing institutions did the job they are supposed to do.

Finally, participants raised the issue of leverage vis-à-vis the Israeli government and especially in regard to issues such as conversion. The moderator stated that money from the Diaspora should provide some leverage of this nature.

The complete summation paper, Tomorrow’s Jewish Discourse: The Challenges and Decisions Facing the Jewish People, can be found here.

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