Article Library / Annual Assessment

2010 Annual Assessment

    The first JPPI Annual Assessment was prepared in 2004. That first effort was a comprehensive, multi-faceted benchmark for the state of the Jewish people at the beginning of the 21st century. It also posed one over-riding question: Are the Jewish people as a whole, and in their various communities, thriving or in decline?

    JPPI also took up as its main task the application of analysis to the critical future-shaping decisions the Jewish people face. The goal is to improve the means available to Jewish people institutions to make better decisions. Clearly, these two main thrusts are related. Without measurement and benchmarks how is it possible to be effective in assessing priorities and framing policies? Without a desire to affect both the state of the Jewish people and the environment within which they exist, what is the purpose of measurement?

    As we near the end of the decade in which JPPI was established, it seems appropriate to ask what has changed. What state do the Jewish people find themselves in today?

    The following five graphs show trend lines for several different measures of interest for the Jewish people. In each case, at least two measures have been grouped into one graph. The time scales differ between the graphs because for slow-changing trends it is useful to see if the trends during that decade followed those of the prior periods. The discussion of the graphs will be found after their presentation.

    These data suggest there are multiple trends, not strictly comparable, that paint a mixed picture of Jewish people’s progress. According to some measures, the trends appear to be moving in a positive direction. At the same time, different measures that also appear to have relevance show a trend of decline.
    The data also exhibit an “apples and oranges” problem. The different measures shown in each interest area are of dissimilar types and have no easy common denominator. Yet, none can be dismissed as unimportant. Each has been looked to as a trend of significance or has been used as evidence supporting a rhetorical point concerning Jewish people interests. But are they all equally relevant in providing indicators of Jewish people well-being?
    Clearly, measuring the progress of the Jewish people in a meaningful way requires more than just casually collecting trend statistics. Measuring a trend that is moving in a presumably positive – or negative – direction may not be sufficient. To take a deliberately dramatic example, Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 Six Day War was momentous, but despite clearly relieving the quite real fear of Israel’s imminent annihilation, it created a situation that has resisted a comprehensive peace. Meanwhile, the crisis of the 1973 war created the basis for the greatest measure of security Israel has ever known, the peace with Egypt and eventually Jordan.

    Meaningful indicators for the Jewish people should be derived systematically. They must cover the wide swathes of geopolitics, economics, demography, culture, society, education, and religious life to name a few. Further, any system of indicators needs to address the bottom-line question of what goals should any Jewish people initiatives, plans, and actions seek to achieve. The answers are far from clear and could in themselves cause discord.

    These issues are profound and the stakes could not be higher. For these reasons, JPPI’s newest project is devoted solely to developing meaningful indicators for the well-being of the Jewish people. The following section will more fully introduce this project whose scope clearly takes it beyond the means of any single institution of the Jewish people to carry forward.

    JPPI must rely upon the research being done by others. Yet, the JPPI project will in turn provide leverage for those efforts by bringing their outputs together in one venue. The goal is to attain greater insight through their intelligent juxtaposition and produce a synthesis that will prove meaningful in helping understand and meet the challenges that face the Jewish people in the years to come.

    Indicators of Jewish People Well-Being

    The JPPI indicators project seeks to enhance understanding of where, when, how, and to what effect policy may affect Jewish people concerns. Measurement of important indicators could:

    • Provide more effective early warning on emerging issues. Even if apparent to some, issues could gain wider consideration and be evaluated more effectively within a larger framework.
    • Make it easier to assess whether the Jewish people or individual communities are thriving or declining.
    • Inform strategic decisions and the framing of Jewish people-oriented policies, and
    • Allow us to measure the performance of initiatives and actions to understand what is working and when modification might be required.

    The project is not a substitute for rigorous research; it is its complement. A “dashboard” of well-chosen indicators would provide lay and community leaders with gauges for assessing the state of being of the Jewish people in its various communities. The fruits of research would provide the inputs and the dashboard would add value by drawing the best insight we have into one place to be more easily accessed by a wider public. The full panel of dashboard gauges would provide more insight than any one indicator viewed in isolation. Juxtaposition can also point to what we do not yet know (or perhaps previously never asked) but whose importance may be made clearer.

