Israel’s Jewish Identity – Too Little or Too Much?

Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 13:00-15:00
Location: TBA


Even though Israel’s Declaration of Independence is a relatively short document, the word “Jewish” in its various forms appears no less than 20 times.  Indeed, the very purpose of Israel’s creation was to establish a Jewish state.  How should the character and conduct of the State of Israel express the fact that it is a Jewish state?  Has Israel conducted itself over the past 65 years in a way that suggests that a satisfactory answer to this question has been developed?  Is Israel too Jewish? Not Jewish enough?  Or does the way in which it expresses its Jewishness need to be corrected?





Professor Moshe Halbertal, Israel:

Professor Moshe Halbertal is the Gruss Professor at NYU School of Law, a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute He is also the Director of the Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization in New York. He has served as a visiting professor at both the Harvard and University of Pennsylvania Law Schools. Halbertal is the author of the books Idolatry, People of the Book: Canon, Meaning, and Authority, and Concealment and Revelation. His latest book in Hebrew is By Way of Truth: Nachmanides and the Creation of Tradition. He is the recipient of the Bruno Award of the Rothschild Foundation and the Goldstein-Goren award for the best book in Jewish thought in the years 1997-2000.





Mr. Mordechai Bar-Or, Israel:

Mordechai “Moti” Bar-Or is the Founder and Executive Director of Kolot, a non profit, non denominational organization which seeks to increase Jewish literacy amongst Israel’s educated and influential lay leaders and professionals to create significant and long-term social change. He co-founded and directed Elul and was the Head of Mishna and Talmud Studies at the Pelech High School for Girls in Jerusalem. Bar-Or also directed Gesher seminars in Safed.


Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Ukraine:

 Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Ukraine, is the Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine. He is also the Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress and of the European Congress. Bleich has been instrumental in founding the Kiev Jewish Community, the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine, the first full Jewish day school in Ukraine, the first legal Jewish orphanage and boarding school in Ukraine, the Chesed Avot welfare society of Kiev, the Magen Avot social services network of Ukraine, and a host of other organizations.



Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Israel:

Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum is the founder of ZION: An Eretz Israeli Congregation in Jerusalem; and Vice President of the Masorti Rabbinical Assembly. Her work spans and links tradition and innovation, working toward Jewish spiritual and ethical renaissance. She devotes much of her energy to the renewal of community life in Israel and the struggle for human rights. Rabbi Elad-Appelbaum served as rabbi of Congregation Magen Avraham in the Negev; as a congregational rabbi in the New York suburbs alongside Rabbi Gordon Tucker; and as Assistant Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem. In 2010 she was named by the Forward as one of the five most influential female religious leaders in Israel for her work promoting pluralism and Jewish religious freedom.


Ms. Jane Eisner, USA:

Jane Eisner is the Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Daily Forward, a Jewish national weekly newspaper. Before joining the Forward, Eisner held executive editorial and news positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years. She also served as Vice President for National Programs and Initiatives at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.


Mr. Abraham Foxman, USA:

Abraham H. Foxman is the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and is known throughout the world as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. He is the recipient of the French Knight of the Legion of Honor, the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Leadership Award and Interfaith Committee of Remembrance Lifetime Achievement Award.


Professor Ruth Gavison, Israel:

Professor Ruth Gavison is the founding President of Metzilah – a Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought and the Haim H. Cohn Professor emerita of Human Rights Law at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was one of the founders of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and served as both its Chairperson and President. Additionally, Gavison was the Chair of the Academic Committee of the Minerva Center of Human Rights at The Hebrew University and a member of the International Commission of Jurists. In 2011, Gavison was awarded the Israel Prize for Legal Research.


Rabbi Rick Jacobs, USA:

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Prior to his appointment, he served for 20 years as the leader of the Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York and was also Rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Rabbi Jacobs is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.


 Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, USA:

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, USA, is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mechon Hadar, an immersive Jewish educational institution in New York City. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Kaunfer is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities. Newsweek has included him four times in their list of the top 50 rabbis in America.


Dr. Danny Lamm, Australia:

 Dr. Danny Lamm is the President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ). A dental surgeon by profession, he also served as the President of the Zionist Council of Victoria.


Dr. Dov Maimon, Israel:

Dr. Dov Maimon is a Senior Fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) and leads the Institute’s activities in Europe. He also teaches at the Federman School of Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at Tel Aviv University.


Mr. Natan Sharansky, Israel:

Natan Sharansky is the Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He was a Prisoner of Zion and a leader in the struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel.  Sharansky founded the Yisrael B’Aliyah party and served in four successive Israeli governments, as Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. He is the author of three bestselling books and is the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.