A group of experts from around the Jewish world, NGO directors, political scientists, rabbis and scholars of various stripes, will gather in Jerusalem this week to help develop a plan for - no less - the future of the Jewish people.
The Conference on the Future of the Jewish People of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) opens on Tuesday; four years of work will culminate in three days of working groups.
Participants will attempt to address all aspects of Jewish continuity - demographics and identity, Iran and China, conversion and education - and to offer concrete policy proposals for a pan-Jewish survival strategy for the first half of the 21st century.
The conference will take as its starting point the year 2030, in a planning process adopted from the US defense establishment. Attendees will be asked to map out different scenarios, from catastrophic to fantastic, for the scope, health and character of Jewish life in that year. Working backwards, they will examine "points of intervention" at which the situation of the Jewish people could be improved.
"We thought we had to create a Jules Verne of the Jewish people, a group of Jewish thinkers and first-rate planning people to brainstorm on how the Jewish people might look in 25 years," said JPPPI Director-General Avinoam Bar-Yosef.
To these thinkers and planners, from JPPPI founder Prof. Yehezkel Dror and fellow Winograd Committee member Prof. Ruth Gavison to defense establishment icons such as Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'acov Amidror and former Mossad intelligence director Prof. Uzi Arad to renowned Diaspora scholars such as Mexico's Judit Liwerant and Canada's Irwin Cotler, the institute added Jewish professionals such as federation heads John Ruskay of New York and Stephen Hoffman of Cleveland.
The goal, said Bar-Yosef, was to include not only the thinkers, but those "who deal with the existential questions on a day-to-day basis."
The JPPPI was founded in 2002 by the Jewish Agency as an independent institution tasked not with research, but with using available information to conduct planning for the Jewish people as a whole.
Speakers at the conference will include Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, opposition head MK Binyamin Netanyahu, JPPPI Board Chairman and former US ambassador Dennis Ross, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski, Cotler and Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz.
But prestigious names alone do not a conference make. What would constitute success? For Bar-Yosef, this would be developing recommendations for Jewish continuity that are "agreed-upon, prioritized and actionable."
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