April 29, 2010 / 15 Iyar 5770
Dear Members of the Board,
As you may know, the strategic planning committee, which includes lay leadership and senior staff, met yesterday to review an outline for a renewed strategic direction for the Jewish Agency as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.
The vision for the Jewish Agency as established in 1929 and articulated in the last strategic review in 2004 remains unchanged: to ensure the future of a connected, committed, global Jewish People with a strong Israel at its center.”
The focus of the committee's meeting was to discuss how we update our contemporary mission and what new strategic directions we need to pursue that reflect this enduring vision in light of the changes in the Jewish world and the world at large. This will help us focus as an organization and address the challenges we face today.
We want to build on the Jewish Agency's strengths – chief among them, as the organization which links the Jewish People worldwide with Israel and Israel with the Jewish communities around the world. We seek to take the next important steps in our long history of achievement in building Israel, in providing Jewish Zionist education in the Diaspora communities and in addressing the most critical challenges facing our people.
I am pleased to report that the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Ron Dermer, a senior advisor in his office, to represent the Government of Israel at our meeting, underscoring our partnership with the Government and its appreciation and participation in our efforts to develop a new strategic plan for our organization.
In assessing the unique challenges of today under the leadership of Natan Sharansky, and in dialogue with our partners, we have suggested the following new articulation of the mission for the Jewish Agency:
Connect Jews throughout the world with their people, heritage and homeland, and inspire and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel
In doing so, we would focus on activities where we contribute unique experience and add value in areas we are already engaged in today – helping those who choose aliyah to realize their dream and ensure a smooth transition; promoting Israel experiences (including bringing teens and young adults to Israel on programs like birthright and Masa); bringing Israel to communities (through our shlichim and Makom) and fostering direct partnerships. We would also turn our attention to newer areas, like social activism in Israel, using this and other platforms to strengthen and connect young Jews to Israel and to each other. We are recommending that The Jewish Agency develop programs to help strengthen both the individual and collective aspects of Jewish identity of young Israeli and Diaspora Jews. We believe that cognitive, emotional and behavioral components of identity need to be addressed as we facilitate the encounters and joint efforts by young people to engage in activities to repair the world at large and to strengthen Israeli society.
The Committee felt strongly that The Jewish Agency should reaffirm its commitment to its historic role in aliyah. We should continue to serve as the Jewish People’s Emergency First Responders, always ready to rescue Jews from persecution and bring them to Israel on a moment’s notice, as well as to assist Jews in crises in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. Today, however, as the vast proportion of new immigrants move to Israel out of choice, not duress, we believe that increasing the pool of potential olim can best be achieved by strengthening Jewish identity and increasing the commitment of young Jews to Israel.
We remain committed to strengthening Israeli society through working with populations at risk, but believe that we need to do so with an increased focus on activities designed to emphasize Jewish and Zionist values and strengthen Jewish identity among young Israelis.
The Committee also reaffirmed our commitment to work in partnership with other organizations, funders and governments as a modus operandi for much of our work. We felt that direct partnerships between communities should continue to be developed and increasingly utilized as an important platform for many programmatic initiatives.
This is the preliminary outline of our new proposed directions, and the product of many, many hours of thought and discussion. While yesterday's meeting helped us reach certain understandings and it remains a work in progress, we are confident that this is the right approach for us as an organization, and as a People.
This process is a labor of love – love of our organization, love of Israel and the Jewish people, and, as such, not without some difficult decisions. We are confident that this direction meets the changing needs of the Jewish People while remaining true today to our decades-old vision.
I look forward to discussing these ideas in greater detail at our Board of Governors meeting in June.