Jerusalem and the Jewish People: Unity and Division – Interim Report

In favor of the Jewish community’s core population: Understanding the process, its advantages and limitations, requires that we first note that the process relied heavily upon each local community (and local organizations). The communities were responsible for recruiting seminar attendees. Therefore, there are significant variations in group composition and size in various communities. But one thing is common to all of them: The established community – usually the Federation, but sometimes other organizations as well – was the organizing body that gathered the participants. It is important to recognize the fact that this report focuses on the attitudes of Jews who are connected to the “core” of the organized Jewish community, often the attitudes of Jews who hold various leadership positions in the community, and is less a reflection of Jews whose connection to established Jewish life is weak, or even non-existent.

The voice of younger community members: Many of the discussions included fewer young people whose Jewish identity often differs in content and intensity from the Jewish identity of older cohorts.

Religious composition: JPPI’s process included very few ultra-Orthodox participants. Generally speaking, the percentage of Dialogue participants who self-identify as “Conservative” was higher than their actual share of the general Jewish population; in comparison with this, the percentage of participants who self-identify as neither “Reform,” “Conservative” or “Orthodox” was lower than their share of the general Jewish population. In other words, those participating in the Dialogue were more “religiously affiliated” (not in terms of observance but in terms of identity and identification) than the Jewish average.

Geographic distribution: The geographic distribution of the seminars was quite widespread. Communities from several continents took part in the Dialogue process. The impressive representation of the North American Jewish community corresponds to the size of the Jewish population there. Representation of European Jewry was lower in this year’s process than we would have liked.

Interest in Israel: Groups taking part in the discussions had a self-selection bias of having an interest in Israel. Thus, the general picture we got from the seminars undoubtedly tends toward those members of the worldwide Jewish community for whom Israel is important, and who are interested in conducting a Dialogue that includes a significant Israeli component. On the other hand, it is important to note that Israel, and the views of Israelis, were underrepresented in the Dialogue (this is somewhat mitigated by the survey of Israelis we conducted this year).

The advantage of the Dialogue process: A discussion among Jews with a clear and unequivocal interest in the Jewish world, and who are involved in their own Jewish communities, could be preferable to a discussion that also includes Jews who are weakly connected to the Jewish community with a low level of interest. As the purpose of the process is to discuss the implications of certain trends on the policies of communities (and the State of Israel) it would be reasonable to argue that such a discussion should take into account primarily (and perhaps exclusively) the perspectives of Jews in the world for whom the community is important.