JPPI (originally JPPPI) was established in March 2002 to provide the Jewish people with an independent think dedicated to professional strategic thinking and proactive policy planning on issues shaping the Jewish future. The Institute’s start-up period, steered by its chairman, Amb. Dennis Ross; founding president, Prof. Yehezkel Dror; and director-general, Mr. Avinoam Bar-Yosef, was characterized by putting into place JPPI’s vision, mission, initial work plan, professional staff and board of directors.
In addition to continuing projects and preparation of the annual assessments for 2005 and 2006, the Institute’s work during this period largely involved outreach. JPPI began assembling a group of 120 of the best minds of the Jewish people: academics, professionals, and lay-leaders in order to harness a creative synergy to ensure the continued thriving of the Jewish people. JPPI hosted strategic brainstorming gatherings at Wye River in Maryland in both 2005 and 2006. The Institute presented its work to major Jewish organizations throughout the world, and the Government of Israel, following JPPI’s first presentation of its annual assessment, took the significant decision to reserve a special cabinet meeting each year for future Institute presentations.
In 2007, JPPI moved its operation from the Pinsker St. site to a new, more suitable building on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. Additionally, JPPI devoted enormous energies to planning and executing two major Jewish people conferences.
In July 2007 JPPI held its first Conference on the Future of the Jewish People in Jerusalem with more than 150 participants from around the world. This conference included working groups on topics of urgent importance to Jews in which deep discussions led to the generation of a slate of action-oriented policy recommendations. Keynote addresses were delivered by Amb. Dennis Ross, Prof. Irwin Cotler, Prof Yehezkel Dror, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (introduced by Mr. Lester Crown), Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, then leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu, and then President-elect Shimon Peres.
As a result of the powerful work that took place at the July 2007 conference, President Peres engaged the Institute to plan and design the content for the first Israeli President’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, held in Jerusalem in May 2008 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel. More than 5,000 attended from 45 countries. 35 panel discussions were held with more than 225 speakers. Among those who delivered addresses at the eight plenary sessions and two special evening programs were: George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Abby Joseph Cohen, Susan Decker, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Bernard-Henri Levy, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Amos Oz, Shimon Peres, Dennis Ross, and Elie Wiesel.
JPPI reconvened its group of 120 academics, professionals and lay leaders in advance of the president’s conference for intensive discussions, the fruits of which were presented at the larger conference.
With the retirement of the Institute’s founding president, Prof. Yehezkel Dror, and Amb. Dennis Ross stepping down as chairman in order to assume a senior position in the Obama administration, 2009 might be best described as a year of transition. Institute board member Steve Hoffman graciously and while also coping with the impact of the global financial meltdown on the federation he heads took on the responsibilities of interim president. Amb. Stuart Eizenstat succeeded Amb. Ross as chairman of the Institute’s board and professional guiding council and Maj. Gen. (res.) Farkash took over as JPPI’s president. Senior fellow Einat Wilf also left the Institute when she was seated in the Knesset as a Labor MK. Nonetheless, the Institute carried on with productive activity.
In October 2009, the Institute organized and conducted the next in its series of brainstorming gatherings in Glen Cove, New York. The unifying subject of this two-day event was the triangular relationship of Jerusalem, Washington and North American Jewry. Dan Shapiro of the NSC attended, spoke on behalf of the Obama administration, listened to the concerns of participants and communicated them back in Washington.