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Online Event Sees Israeli, Diaspora Leaders Unite

Online 'jam session' between Jewish community members in Israel and around the world fosters innovation, collaboration.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/18/2014, 1:15 AM

Naftali Bennett and Natan Shransky participate in jam session
Naftali Bennett and Natan Shransky participate in jam session
Sasson Tiram

Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky are in the midst of a revolutionary new project this week to engage Jews around the world in an online conversation about what the Israeli government can do for them. 

The cause: to determine ways to secure the Jewish community's future, strengthen young Jews' Jewish identities, and fortify ties between Israel and the Jewish world. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the two leaders, who have participated throughout the week in an online "jam session" organized by the Joint Initiative Between the Government of Israel and World Jewry. 

The Joint Initiative Between the Government of Israel and World Jewry, organized by the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs in partnership with The Jewish Agency, is a historic joint effort to develop practical solutions to the greatest challenges facing world Jewry.

The initiative's primary emphasis is on strengthening Jewish identity amongst Jews and connecting world Jewry to Israel, and marks the first time that the Israeli government has worked closely with the Diaspora, as equal leaders in the Jewish world, to foster solutions facing global Jewry. 

Straight to the Source

According to a spokesperson for the Joint Initiative, the online discussion was launched as a new means of assessing the Jewish community's problems, and their solutions, by reaching out to an unprecedented number of people. Some are involved in active leadership roles in the Jewish world and some are just "one of the tribe."

The jam session has been wildly successful so far. More than 1,500 individuals are currently engaged in the online conversation, with participants hailing from Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and a range of other countries. Due to overwhelming demand, the session—which had been set to end tomorrow—will be extended through Wednesday.

The ideas being generated in the session are divided into groups, which fall under different areas of interest like college campuses, formal and informal education, and Israel programs (e.g. Birthright). 

According to the spokesperson, some of the ideas are especially innovative. One idea so far has been to create a Jewish Service Corp, along the lines of the Peace Corps, which would mobilize efforts for Jewish charity work around the world. Another idea would see a "campus cluster" at colleges worldwide of Jewish leaders and officials which would be a "nucleus" for Jewish life and aim to keep Birthright alumni connected to their Jewish identities. 

A group of professionals are analyzing the insights generated in those groups and will integrate them into the recommendations set to be presented to the government for approval. Several of those recommendations have already been drafted, and if passed would see several programs improved or created to help Jewish communities worldwide. 

Bennett and Sharansky: This Event is 'Historic,' Could Influence World Jewry 'for Years to Come'

Both Bennett and Sharansky visited the Jerusalem headquarters for the event Monday and expressed hope for the results.  

"This initiative is about hearing new ideas and empowering Jews from around the world to take part in the debate over which direction Israeli-Diaspora relations should take in the years to come," Bennett stated. 

"This is our mutual effort to secure our mutual future," Sharansky noted. "The Government of Israel and the Jewish world are working together, as equal partners, to explore how we might inspire the younger generation to celebrate its Jewish identity."

"We look forward to hearing as many voices as possible in order to ensure that the vibrancy and the diversity of the global Jewish community are reflected in this historic process."

Naftali Bennett and Natan Sharansky participating in the jam session Sasson Tiram