Date set for World Jewish Forum

Katsav calls to establish a "Second House" as a consultative body to add its voice to discussions on issues affecting Jews everywhere.

katsav sits stern 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
katsav sits stern 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The first meeting of the World Jewish Forum (WJF), an international consultative body, will take place at Beit Hanassi this October with a gathering of 200-300 leaders of world Jewry, Robert Goodkind, President of the American Jewish Committee, announced on Sunday. The WJC initiative springs from a call by President Moshe Katsav for the establishment of a sort of "Second House" as a consultative body alongside the Knesset to add its voice to discussions on issues that affected not only the citizens of a Jewish state, but Jews everywhere. The WJF, said Goodkind, would be similar in status to the annual economic conference in Davos, and would represent "a major breakthrough in Jewish history." Other presidents of Israel had endeavored to bring about a similar forum said Goodkind, but they were not successful. Later, when speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Goodkind described the composition of the emergent WJF. Fifty per cent of the participants would be representatives of organizations, he said, whereas the other 50% would be invited not because of any Jewish affiliations, but because they were leaders in their fields, who happened to be Jewish. Some of them may be affiliated to a greater or lesser extent, said Goodkind, but that will not be the reason that they will be invited. "We want to bring them into the debate so that they will see the vibrancy and complexity of Jewish society and become reconnected to their roots." One of the invitees is film-maker Steven Spielberg. Katsav first broached the WJC idea in his address to the opening session of the 16th Knesset in February 2003. In pursuing that goal, Katsav had hosted a series of meetings with community leaders from Israel and the Diaspora at Beit Hanassi, where amongst other things considerable time was spent debating the appropriate name for such a body, now called the World Jewish Forum. Katsav, who hosted the AJC Board of Governors, currently here on the first leg of a series of centenary celebrations, lauded the organization for a hundred years of constant struggle, devotion and determination to defend Jews around the world. With regard to the WJF, Katsav noted that world Jewry has not yet made a demographic recovery. The world Jewish population is still less than on the eve of World War II. This is largely due to assimilation, noted the President. "More than 50% of world Jewry is not affiliated with any Jewish organization. They're not part of Jewish life. Many Jews cannot be sure that their children and grandchildren will remain Jewish." Katsav wants to reverse this negative trend, not through promoting adherence to any stream of Judaism, but simply encouraging "linkage and attachment to Jewish life."