The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto is partnering with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz to present a daylong, campus-wide conference titled “Zionism 3.0: Israel’s Place in Tomorrow’s World.”
Scheduled for Nov. 22 at the JCC, the event will feature lectures, panels and workshops led by global opinion-makers on the subject of Israel and its key strategic issues. It will be the biggest event of its kind ever held at the Palo Alto facility, according to the JCC’s Ronit Jacobs, one of the organizers.
A piece on the Haaretz website promoting the conference — and another one like it in New York City on Dec. 13 — says the event will address some big questions: Is peace possible in a nuclear Middle East? What will connect American Jewry to Israel in the future? Will Zionism still be relevant tomorrow?
Panelists span the conservative-to-liberal spectrum. Atlantic Monthly journalist Jeffrey Goldberg will give one keynote address, and Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely will give the other. Other people slated to appear include Knesset member Aliza Lavie, Wall Street Journal reporter Bret Stephens and journalist Peter Beinart, former editor of the New Republic and now a columnist for Haaretz.
Haaretz will be well-represented at the conference: publisher Amos Schocken, editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, military correspondent Amos Harel, U.S. correspondent Chemi Shalev and Charlotte Halle, editor of the paper’s English-language edition, all are slated to appear in one capacity or another.
Sue Fishkoff, editor of J., will be part of a panel talking about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She will be joined by Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, and Seth Brysk, Central Pacific Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Panel and breakout session topics will include Syria and ISIS, U.S.-Israel relations, Orthodox women in politics and the collapse of the peace process.
“We have as one of our strategic goals to become a hub for connecting to Israel,” said Zack Bodner, CEO of the Palo Alto JCC. “Last year Haaretz contacted us and asked if we wanted to partner on a conference. At first it was going to be centered on the peace process, but it quickly expanded to cover the entire Middle East, BDS and European anti-Semitism. When we realized this month was the 40th anniversary of the ‘Zionism is racism’ vote at the United Nations, it seemed perfect timing to make the conference about Zionism today.”
“We thought it was time,” added Jacobs, director of Israeli cultural connections. “People have a lot of questions about Israel, and we want to give them a safe space to be able to talk about them.”
Jacobs said that the conference title, “Zionism 3.0,” refers to a new stage in the history of modern Zionism, marked by pessimism over the peace process and the prospect of a two-state solution. Stage 1 was the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and stage 2 was the era of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Benn, Haaretz’s editor-in-chief, said, “We believe it’s critically important to create opportunities for dialogue and learning to strengthen the ties between American Jews and Israel.” He called the conference “compelling and timely” and “a unique opportunity to engage with our readers in the Bay Area.”
The event is being sponsored by more than 40 individuals, couples and foundations who have donated at least $500, with at least a dozen giving $5,000 or more. There are also more than 20 partnering organizations and synagogues that have contributed.
Jacobs said the event is part of a yearlong series of lectures and conversations about Israel involving scholars and experts, many from Israel. The series is titled “Shaping the Revival of Jewish Life in Israel and North America.”
“Zionism 3.0” will begin at 11:30 a.m. with registration and an organization fair. A boxed lunch is included. The opening session at 1 p.m. will include four speakers and a performance from the one-man show “Wrestling Jerusalem” by writer-performer Aaron Davidman. The event will close with a cocktail party, featuring light food, wine and beer, from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.
“Zionism 3.0: Israel’s Place in Tomorrow’s World,” 11:30 a.m. Nov. 22 at Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. $35 (students), $55 (seniors, under-30 or educators), $80 (general). www.paloaltojcc.org or (650) 223-8692