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Saturday, October 10, 2015

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So that our people thrives

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The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) is an independent professional policy-planning think-tank based in Jerusalem. It was created eight years ago as a project of the Jewish Agency  for Israel.

One of its founding members was the renowned Israeli thinker, visionary Prof. Yehezkel Dror, a frequent adviser to the Israeli cabinet and prime ministers, and the only Israeli to be a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and of the Club of Rome. Dror was instrumental in helping devise and formulate the mission of the institute, which is “to ensure the thriving of the Jewish People and the Jewish civilization.”

I specifically mention Dror’s involvement in the institute to point out that the members of the institute, then as today, were and are profoundly committed to the importance of their work.  

The way in which the institute tries to ensure the “thriving of the Jewish People” is by “by engaging in professional strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry. Each year, as part of an annual assessment, the institute publishes essays of immediate and dramatic concern for the Jewish People.

One of the distinctive qualities of the various reports published by the institute is that they are “action-oriented, placing special emphasis on identifying critical options and analyzing their potential impact on the future, developing professional strategic and long-term policy perspectives.”

One can read and hear Dror’s language throughout the mission statement of the institute. 

Thus, the institute’s various reports and annual assessments are expressly intended to aid communal leaders – lay and professional – and even politicians in making difficult decisions, helping steer the Jewish People in our respective communities through the always-clouded horizons. The key “weakness” of the institute, of course, is that it can only offer advice. It has no way to get community decision makers to actually heed it.

The contents of the 2011-2012 Annual Assessment testify to the institute’s earnest approach to its research:

• Foreword by ambassadors Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat;

• 2011-12 integrated “net” assessment;

• Selected indicators of world Jewry – 2011-12;

• The Jewish People’s agenda: dilemmas and suggested policy directions;

• Geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East – developments in the geopolitical arena and their possible implications for Israel and the Jewish People (2011-12);

• Creating Jewish meaning in the U.S. and Europe – emerging adults, cultural creativity and the Jewish future in the U.S. and Europe;

• Developments in Israel: (a) Analysis: a new political landscape; (b) New proposed Knesset bills and Israeli democracy; (c) Summer 2011 in Israel: the revolt of the “undeprived” – what it was, how it was, what’s left; (d) The People’s army? Orthodox soldiers and religious dilemmas in the IDF; (e) Science and technology policy in a Jewish People context, and

• Developments to watch.

It is impossible to summarize or even touch slightly upon the highlights of each of the reports in this space. 

Ross and Eizenstat set the overall tone of the report in their foreword. “By 2011, it became clear that the geopolitical threats may be as great as at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948 – with upheaval in the Arab Middle East and the rising tide of the Muslim Brotherhood, which ideologically remains fundamentally hostile to Israel; with the stockpiling of hundreds of thousands of rockets near Israel’s northern and southern borders, and the uncertainty of what will emerge in Syria; and with the question of whether force will be needed to resolve the potentially existential threat from Iran.

“While the Annual Assessment identifies the difficult geopolitical dilemmas and challenges our people faces, other measures may look more hopeful this year. Statistics show an increase of 600,000 in the global Jewish population over the past several years, from 12.9 million to 13.647 million [in 2010].”

Canada’s Jewish population in 2010  (375,000) was the third largest in the Diaspora after the United States  (5.275 million) and France (483,500). Our community, along with Mexico, are the only Diaspora communities projected by the institute to grow in size by the year 2020.

The institute projects the population of world Jewry to reach 13.917 million by the year 2020. 

The JPPI report is laden with information, analysis and insight. It amounts to a hand outstretched offering ideas, suggestions, heartfelt pleas and hope on behalf of the Jewish people.

In the words of Ross and Eizenstat: “The 2011-12 assessment is a remarkable statement on the direction of world Jewry and what needs to be done to foster its well-being. The question, of course, is whether those in a position to act on its recommendations will do so.”

The report should be read. It can be found at www.jppi.org.il.  


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