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JPPI’s 2017 Brainstorming Conference — Integrative Summary

Polarizing trends in the West have not bypassed Israel or Diaspora Jewry. Much of American Jewry (about 70 percent) historically identifies with the liberal-Democratic base recently trounced in the U.S. elections. Right wing, nationalistic and religious tendencies in Israel are also growing. As these trends continue, liberal Diaspora Jews may become more alienated from Israel. If these gaps widen within the Jewish people, its political power will diminish accordingly.

  • In this time of polarization, Israel should focus on its potential as a unifying force. It should increase its investment in strengthening the connection with the Diaspora and make a special effort to assist in healing divisions among polarized Diaspora communities.
  • The Israeli government should be aware of and sensitive to the double bind facing the Jewish American leadership: on the one hand – how to contend with ideologies of the Trump administration while maintaining the status of a loyal minority. On the other – how to maintain the liberal values objectionable to the more radical elements of the administration without harming the interests of the State of Israel, which considers the new administration a dear friend.
  • Israel should differentiate between “love” of Israel and “blind support” of its government’s policies. Many young Jews in the Diaspora feel deeply connected to Israel, but reject some of its policies. Israel needs to be able to accept them as they are, as the real threat is that younger Diaspora Jews may become apathetic and disconnected from Israel.
  • Israel should strive to be more pluralistic on personal and family matters, and work to be more open to the non-Orthodox streams. Jewish communities in Israel and abroad need to adapt to a new reality of greater diversity, multiplicity of views, complex identities, conflicting narratives and acknowledge a broader array of organizations that reject the hegemony of any single organization.
  • Israel should initiate direct and constant connections with Jewish groups and organizations, even if they are not usually considered part of the current establishment.
  • Israel should support joint projects with the Diaspora based on Jewish values (such as a Jewish Peace Corps).
  • Israelis should be encouraged to get better acquainted with the Jewish communities of the Diaspora.
  • The trend of forging a new Jewish-Israeli culture could widen the gap between Israel and Diaspora Jewry (and thus erode the power of the Jewish people). Therefore, Diaspora involvement in such “renewal” efforts should be encouraged as much as possible.
  • As many Jews consider leaving Europe, Israel must work to improve its absorption infrastructure (including employment opportunities). At the same time, Israel must avoid loud and conspicuous Aliyah persuasion campaigns so as not to draw negative pushback from certain governments.
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