    No matter the vision, the challenges are great. This is true even in businesses whose bottom-line goals are few, whose interactions are governed by bodies of law, regulation, and practice, and whose organization is determined by long-shared experience, legal practice, and industry norms. To do so for the Jewish people with more than 3,000 years of history, experience, custom and practice – and who continue to interact with surrounding cultures – presents a daunting task indeed.
    The next section discusses how JPPI intends to approach this task, and then is followed by an introduction to the types of data inputs that will be considered.

  1. A Framework of Indicators for Jewish People Policy
  2. A useful system of indicators would address issues of recurring importance to Jewish communities and also provide insight into events that occur during the year. There are technical concerns, but first come more general questions: How do we identify what indicators would be truly useful? What does any individual indicator mean for the entire fabric of Jewish people concerns? Choosing solely based on data availability is expedient but might cause fundamental issues to be untended.

    Fundamental Jewish values are expressed as recurring activities or historical “projects”

    Indicators should be selected systematically. The initial strategy for doing so is to apply a version of the Balanced Scorecard now used in many businesses.4 This is designed to provide an integrated view across many aspects of a complex organization’s interests and actions. It could be modified into a dashboard for the Jewish people as well. We will outline below the directions JPPI will explore.

    1. What do Jews care about?
    2. Strategy consists of choosing actions that will move us closer to achieving goals we consider desirable. If we are to measure and assess trends to aid Jewish people decision making, what purposes do we seek to advance?
      Few human groups who consider themselves a unity match the Jewish people for diversity. The touchy issue of core Jewish values can spark more heat than light. One way to remove the need for codifying a core set of Jewish goals is to instead observe what it is that Jews, as individuals and communities, do. Fundamental Jewish values are expressed as recurring activities or historical “projects”. Similar to the economic concept of revealed preference, Jews reveal through their allocation of effort what matters to them. Thinking in terms of the Jewish agenda places the focus on these projects rather than the values that may impel them.

      All who identify themselves as part of the Jewish people are likely involved in at least one of these projects. The five major projects to be discussed below also have an integrated quality. Success in any one of these projects is at worst neutral with respect to progress in the others. Most Jews will, in fact, see a positive interaction: while as individuals they may not be equally attached to each project, they are glad that others are pushing them forward.
      A Balanced Scorecard highlights more dimensions for assessment than the traditional bottom-line approach. It achieves coherence because the common denominator is the progress of a specific enterprise. So, too, the Jewish enterprise of 3,000 years consists of several projects. What would be the balanced scorecard equivalent for getting a sense of how the Jewish enterprise is faring?

      The following areas of long-standing Jewish interest are the projects for this enterprise:
      Sustain and Develop Judaism
      This project is based on the religious-value component of Jewish peoplehood. It is directed toward building and living within communities that are predicated upon interpretations of Torah– and actively exploring what it means to do so while also members of the surrounding mass society and in the face of external pressure for change.
      Israel as a Thriving Jewish Nation-State
      The Jewish national project seeks a modern, democratic, Jewish nation-state in the historical land of Israel that is accepted by the community of nations and regarded by them as being equal in sovereignty, legitimacy and respect.
      Create Culture Emanating from Jewish Roots
      This project seeks to perpetuate the cultures of the Jews and build upon their accomplishments in generating wisdom, aesthetics, and contributions to ethical progress.
      Bettering the World
      Jewish thought has been instrumental in the idea of progress. The concept of ‘tikkun olam’ repairing a wounded world to bring it closer to the ideal framed in Torah has been generalized in recent years and raised to a significance that troubles some.5 We use it here, however, as a convenient theme: Discovering the foundations of human health and employing that knowledge to combat disease is, in this sense, a project emerging from Jewish roots.
      Ensure Secure, Thriving, and Connected Communities
      This project involves security, socioeconomic conditions, collective action toward Jewish ends, and the thriving of identity. This project seeks to maintain the spirit of both formal and informal community among people who identify themselves as part of the Jewish people and encompasses the collective structures and actions of those communities.
      Figure 2.1 places these five Jewish people projects in a Balanced Scorecard format. For each the key questions are what indicators are relevant, how can we measure them practically, what analyses will they support, and what initiatives would further them.

