The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), whose board of directors I am privileged to chair, was created in 2002 with a unique mission, which no other organization in the world performs: to serve as a think tank for the Jewish people worldwide, looking at strategic challenges facing all major Diaspora Jewish communities and the State of Israel, and proposing recommendations to policy makers to meet those challenges.
JPPI performs this critical and unique task with a group of distinguished scholars and fellows in Jerusalem who bring world-class expertise to the examination of both internal challenges facing the Jewish people – like demographic trends, Jewish and Israeli cohesion, intermarriage, and the multiple facets of Diaspora-Israel relations, and external threats, from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to the arms buildup by Hamas and Hezbollah, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. JPPI produces papers, books, and notes on these and other topics, sponsors seminars and conferences, and brings together leaders of major Jewish organizations, and leading Jewish figures from the four corners of the world in an annual conference in Jerusalem.
In October 2010, JPPI’s annual conference brought 120 Jewish leaders, thinkers, and decision makers, with a stronger representation than ever before from Latin America and Europe, as well as North America. We organized into several working groups, on crucial subjects like the effort to de-legitimize Israel as a nation state for the Jewish people; the growing challenge of different standards for conversion to Judaism; Israel’s security threats and the peace process; Diaspora-Israel relations; and the special challenges of European Jewry. The importance with which Israeli leaders hold our conference was demonstrated by the fact that some half dozen senior ministers of the government spent hours with us in these working groups. We were addressed in plenary sessions by the President, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, leader of the opposition; and the Chairman of the Jewish Agency.
With all of these activities, perhaps the single most important contribution JPPI provides to the Jewish world is our annual assessment. Like its predecessors, the 2010 JPPI Annual Assessment provides an invaluable snapshot of the major developments and policy directions in the Jewish world, along with significant global developments and challenges in the broader world in the future. These include geo-political developments; global economic changes and their implications for the Jewish people and the State of Israel; the importance of the rise of Asia; and the triangular relationship between Washington, Jerusalem, and the American Jewish community. The 2010 Assessment also presents a fascinating set of indicators that tell us who we are and where we are headed globally. These indicators also tell us about Jewish day school participation, per capita GDP, out-marriage rates, Aliyah, and numbers of Jews by country visiting Israel.
I would like to highlight a few of the particularly interesting areas and policy recommendations covered by the 2010 JPPI Annual Assessment.
- The upheaval in the Arab world is reviewed with a fresh and objective perspective on its impact on Israel.
- There is an important action-oriented recommendation to further strengthen Israel’s relationship with the US, its most important ally, at a time of economic stress in America: a “Buy American” campaign in Israel to buy U.S. products, such as automobiles for Israeli government fleets, and other American products and services.
- The Assessment analyzes a series of troubling illiberal religious and political initiatives in Israel, including loyalty oaths for non-Jews, which could affect Israel’s image in the world, and among Diaspora Jews.
- Israel’s remarkable economic progress as a global leader in high tech and other start-up companies was highlighted by Israel’s admission in 2010 to the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the organization of leading industrial democracies. Yet, the Annual Assessment points to a troubling decline by Israeli students in international tests, at a time when educational attainment is the most important ingredient nations need to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.
- U.S. support for Israel has always been bipartisan. But the JPPI Annual Assessment warns that while there is continued support among American Republicans, enthusiasm by some Democrats is waning.
- JPPI in 2010 stresses the importance of Jewish organizations and supporters of Israel focusing on college campuses in the U.S. and Europe, in which Israel is increasingly cast in a negative light by its opponents. This is from where our leaders for the future will be coming, but they, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, are often not armed with facts to counter false attacks against Israel, part of the effort to de-legitimize Israel as a Jewish state.
- Looking forward, Steven Popper, one of JPPI’s bevy of expert scholars, describes a novel and important project he has embarked upon, to provide a multi-year examination, of the health of the Jewish world from multiple perspectives: Its hard and soft power; the perpetuation of Jewish culture; the traditional Jewish concept of betterment of the world, Tikkun Olam; Jewish religion and practice; Israel as a Jewish nation state; and strengthening Jewish communities around the globe. Professor Popper’s project furthers JPPI’s unique contribution to the Jewish people.
Everyone connected to the production of the 2010 JPPI Annual Assessment is to be congratulated for their contribution to this important volume. Special thanks go to Dr. Shlomo Fischer, the Project Director, for this Assessment, and to Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the president of JPPI, who injects a sense of purpose and direction to the Institute, and with whom I am proud to serve.
Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat
Chairman of the Board and Professional Council
Jewish People Policy Institute