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Ben-Dat: A think-tank devoted to the survival of world Jewry

(Amos Ben Gershon/GPO photo)

The Jewish People Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, professional policy planning think-tank based in Jerusalem. The mission of the institute sets it apart from every other organization devoted to policy innovation. Its purpose “is to ensure the thriving of the Jewish people and the Jewish civilization.” Its sweep is global, devising and recommending action-oriented, future-looking, “thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry.”

The institute is known for its innovative approach to policy planning combining broad width of scope with precise, pragmatic prescriptive steps. The board of directors is co-chaired by ambassadors Stuart Eizenstat and Dennis Ross. Avinoam Bar-Yosef, is the institute’s president and founding director. The renowned thinker and policy advisor Prof. Yehezkel Dror, was the institute’s founding president.

JPPI has published a myriad of policy papers, special reports, opinion articles and alert papers over the years. One of its highlight documents is its Annual Assessment of the Situation and the Dynamics of the Jewish People.

Space does not permit more than the lightest skipping of a stone across the surface of the most recent annual assessment (2019). Interested readers are urged to review the document and any of the other thought-provoking essays on the institute’s website. There are many issues and subjects to explore.

The assessment provides an authoritatively anchored snapshot of the world’s Jewish demography.

“At the beginning of 2019, the world Jewish population numbered 14.7 million, representing a 100,000 increase over the previous year. Since 2015, the world Jewish population has grown consistently by about a 100,000 per year … Researchers and community leaders are divided over whether part-Jews and Law-of-Return Israelis (who have no non-Jewish religious affiliation) should be counted as part of the Jewish population; if they are counted as Jews, then world Jewish population numbers slightly over 16 million.

“A little more than half of the world’s Jews live in the Diaspora (54.7 per cent), rather than in Israel (45.3 per cent). We estimate that, within a decade, the Jewish population of Israel and that of the Diaspora will be equal. Israelis living abroad (600,000) are counted as part of the Diaspora-Jewish population.”

The assessment devotes a great deal of study to the increase last year in the anti-Semitism felt around the world. The authors have provided an expanded version of the yearly Integrated Anti-Semitism Index. Not surprisingly, they conclude “the sheer number of anti-Semitic incidents has risen around the world, including in the United States.”

Although Jews comprise less than two per cent of the American population, we are the religion-based group most targeted by hate crimes. “Most of the more violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. seem unrelated to Israeli policies, although on college campuses the insidious, if non-violent, BDS movement feeds on overblown portrayals of Israeli policies.”


One of the sobering pieces of information provided by the authors of the report is that “nearly three-quarters of American Jews polled felt less secure than they did two years ago.”

The assessment acknowledges the impressive results of President Donald Trump’s friendship to Israel. But it also points to the dilemma created for Diaspora-Israel relations when the Israeli government draws closer to authoritarian leaders such as Trump. “The long-term interest of Israel demands strong relations with the entire American political spectrum.”

It must be forcefully pointed out that this latter statement applies with equal validity for Israel’s relations with all true democracies around the world. The Jewish state must maintain healthy ties with the entire political spectrum in those countries.

As important as the engrossing substance of the institute’s many publications are, the institute’s approach to problem solving is its true signature, namely, always taking into account the best interest of the collective peoplehood rather than the narrower interest of single constituent groups.

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