    3. Main drivers of Jewish well-being
    4. An over-riding issue for devising indicators and measures is to determine what we truly need to measure. If we measure, analyze, and derive policy implications from individual dimensions such as demography, economics, culture and geopolitics, considering each in isolation, this will lead to biased inferences and possibly counter-productive policy recommendations. We need a framework providing an overarching structure to our inquiries.

      A dashboard should arise from consideration of Jewish people goals (the projects above) and those drivers that affect Jews and their interests. Two earlier JPPI projects identified several such key drivers.7From these and other works, we identified a list of drivers that would seem of greatest importance for their effect on Jewish people issues:

      • The demography of Jewish communities and the Jewish people in the world;
      • Formation and strengthening of individual Jewish identity;
      • Relations between Israel and Diaspora communities;
      • The economics of the Jewish people and Jewish communities;
      • Jewish creativity and culture;
      • Leadership in Jewish communities and their institutions;
      • Geopolitics; and
      • Sources and balances of hard and soft power

      The indicators in the five graphs in the previous section each relate to at least one of these drivers. But it is also clear that while drivers they may be, they are also are complex composites of forces, trends, outputs, outcomes, implications, and potential venues for action. Moving toward measurement and analysis means achieving clarity on the distinctions within these prismatic dimensions. “Increased Jewish identity” may not in itself be a clear goal or a good in itself – its value lies principally as a driver towards something else – e.g. increased Jewish engagement, or increased Torah study or enhanced Jewish family life.

    5. Systematic Framework for Jewish People Indicators
    6. We now place together the two principal elements we have discussed, goals and drivers. Table 1 is an initial design of the structure within which we will situate the indicators to be included in the dashboard. The columns correspond to the main drivers/dimensions that affect the fortunes of the Jewish people. The rows lay out the major projects of the Jewish people. Each cell of this matrix therefore allows us to determine what relationship between forces and outcomes may exist and what measures would serve as indicators to understand the nature and meaning of trends.

      Clearly, any framework will be an over-simplification. The interconnections between the elements are many and profound. But we can begin with the intersections that would seem to matter most. Table 1 shows such a first cut, based on a review of previous literature. Color coding shows those relationships at the core of the Jewish enterprise and, in a lighter shade, those that while perhaps not core still have major influence over events and outcomes. We have also noted that for some dimensions it is meaningful to construct indicators of change on a yearly basis. For others, in the absence of major surprises, it is more appropriate to look across several years before observing detectable change.

      The JPPI indicators project will develop measures as part of a dashboard that will illuminate the trends among the important drivers and the intersection of these trends with the specific projects of the Jewish people. We will root these indicators in the issues of greatest interest to Jews in communities around the world. For example, Table 1 shows where core relationships exist between demography and three Jewish people projects. Each such intersection might yield one or more indicators for a dashboard of indicators constructed along Balance Scorecard principles. Table 2 shows some candidate indicators for inclusion into a Jewish people dashboard.

      JPPI’s indicator project will follow the program we have outlined in this article to engage in the construction of such a dashboard. As a first step, we present below some early explorations into available data and their types by examining several issues that most of the Jewish people would find important.

  3. First Steps toward Measurement
  4. This section illustrates the four different types of data that would be necessary to draw upon in constructing the indicators for a Jewish people dashboard. The first involves the direct use of quantitative data. The second explores the use of existing data series to construct indirect indicators that may provide a perspective on issues of interest. The third examines using survey data to understand attitudes toward Israel and Jewish identity in three diaspora Jewish communities. The last uses qualitative descriptors within a systematic framework to tally changes in the geopolitical environment. The examples illustrate the strengths and limitations of the various kinds of data.

    1. ‘Take You the Sum of All the Congregation of the Children of Israel’
    2. Demographic and economic data appear the most definitive of all. Numbers of people or amounts of goods and services lend themselves to precise definition and measurement. Table 3 has appeared in previous Annual Assessments, updated by the most current data.
      The project will draw upon such data but also seek to understand what lies behind them. For example, two additional recent studies of the size of U.S. Jewry find numbers of as much as 6.3 million for 2010 rather than 5,275,000 as in Table 3.8 The difference between the two numbers lies largely in issues of methodology and data gathering. While these are to large extent technical, they also reflect upon the socio-economic and cultural characteristics of the Jewish population. Both surveys point toward large numbers of individuals who self-identify as Jews but are indifferent to Jewish culture (secular or religious) or issues of Jewish concern. If the larger number is accepted, it implies an increasing, rather than decreasing, population trend. But it also implicitly suggests a greater incidence of individuals indifferent to Jewishness and decreases the share of Jewish children in Jewish educational frameworks.

