The project launched with a series of preliminary discussions and individual meetings with the American Haredi national communal leadership, mainly affiliated with Agudath Israel of America. These were held both in Jerusalem and in New York. At these meetings, the leaders expressed interest and initial support for the project. From there JPPI proceeded to hold structured dialogue sessions with local Haredi and non-Haredi leaders in seven North American communities: Toronto, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Local Jewish federations played a significant role in organizing the dialogue sessions. In some communities –
Toronto, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago – the federations were solely responsible for enlisting participants and organizing the sessions in New York and Los Angeles, non-federation leadership also played a role.
The sessions were structured and facilitated by JPPI Senior fellows Shlomo Fischer, John Ruskay, and Steven Popper (in Los Angeles). In the course of the sessions, which took about two hours, participants completed a short questionnaire soliciting their evaluation of relations between the Haredi and the larger Jewish community and gauging their willingness to take concrete steps and strike compromises to enhance cooperation. Each session included between 10 and 20 participants; in total, 110 participated. In some of the sessions Haredi participants clearly outnumbered their non-Haredi counterparts, and in other sessions, the groups were more evenly balanced. It is noteworthy that in a number of sessions, the most senior federation leadership attended.
The Haredi participants were mainly Yeshivish, except in New York where there was also some Hasidic participation. The Yeshivish participants were generally businessmen and engaged in various federation activities – many were college educated (in Cleveland, Baltimore and Los Angeles especially).