A four-day online “jam session” held to invite public feedback on the government’s World Jewry Joint Initiative concluded on Thursday morning. The online debate was extended an additional day due to a technical glitch caused by the website receiving “hundreds more registrations than planned,” the Jewish Agency said.
The initiative’s goal is to increase spending on programs intended to bolster Jewish identity in the Diaspora to NIS 1b. within five years, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett told The Jerusalem Post last Thursday. Israel expects Diaspora communities to match the government funds by a ratio of two to one. According to a source familiar with the matter, half of the Israeli disbursement will be money already allocated for programs such as Taglit and Masa.
Over 2,000 Jews from around the world took part in the online forum, and representatives of the initiative said that Jews from “Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and a range of other countries” participated.
Participants debated a range of policy proposals formulated by seven working groups of Jewish professionals, Israeli officials and experts associated with the government initiative.
According to the agency, their input will be integrated into the policy papers generated by the working groups and presented to the JAFI Board of Governors on Sunday, before being sent to the government for review.
According to Bennett, the cabinet is slated to approve the budget, framework and objectives of the initiative in March.
“This is our mutual effort to secure our mutual future. The government of Israel and the Jewish world are working together, as equal partners, to explore how we might inspire the younger generation to celebrate its Jewish identity. We look forward to hearing as many voices as possible in order to ensure that the vibrancy and the diversity of the global Jewish community are reflected in this historic process,” JAFI chairman Natan Sharansky said during a visit to the headquarters of the jam session coordinators in Jerusalem on Monday.
A source close to the initiative told the Post that there was “a very conscious effort” made to reach communities that had complained of not being represented in the initiative’s inaugural gathering in Jerusalem last November.
Following the summit, leaders of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and the Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique all stated that they were unaware of the initiative.
While the stage of formal consultations between communal bodies, Jewish organizations and the government finished prior to the jam session, the source was emphatic that efforts were made “to reach Jewish communities around the world with a particular emphasis on those that were not represented in November.
This was done, he said, through online campaigns, advertising and direct appeals.