      The 2nd Intifada and the short-range missile attacks from Lebanon and Gaza changed perceptions about the vulnerability of Israel’s population.

      Furthermore, both estimates refer to what demographers call the “core” Jewish population. There are other Jewish populations that might be counted. For the US there is an “enlarged” Jewish population of 6.7 million which: Includes core Jewish population plus non-Jewish members of the respective households. A similar figure of 6.7 million obtains for total persons of Jewish parentage, regardless of current identification. Further adding all the respective non-Jewish household members generates an aggregate of about 8 million. By the criteria of [Israel’s] Law of Return, the total number of eligible persons might approximate 10 to12 million Americans.9
      This reinforces the JPPI interest in indicators that are rooted in core concerns as in Table 2. Jewish population, whether core, enlarged or Law of Return depends on the question being asked and also the purpose behind asking the question. The apparently simple issue of measurement is intimately bound to fundamental concepts and definitions which each, in turn, have implications for policies and Jewish people-based strategies.

    3. ‘How Goodly Are Thy Tents, OJacob’: Residence Construction in Israel’
    4. Existing data bases may be used to gain insight, albeit indirectly, into issues of Jewish policy interest. In the absence of surveys, it might be possible to detect changes based on how people act. This is not a substitute for formal scholarship. Rarely can individual effects be isolated as a controlled experiment. Rather, constructing such indirect indicators from existing data is potentially a cost-effective expedient for developing indicators, not evidence that would, in itself, be sufficient to prove a case.

      The second Intifada and then short-range missile attacks from Lebanon, Gaza and Sinai changed perceptions about the vulnerability of Israel’s population. The threat of a vastly more massive Hezbollah missile attack looms as does the possibility of similar assaults by Syria and, conceivably, Iran. Coupled with the Iranian nuclear threat, such capability by a state that misses no opportunity to display its enmity toward Israel would profoundly change the world. What effect has this had on individual Israeli families and the behavior of Jews outside Israel?

      One potential gauge is the price and supply of housing in Israel. In Israel as elsewhere, housing usually represents the largest single component of household budgets. Housing prices and supply are subject to many influences, especially in a nation of immigrants. But economic growth will also affect prices and construction. Moreover, a decision over how much housing a family can afford is based upon attitudes toward future individual and national prospects. In Israel there is the additional component of Jews from outside purchasing part-time housing, principally in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This last component could be quite volatile. Tourism to Israeli was greatly affected by the outbreak of the second Intifada causing especially vulnerable sectors to suffer heavily.

      What do residential housing statistics tell us about how sensitive Israel is to changes in internal and external mood? Have Jews outside of Israel “voted with their feet” on Israel’s future prospects? Figure 3.1 shows average residential prices, by size class, in the major cities over twenty years.10 The data do not otherwise characterize quality or neighborhood, both significant determinants of price. The figure also shows GDP per capita from 1995.
      All categories show the same general trend through 2000. The two highest-priced categories peak in 1997-1998, then decline. The others peak a year or two later in 1998-1999.11

      From 2001, the prices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv track with the changes in economic growth. In fact, during the first years of this latter period, prices in most size categories appear to be mildly counter-cyclical. That is, they hold steady or even grow in the years GDP per capita declines. These years, 2001 and 2002, were also the height of the second Intifada terror campaign.

