Online soapbox aims to foster stronger Diaspora ties

Israeli government and communal leaders to stand by, ready to chat with Jews around the world and hear their ideas

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

New high-tech initiative allows Jews worldwide join the conversation on strengthening Israel-Diaspora ties. (photo credit: Dror Garti/Flash90)
New high-tech initiative allows Jews worldwide join the conversation on strengthening Israel-Diaspora ties. (photo credit: Dror Garti/Flash90)

Diaspora Jews, speak up. Dozens of leaders in Israel are waiting to hear directly from you.

Tell Jewish Agency for Israel head Natan Sharansky how to strengthen ties between Israel and the Diaspora. Share a pointer for Gidi Mark, the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Or give the government a piece of your mind via Michal Frank, the deputy director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.

For three days, these machers and dozens more are available for a live chat via a new Jewish Agency/government of Israel initiative.

From February 16 to 18, Jews from around the world have the opportunity to take part in online brainstorming sessions, moderated by some of the biggest names in the worldwide Jewish community, to take place around the clock for 72 hours.

The point? To move away from the conference table and tap into the grassroots for ideas to bridge the widening gap between Israel and the Diaspora. Projects that result from this collaboration will be funded by the Israeli government and most likely administered through the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

Individuals and institutions can express their thoughts on almost anything Jewish, say organizers, but there are seven general topics of discussion which will be presented in the future as position papers to the government: Jewish life and Israel engagement on campus; immersive experiences; follow-up to these experiences; Israel and peoplehood education in formal institutions; Jewish education in informal settings; serving the global good (Tikkun Olam); and aliya of young professionals.

In addition to Birthright, the Jewish Agency and Israeli government representatives, other moderators include Jewish demographer Dr. Steven M. Cohen; professional out-of-the-box thinker Justin Korda, the head of the Schusterman foundation’s ROI Community; Peter Deutsch, former member of the US House of Representatives; and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

The online event is organized by the Israeli government and the World Jewry Joint Initiative, which kicked off with a meeting of 120 top global Jewish professionals in November 2013.

After the three-day online sessions, the professionals will meet for a fourth day to create rough recommendations for the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governor’s meeting on February 23 in Tel Aviv, where they will be presented by Jewish Agency Director-General Alan Hoffmann in the opening plenary.

The final JA-governmental project proposals will later be presented to the Israeli government sometime during 2014, for funding by 2015.

Participation has been confirmed from organizations in pan-American countries, Europe and Russia, but the overarching goal is to include individuals who haven’t yet had a soapbox to stand on. Organizers are hopeful that this platform will open the conversation to new voices from all over the world.

To take part in the brainstorming sessions, register at

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