US Jewish leaders to ponder Negev's future

"While people concentrate on strategic, military, diplomatic, geopolitical issues, it is heartening to see people focus on the Negev and its special needs."

negev 224.88 (photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs [file])
negev 224.88
(photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs [file])
American professionals and lay leaders will discuss the development of the Negev region at a first-of-its-kind, two-day conference starting in Miami on Sunday. United Jewish Communities, which represents 157 local Jewish federations and 400 independent communities across North America, will convene to debate topics such as economic and community development, attracting and retaining younger residents, education, the impact of the IDF bases moving to the area, and the Beduin community. Participants will play multiple roles during the conference - as presenters, respondents and panel chairmen - as they get to grips with the challenges in the region and brainstorm potential strategic partnerships and collaborations. Initiated by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the event will feature leaders and experts from the Negev, including former Labor Party chairman and current Yeroham Mayor Amram Mitzna, and Shmulik Riffman, head of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council and chairman of the Negev Development Authority. "While so many people concentrate on the major strategic, military, diplomatic and geopolitical issues of the Middle East, it is indeed heartening to see committed people focus on the Negev and its special needs," Mitzna said. "I am greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm and professionalism of this group and salute the UJC - and all those involved - for their foresight and passion. Generations have spoken about the Negev; now is the time to create real change." Rebecca Caspi, UJC Israel's director-general, said in a statement issued on Thursday: "Never before have so many committed and talented people come together in North America to discuss the special needs of the Negev. We at UJC are proud to be convening this gathering and excited by the potential it presents. This is an example of how federations can come together to have a strategic impact."