      For Haifa, decline begins with the 1998-1999 general slump in prices – not explicable by war, terror, or national economic downturn – and continue with an uptick only in the last years. Nothing suggests that Haifa was not harder hit than other places by the terror assault of the early 2000’s. The decline accelerates with the second Lebanon War in 2006. Since some of Haifa’s housing supply was damaged during the war, this suggests that the price effect is explained by a reduction in demand.
      One explanation for these trends is that Tel Aviv, as the cultural and business center of the country, and Jerusalem, as the spiritual home of the Jewish people, are attractive to non-Israelis who wish either to live in Israel or to invest in a part-time home or a rental. Jerusalem is particularly interesting since it was the most consistent second Intifada terror target, but also a major focus for Jews outside Israel. If the data do not demonstrate that the latter was a greater attractive force than the former was a deterrent, neither do they sustain a hypothesis that disturbing political-military-security events concerning Israel affect the behavior of non-Israeli Jews – at least as measured in this one dimension.12

      Other data provide a different indirect indicator of geopolitical and security effects on housing activity. Housing prices are “sticky” in the absence of large precipitating events. Once set, leases, rents, and mortgages change slowly except in unusual circumstances. Residential construction, however, is a more responsive barometer of current economics and individuals’ perceptions of the future. Construction starts reflect expectations about interest rates, demand, the economy, and future asset value. A project may be accelerated in expectation of increased demand or perhaps delayed (a costly decision) because of uncertainty.
      Figure 3.2 displays annual data on residential construction starts. Here, the inference is more equivocal. The data reinforce the impression of a Haifa slowdown, but the trends for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa diverge. Both show a recent slowdown despite the economic upswing.13 This may represent a return to normal levels of construction after an extraordinary spurt in the 1990s due to Russian immigration. But those immigrants – and their children – are now better off economically than as olim and so likely to demand bigger and higher quality housing.14

      The change in dynamism between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is striking. During the years before the Oslo process coinciding with the first Intifada, new housing starts in Jerusalem, the largest mixed population city in Israel and therefore site of considerable communitarian conflict, dwarfed those of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa. Indeed, Jerusalem’s “front-line” status may be a partial explanation. While almost all residential construction in Tel Aviv-Jaffa would be private, there were major government projects to create entirely new residential communities within Jerusalem’s boundaries.

      Since 1998, Tel Aviv matched or dominated Jerusalem in new construction. The height of the second Intifada’s terror assault upon civilian targets in 2002 saw a downturn from 2000 levels for all cities. However, the levels for 2008, the start of the global recession were lower still. Although Israel weathered that storm, this was not clear until later and construction decisions are based on expectations. It is worth noting that construction in Jerusalem began once again to match Tel Aviv-Jaffa starting in 2005, seen even then as after the defeat of the second Intifada.

      Economic cycles affect individuals’ major economic decisions more that geopolitical events

      These data provide prima facie evidence that it is economic cycles more than geopolitical events that affect individuals’ major economic decisions. The year 2002, for example, marked not only the height of the second Intifada but also the stock market rout that begin with the “dot.com” meltdown of 2000 and the first full year after the 9/11 economic shock. It becomes less clear how distinguishable are decisions made by Israelis from those of investors living abroad. This might be addressed by exploring indicators of this type focused not on entire cities but in selected areas known for high non-Israeli purchases and habitation. In any case, dispositive proof is not necessary for an indicator to be of value. JPPI will continue to explore data of this type to explore indirect indicators for the dashboard.

    5. ‘If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem’: Attachment to Israel and Jewish identity.
    6. A recent article by Peter Beinart brought the “distancing” hypothesis to the attention of the Jewish world.15 This holds that in some diaspora communities the Jewish population, particularly among the young, has grown more distant from formerly strong identification with Israel. The Beinart article puts forth a political explanation: Israeli actions have come to be perceived as running counter to the liberal perspective in which many young Jews in the West were reared.
      This is but one instance of the complex relationship between Jewish identity, diaspora communities, and Israel. To what extent does identification with Israel form a part of individual Jewish identity? What role should Israel play in modern Jewish consciousness? To what extent does attachment to Israel enhance Jewish identity or, on the contrary, to what extent could disaffection with Israel actually impair Jewish identification?

      Data to illuminate these questions are most often gathered through surveys, an expensive process. Surveys of Jewish opinion are complicated because of the need to identify appropriate subjects within the general population. Survey results are sensitive to format, phrasing, and response choices. Therefore, surveys are both episodic and difficult to compare.
      Jewish people indicators should have the attribute of consistency to be of most value. This makes survey data particularly problematic. However, among the US Jewish community there is one annual survey that maintains consistency in questions and responses.

