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There is a task ahead for the World Jewish Congress: to become the first Jewish organization of the 21st century. The WJC's 20th century history and achievements are an asset. Its 20th century structure is not.
The WJC is facing a choice: it could transform itself into the representative organ of a global Jewish people, or it could descend into insignificance as a new generation fails to see it as its voice. It could become the wired web of a global Jewish democracy, or it could disappear into opaque rooms of irrelevance. It could forge ahead with ideas that affirm a positive Jewish identity that rises from Jewish history and values to play a moral role in this world or close itself into a culture of fear.
A new generation of leaders and activists who understand this world and see it are now required to take the lead in the WJC. It is time to bring this new world into being. My candidacy for the Presidency of the WJC is my bid, as well as that of many of my colleagues at KolDor to be midwives to this new world.
If elected WJC President, I will be guided by three lights: the first is to make the WJC into the representative democratic congress of a global Jewish people that is governed transparently and in the service of the people on behalf of whom it claims to speak; the second is to put in place the infrastructure for a future thriving of Jewish life globally; and the third is to pursue an agenda of hope and positive Jewish actions rather than one that is born of fear.
THE FIRST step required to make the WJC the most representative of the Jewish people globally, would be to clearly define membership in the organization as open to all Jews worldwide whether through their community or directly. The numerous small donors who supply the main financial base for the WJC's activities today would become voting members and their donations regular dues. This would not only open up the WJC to become a global membership organization, it would also supply it with a solid independent financial base. This membership will be a new construct, a fusion of ideas of global citizenship, voluntary membership and shareholding. As such, the members would be entitled not only to vote and have a voice in debates, they would also be the ones to whom the executive bodies are accountable, receiving regular reports about the activities of the WJC as well as its finances in straightforward, audited and transparent annual reports.
The next step would then be to embark on a global campaign to recruit members with the goal of reaching a broad membership base of tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of Jews. The effort would be targeted so that one third of the members would be from Israel, one-third from the United States and one third from Europe, Latin America, Russia, Australia, South Africa and other Jewish communities.
The WJC would implement throughout the membership and governing bodies the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute's recommendation to have 35% of the total of all members and officials under the age of 35, as well as ensuring gender representation of at least 40% for each. The WJC would take advantage of technology to become a wired organization that is constantly debating and deciding, alive in cyberspace, rather than one that comes together infrequently and only physically. This would make WJC's into a dynamic body that is future facing and not only speaks of "next generation" but is next generation, and always so.
ALL OF these changes would be agreed and set in a new constitution that would govern the WJC into the new era. Such a transformation would place the WJC not only at the forefront of Jewish organized life, but also at the forefront of global life in general, a new model for communities coming together democratically and effectively across borders.
Once the WJC has truly become the organization of future Jewish life, it would be able to take the lead in putting in place the infrastructure that supports a thriving Jewish life globally. This would include being at the forefront of investing in global Jewish leadership development in cooperation with bodies such as WUJS, Hillel, youth movements, KolDor and many others.
It would become an advocate and convener, with others, including the President of Israel to find solutions to the challenges of Jewish education. It would universalize the celebration of the month of Heshvan as global Jewish Social Action Month (JSAM) and Kislev as International Jewish Book Month. And not neglecting the specter of risk and dangers, it would serve as a catalyst for Jewish communities worldwide to adopt new structures, programs and ideas, such as those developed by the JPPPI for responding effectively to local crises and enabling the rebuilding of communities following such crises, whether it is the result of natural disasters or political turmoil.
Finally, the WJC would take a lead in being a voice of a positive global Jewish identity. While continuing to ring the alarm bells on dangers to the survival of the Jewish people, it would also point to actions that the Jewish People could take collectively to heal the world. Such programs would include devising a for the Jewish People to be carbon neutral by the year 2030, including all Jewish institutions, individual Jews and the State of Israel. It would include global anti-Genocide Activism, with the WJC organizing and coordinating activist campaigns against genocides, current or threatened, against the Jewish people and against others. It would support the launch in coordination with others of an International Jewish Peace Corp that would send young Jews together in teams on two possible tracks: to small Jewish communities or to Africa to undertake development work as part of the UN Millennium goals.
A new world is calling us to make it our own. Great opportunities often emerge from our darkest hours. This is not the WJC's finest moment. It yet could be.
The writer served as the foreign policy advisor to Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. She is completing a PhD in political science at Cambridge University writing a dissertation on the World Jewish Congress in the 1990s.
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