Workshop to formulate response for Jewish People Policy Institute

Zionist Council of Victoria hosts workshop to formulate response for Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI)

17 February, 2014

In August last year, Israel’s Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, appointed Professor Ruth Gavison to assist her in preparing “a constitutional arrangement dealing with Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state.” In turn Professor Gavison has engaged the Jewish People Policy Institute to assemble and analyse the reflections and attitudes of Jews living outside of Israel to express their voice in this endeavour.

Professor Gavison is seeking worldwide consultation on the characteristics of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. The Zionist Council received an invitation to participate, a unique opportunity for the views of Melbourne’s Zionist community to be considered as part of this global consultation process, delivering our perspectives into the process which is meant to end in new recommendations to the Knesset and then potentially to new substantive legislation.

This is a truly historic process with implications for the long term relationship between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.

ZCV requested representatives from the 53 affiliated organisations and over 35 participants attended a four hour workshop on Sunday 16 February at Beth Weizmann Community Centre.

The workshop was facilitated by the ZCV’s Chair of Community Relations John Searle, who is also the appointed chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. The Victorian community’s input into the final report will be particularly valuable in these findings.

Specific topics such as what is world Jewry’s vision of a “Jewish and democratic state” and should there be an explicit expression in Israeli law codifying the special relationship between the State of Israel and world Jewry were discussed.

Interesting debate and open communication was the order of the day as participants pondered larger questions through narrower lenses, putting into context the issue of Shabbat in Jewish and democratic discussion.

One of the more moving observations was from a youth movement member who stated that Israel should take a more positive stance on the celebration of Shabbat rather than focussing on the negativity and restrictions of what you can’t do, one should focus on the positives that Shabbat brings.

The topics were thought provoking and at times controversial but the aim of the workshop was to formulate some guiding principles which will be included in the global participation process.

President of ZCV Sam Tatarka, stated that he was impressed by the diverse range of organisations attending this workshop and was heartened by the range of respectful discussions and the number of youth who actively participated. It was the first occasion such an issue has gone out to world Jewry and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

An executive summary of the findings will be submitted to the JPPI in early March and, in addition, it will be presented at the next ZCV Executive meeting.