      Figure 3.3 shows part of the responses to two of the survey questions. It plots responses of those who feel very distant from Israel and those who say that being Jewish is not very important in their life. The data have been shown as three-year moving averages to smooth out year to year volatility and make it easier to detect trends.
      These data do not appear to support a direct connection between declining affinity for Israel and the problems of Jewish identity in the US There is little variation among those who feel very distant from Israel, especially given the expected 3-percent error rate of the poll. In other words, we could not state with certainty that this share has changed during the 1993-2010 period.

      The data do suggest that the source of distancing from Jewish identity itself needs to be sought elsewhere. The share of those for whom Jewish identity is irrelevant appears to be on the rise. This rose from an average of less than 8 percent in 1993-1995 to more than 14 percent in 2008-2010. Even assuming a 3-percent error rate, the growing change from previous years appears to be real. This suggests that unlike disaffection from Israel that may be a life-cycle phenomenon (that is, the young may feel a less strong attachment that may grow with age,) distancing from Jewish identity itself may be age-cohort related: younger age groups are forming beliefs that carry forward into adulthood.

      The answers to questions about the relationship between Jewish identity and affinity toward Israel can only come from rigorous research. But indicators can both help to frame research questions and illuminate for others what areas are deserving of further Jewish people effort. For example, no other Jewish community yields similarly consistent survey data. Figure 3.4, based on two surveys of the United Kingdom’s Jewish community, illustrates some of the difficulties.
      Both surveys, in 1995 and 2010, were professionally conducted. The fact that they were not done annually is not in itself a problem; the results are as credible as those for the AJC annual surveys. However, the two surveys asked different questions and framed possible responses so that comparison between them difficult as well as comparisons to similar results elsewhere.
      For the third-largest Jewish community, France, there are no similar surveys. Figure 3.5 shows one point estimate for the year 2002 that addresses Jewish identity directly but also indirectly allows inference about individual attachment to Israel and issues of identity.

      The UK and French polls are suggestive and provide as good a baseline as we are likely to find for those communities. But it is the direction of change that would be of greatest interest. These three examples from the leading diaspora communities illustrate how national organizations in the other major centers of world Jewish population could both extend and deepen our knowledge in the realm of individual identity formation and the effects on community health.

    7. ‘Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword Against Nation’: Geopolitics
    8. The realm of geopolitics holds considerable importance for Israel’s security as well as for the health and well-being of all Jewish communities. It also presents a different set of challenges for measurement. While simple quantitative indicators might be desirable, few would capture the nuances of this realm. The most obvious quantitative indicators would be largely peripheral to the most significant developments.

      Jewish people indicators need not be limited to numbers. Rather, the selection should be rooted in the importance – or perceived importance – of the phenomena involved. In the case of geopolitics, it may be sufficient to highlight what appear to be salient developments.

      This calls for judgment and therefore raises the potential for bias. Of course, biases exist with quantitative indicators as well; in many ways they are even easier to mask. Bias may be reduced by applying a consistent framework when viewing the geopolitical landscape. Yet, even with an objective perspective there will almost certainly be a gap between what we may believe is significant and what actually become the main drivers of future events and circumstances.
      By the nature of the subject, geopolitical indicators will focus a good deal on Israel. While today we witness the rise of non-state actors, historically and for the foreseeable future the principal geopolitical actors will be nation-states. Israel, as the only nation-state that has a specifically Jewish character, recognizes Jewish concerns as a matter of Israel’s very raison d’ĕtre.

      For these reasons, JPPI will explore means for drawing in the views of experts in geopolitical dynamics. We will employ collaborative analytical methods to develop indicators that may then be included in the larger “dashboard”. It may be possible to provide normative input by consulting panels of experts on how to weigh the relative importance or influence of specific events. We caution, however, that perhaps the last thing we should desire when facing an uncertain and potentially highly varied future is too-early consensus. History has shown time and time again how important it is to have several guesses about the world to come.

      In the balance of this section, we will illustrate the value – and hazards – of dealing with this type of data. We will take a retrospective look at salient geopolitical developments since the founding of JPPI in 2002 that have specific importance for Jews, Jewish communities, and Israel as the civilizational state of the Jewish people.

