Declaring Our Common Destiny

Declaration of principles of Jewish unity to be signed in Jerusalem this month

SANFORD R. CARDIN, CEO of Our Common Destiny. (photo credit: Courtesy)
SANFORD R. CARDIN, CEO of Our Common Destiny.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“Two Jews, three opinions,” goes the famous saying, which encapsulates the opinionated and sometimes fractious state of dialogue among the Jewish people. Over the past year, an initiative known as Our Common Destiny has worked hard to unite Jewish communities around a shared set of ethics and values and, in turn, towards a collective vision for the Jewish people and all humanity.
Launched in Jerusalem in September 2019 by the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry under the auspices of the President’s Office, Our Common Destiny has spent the last 15 months crowdsourcing a document intended to inspire and motivate global Jewry to join in the creation of a common vision of their future.
That document, the Declaration of Our Common Destiny, was initially presented to President Reuven Rivlin by a diverse group of more than 30 leading rabbis, academics and activists from all across the Jewish world. During a speech in which Rivlin called the Declaration “a roadmap for the future of the Jewish people,” he went on to challenge Our Common Destiny to spread the document’s message as widely as possible within the Jewish world and to encourage Jews of all ages, races, nationalities and genders to assist in its completion.
Through a series of in-person presentations before the pandemic started, and subsequently, via the latest outreach tools in the form of social media, influencers and other digital channels, almost 1 million Jews had a chance to engage online with the Declaration. In addition, more than 130,000 Jews from around the world completed a survey in which they shared their views on the following five values:
•Ensuring the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere
•Accepting responsibility for one another
•Strengthening the Jewish identity of all Jews
•Serving as a “Light unto the Nations” by acting ethically and morally
•Working toward world development and improvement – tikkun olam
The majority of Israeli Jews who participated in the survey said that ensuring the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere was the most essential principle, while the majority of Diaspora Jews voted in favor of the concept of accepting responsibility for each other.
In just a few days, Our Common Destiny will present the completed Declaration, reflecting the voices of Jews worldwide, to Rivlin as part of a series of special events. On Diaspora Day, Tuesday, December 8, a session of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee will be dedicated to Our Common Destiny, and Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich will hold a virtual news conference with Jewish journalists from around the world.
On December 10, and continuing for five days, a “sound and light” show will open on Jerusalem’s Old City walls featuring video clips of Jews from every corner of the globe – including the senior leaders of many of the world’s most influential Jewish organizations – signing the Declaration. In addition, on December 17, Our Common Density will officially present the crowdsourced document to Israel’s president during a celebration called “Illuminate” that will be broadcast to the world on Our Common Destiny website, Facebook and selected Jewish media outlets.
Sanford R. Cardin, CEO of Our Common Destiny, is gratified that such a large number of Jews from so many different backgrounds participated in the survey, and says the Declaration has the power to become a defining document of Judaism in the 21st century.
“Since the Declaration sets forth, from both a historical and contemporary perspective, the shared values and principles of the Jewish people,” he stated, “it has the potential to serve as a touchstone for all kinds of Jewish activity in the future.” In addition to hoping the Declaration encourages, increases and improves the dialogue between Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel, Cardin envisions the document helping future generations of Jews learn how to better relate to one another. “We are hopeful the Declaration will be taught in all Israeli schools, as well as in Jewish day and supplementary schools throughout the rest of the Jewish world. If we can find a way to have it incorporated in their curricula, we can help Jews everywhere appreciate their connection to Jews anywhere.” Cardin proudly notes that more than 90 different Jewish organizations are supporting the initiative, illustrating the collaborative nature of the venture, and says that – individually and as a group – Our Common Destiny’s organizational partners represent a solid foundation on which to build future efforts and activities to unify and strengthen the Jewish people. Encouraged by the conversations and discussions the Declaration has inspired, he is excited at the prospect of continuing to work to improve the relationship between all Jews – regardless of where they live.
Cardin went on to say Our Common Destiny is also exploring new ways to give a voice to the concerns of Diaspora Jews before the Israeli government, a concept first raised by David Ben-Gurion during Israel’s founding and recently revived by Minister Yankelevich.
Cardin says Our Common Destiny is currently making plans for next year and expects its role will be more facilitation than program implementation. “We are not the only ones concerned about the future of world Jewry,” he notes. “Many good and creative people are engaged in this important work, and we want to harness the collective power of the Jewish people to achieve the goal of unity and strength, powered by the inspiring text of our Declaration.” Hanukkah, says Cardin, is an ideal time – particularly in 2020, the year of the pandemic – to present and focus on the Declaration of Our Common Destiny. “The events we are planning are about light; how we can use it to pierce the darkness of our challenging world. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, and the Declaration can shine a light on the path to a bright Jewish future. That is why our event is called Illuminate.” Jewish unity, Cardin added quickly, is particularly urgent this year because of the ravages of COVID-19. “We could not have known that our message of togetherness, mutual responsibility and strength would be even more relevant now than when we started. We knew our mission was meaningful, but it became magnified many times over when the pandemic struck. We were quickly reminded how fragile we are and how far apart we can be driven.
“The Declaration reminds us how crucial it is to remain strong and united in normal as well as difficult times, to never forget about all that we share as a people and to work together to forge our common destiny.”
This article was written in cooperation with the Genesis Philanthropy Group.