Jewish Federations GA set to debate Israel-Diaspora challenges in Tel Aviv

NGO and non-profit leaders, social activists, journalists, students, philanthropists, politicians and others to participate in the conference.

President Rivlin's speech to Leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America, October 21, 2018 (GPO)
Some 2,600 people from across the US and Canada, and from around Israel, will participate in a three-day extravaganza of discussions debates, breakout sessions, speeches, plenaries and seminars in this year’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America taking place in Tel Aviv and starting on Monday.
The GA, as it is known, takes place in Israel once every five years, and this year’s gathering has been titled “We Need to Talk,” in reference to the strained relations that have developed between some parts of the Diaspora community and leadership over religion and state issues in Israel.
Among the keynote speakers will be President Reuven Rivlin, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, Jewish Federations of North America CEO Jerry Silverman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In addition, NGO and non-profit leaders, social activists, journalists, students, philanthropists, politicians and others will be speaking and participating in the conference.
Although the decision to hold the event in Tel Aviv was taken at least two years ago, before some of the more acute disagreements arose, staging the GA outside of Jerusalem does reflect a desire to “reconnect” to Israelis of different varieties and to think in fresh ways about the Israel-Diapsora relationship.
Rebecca Dinar, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federations said that the organization and its associated branches remain deeply committed to Israel and that this support “goes well beyond the political atmosphere.”
She noted the partnership programs between different North American federations and cities in Israel as one example of activity which brings a more intimate association between the two populations, describing the relationship as “multilayered.”
The strains however, such as over the Western Wall, conversion, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the divergence of world perspectives and even values, are significant and will be addressed at the GA.
“We are at an inflection point, there have been some challenges, and we’re not silent about them,” said Dinar. “This GA couldn’t just be a celebration, it has to be talking about these issues, Americans one-on-one talking to Israelis.”
Religious pluralism in Israel, the security of the Jewish state in a tempestuous region, and Israel’s societal challenges, including integration of the haredi and Arab communities, are some of the key topics that will come under discussion at the event.
In a nod to the capital, conference participants will be visiting the Knesset en masse on Tuesday, where Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will host a reception and a full program of speakers including MKs from across the party-political spectrum.
Of the 2,600 people who will be in attendance, approximately half are from Israel and the other half predominantly from North America, as well as some representatives from Europe.
Those from North America include lay leaders, Federation professionals, students and people who are engaged in Jewish life and the connection between the global Jewish community and Israel.
Israeli participants include those involved in advocacy or non-profit organizations, representatives from local government and from Jewish communities around the country.