      Israel, as the only nation state that has a specifically Jewish character, recognizes Jewish concerns as a matter of Israel’s very maison d’ĕtre

      We first compiled events and trends under four main categories. First were location-specific occurrences in Europe, Asia, the FSU, North America, Latin America, the Greater Middle East, Iran, and Israel. Our second category included developments with a global character such as the new geography of cyberspace and media as well as international organizations and NGOs.16 The third category was called “Game Changers” – events that incline us to view the before and after as two different eras. Finally, we included “Trends to Watch”: clear events or trends that may or may not have importance for Jewish people interests as well as trends that may not fully emerge but would clearly have importance if they did.

      We then selected the leading events or trends from these lists and placed each into one of the four categories presented in the geopolitics section of this Annual Assessment: Those directly affecting the security of Jewish people, affecting general Jewish people interests, bearing on the Arab-Israeli conflict, or influencing the “triangle”, the relationship between Washington, Jerusalem, and US Jews. Each was then assigned a current understanding of its character. – a continuation of past trends, an event breaking from past trends, or a new trend.17

      Finally, each event or trend was color coded as being widely seen to benefit (green) or harm (red) Jewish people interests. The Table 4 enries left uncolored pull in different directions or exhibit less common agreement on net effect. The early 2011 turmoil in Egypt provides a case in point. While it may be argued that the apparent fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt should be color-coded red because of seriousness of losing the prime guarantor of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, another argument could be raised that that very event illustrates the fragility of the basis upon which that peace was predicated. There at least exists a possibility that if the formality of peace between the two countries can be preserved, it may be done on a broader and possibly more secure footing than before. Time will tell.

      This section and Table 4 only introduce the issue of geopolitical indicators. It is not surprising that most entries are in red followed by those of uncertain direction. While current discomfort becomes all too apparent, potential benefits are usually less easily perceived. It is worth noting, however, that while both the continuing and new trends would appear to be unfavorable on balance, a large number of the major events are either ambiguous or favor Jewish people interests. This may suggest the presence of opportunities not yet seized or brought to fullest bearing on the trends that surround Jewish people geopolitical interests.

  5. Moving Forward
  6. How well are the Jewish people doing? A definitive answer will always be difficult to frame. The previous discussion will convince some that the search for appropriate indicators will itself confound this question even more. Others will be confirmed in their view that the task JPPI has taken on is impossible. We remain agnostic on this latter point; we are determined to address the former. The discussion has laid out the course we will follow across the two years JPPI has envisioned. This course is motivated by two sets of words, widely separated in place and time. The seventeenth century’s Francis Bacon, one of intellectual founders of our modern world, said:

    It is in this spirit that we approach the task.

