This past spring, we had the privilege to gather with 99 other Wexner alumni in Princeton, New Jersey for the Foundation’s inaugural Summit, entitled Stronger Together: (Re)Imagining the North American Israeli Relationship.  From all four of Wexner’s programs, half of us Israeli and half North American, our cohort represents community, government and religious leaders eager to explore and take action on new ways of strengthening the current relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewry. 

As a result of our work at the Summit, a group of us formed to support an initiative of the Reut Institute, namely, to re-imagine the role that the State of Israel plays vis-a-vis the broader global Jewish community in the 21st century.  We ask you to take a short survey by clicking here, which will inform our work ahead.

This conversation seems particularly relevant and timely at the outset of 2017 which may turn out to be a watershed year for Israel-Diaspora relations.  Many trends affecting the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community seem to be reaching a critical peak.

First, 2017 marks several milestones in Israeli history including 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the UN Partition Plan, and 50 years since the 1967 War and the beginning of Israel’s control of the West Bank.  These milestones will likely bring the conversation around Israel to the center of world media and serve as flash points between Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community.  They are likely to reveal developments and tensions between Israel and the Diaspora as well. 

Second, the results of the US election, and the outset of the new Trump Administration, may also significantly impact Israel-Diaspora relations.  On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, questions are already arising around his approach towards Israel and the region.  Moreover, the growing fault-line exposed in the contrast between the Israeli government’s enthusiastic embrace of the new Administration, and the majority of the American Jewish community’s disappointment and caution with the Trump presidency, offers a new key moment in Israel-North American relations. 

Finally, tensions around the status of progressive Judaism in Israel is coming to a peak as long-standing struggles like the “Women of the Wall” fail to be resolved.

Within this context, our group composed a survey on the current relationship between Israel and the Jewish People to better understand the perspective of the Wexner community.  Our goal is to start a meaningful conversation about how to strengthen the relationship with the emphasis of Israel’s role as the State of the Jewish people in the 21st century.  As American Jewish and Israeli leaders, we Wexner alumni play an important role in shaping this relationship, and are uniquely positioned in our exposure to and understanding of various dynamics within the two communities.

Like the best design thinking inventors, we want to know what you think and feel before we design the solution.

Here are some sample questions: “How Israel’s role is currently perceived verses the role it should play in relation to the North American Jewish community?  Does the Wexner community perceive Israel’s current position as aligning with their expectations?  If not, what are possible reasons for this lack of alignment?  What steps can we take to close this gap?”

We believe that 2017 adds an urgency to the topic of our upcoming summit in April.  Our mission to better understand the relationship and develop a greater sense of mutuality and commitment, between the two hubs of 21st Century Jewish life, has never been more important.  We hope you will contribute to the conversation by completing this short survey (click here).  We will share the results in our session at the upcoming Summit and in WexnerLEADS. 

We thank you for your valuable time and perspective and look forward to an in-depth discussion!

Noa Eliasaf Shoham, WHP Alum (San Francisco 11)
Netaly Ophir-Flint, WIF Alum (Class 24)
Vanessa Bartram, WHP Alum (Miami 11)

On behalf of our summit work group on “Re-Imagining the Role of Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People”