Endnotes

  1. The figures on rockets and missiles of all types in the hands of Hezbollah must necessarily be rough estimates when relying upon non-classified sources. The time series in the graph is largely based upon articles appearing in the New York Times: “U.S. Strains to Stop Arms Flow” (6 December 2010), “Stronger Hezbollah Emboldened for Fights Ahead” (6 October 2010), -“Israel Says Syria Gave Missiles to Hezbollah” (14 April 2010), “A Disciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel with Its Training, Tactics and Weapons” (7 August 2010), “Arming of Hezbollah Reveals U.S. and Israeli Blind Spots” (19 July 2006).
  2. DellaPergola, Sergio (2010). “World Jewish Population, 2010”, Berman Institute – North American Jewish Data Bank, 2010-Number
  3. Ben-David, Dan (2009). “A Macro Perspective of Israel’s Society and Economy” in Ben-David, Dan (ed.) State of the Nation Report: Economy, Society and Policy in Israel, 2009. Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, September, pp. 17-48.
  4. Kaplan, R. S. and D. P. Norton, “The balanced scorecard: measures that drive performance”, Harvard Business Review, Jan – Feb pp. 71-80, 1992.; Kaplan, R. S. and D. P. Norton, Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.
  5. While a marginal concept in traditional Jewish thought, its growing usage may signal a desire among individuals to find a means to define their particularity as Jews while reconciling this with the universal ideal that has become more normative in Western societies.
  6. The 2030 project led by Avi Gil and Einat Wilf identified several dimensions to describe alternative scenarios of the future thriving or decline of the Jewish people. These include internal dimensions described as constituents of the motive force providing for varying degrees of Jewish-people “momentum”. The macrohistory project of Shalom Wald, on the other hand, instead looked into the past to determine what have been the patterns of civilization-scale rise and fall and then extrapolating what appear to be the core lessons for understanding the thriving or decline of the civilization of the Jewish people.
  7. See Tighe, Livert, Barnett & Saxe (2010). “Cross-survey analysis to estimate low-incidence religious groups.” Sociological Methods & Research 39 56-82; Ira Sheshkin and Arnold Dashefsky (2010). “Jewish Population in the United States, 2010”, Berman Institute – North American Jewish Data Bank, 2010-Number 1.
  8. DellaPergola, 2010; p. 62.
  9. Data on prices derived from various time series shown in the 2009/2010 Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook (Choshen, 2010) and the CPI deflator was constructed from data obtained from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. We have changed the original price (995.5)reported in the time series for the average price of 1.5-2 room dwellings in Haifa in 1990 to one of 95.5. All pricing data are averages from the October-December quarter of each reporting year. The figures are not disaggregated by actual dwelling living area (other than number of rooms), actual quality of the residence, or nature of the neighborhood. Thus, if there are significant differences in the ratios among different classes of dwellings in terms of these characteristics the comparison between cities would not be strictly comparable. This is, of course, over and above any distinguishing circumstances that may have occurred in one city and not the others in the comparison.
  10. Prices are measured only in the last quarter of the year whereas the GDP per capita figures are annual. Thus in 2000, the GDP per capita series shows a local peak whereas housing prices in October-December of that year would reflect the influences of both the piercing of the “Dot Com” bubble (the rapid decline in the value of information and computer technology companies), and possibly a reaction to the outbreak of the second Intifada in Israel.
  11. Another explanation could be that in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv local economies might be more resilient and better connected to general economic trends than was Haifa’s. Yet, while plausible for Tel Aviv the relative lack of industrial development in Jerusalem coupled with its large dependence on tourism makes this not at all certain.
  12. The most recent construction data go through 2008 and so do not reflect the sharp upswing in prices for all residences that began in 2009 and continued through 2010 as shown in the pricing data series which goes through 2009.
  13. If we look at three-year moving averages to dampen some of the year-by-year volatility, the trends for Tel Aviv seem more responsive to the growth in the overall economy while those for Jerusalem decline.
  14. Beinart, Peter (2010). “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”, New York Review of Books, 10 June.
  15. While not geopolitical in the narrowest reading of the word, some of these trends have the potential for profoundly affecting the effective distance between individuals and groups, the pacing of international discourse and action, and the fundamental lens of perceptions by which all events and developments are characterized. In this sense, they are included for their power in framing the general environment governing the dynamics of geopolitics.
  16. Each item that appears in the boxes of the matrix in Table 4 is intended to be self-contained. While it is clear that some are quite related to others that appear in this list, Table 4 is not intended to imply the existence of a dialectic dynamic, read from left to right. Rather, some of the major trends continue while others appear as new entrants not previously present or seen as dominant. While some of the trend-breaking events may, indeed, play a part in affecting the trajectory of trends, that would require analysis beyond the simple heuristics of Table 4.
  17. At the time of this writing in early 2011, the full extent of change in the Arab world is unclear. But the fact that popular dissent was able to force the departure of Hosni Mubarak from power in Egypt and perhaps transform the basis of government that has operated in that country since 1952 is in itself an event that changes perceptions. It further will require, at the very least, a revisiting of Israel’s basic security concepts and will clearly have an effect on wider Jewish interests in a manner presently difficult to forsee. And, as indicated in other evaluations presented in this Annual Assessment, it is one more potential factor affecting the triangle of Washington, Jerusalem, and American Jewish perceptions and questions about each other’s roles. Although this is an event that falls outside the intended timeline of this section, it would appear remiss not to take advantage of the opportunity to examine how well such a potentially important event may be accommodated within the framework presented in this paper.
Previous
Next