Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Israel-Diaspora Relations

Reinventing World Jewry:
How to Design the World Jewish Polity

Summary Statement and Recommendations

Daniel J. Elazar


World Jewry is at a turning point. This is an unmistakable aspect of the mid-1990s regardless of whether one appreciates the opportunities of the future or regrets the loss of past arrangements. In some respects, Jews are pulled in both directions, but the fact itself is unmistakable.

Look at the record of this decade so far. The last great Jewish community in distress has opened up, both for the freedom of Jews to live Jewishly in their countries of origin and the freedom to emigrate elsewhere. Israel has entered into a peace process with the Palestinians, Jordan and Syria which, in turn, has opened the doors to the state's full acceptance by the rest of the world. Israel's economy entered a period of very rapid growth.

On the other hand, assimilation and intermarriage in the diaspora reached new highs. The struggle between those who want Israel to abandon its Jewish character and become a "normal" state and those who want it to remain a Jewish state connected to the Jewish people worldwide, took on new intensity. In the last analysis, the Jewish world is dividing into two camps: those who seek normalization "like all the nations" and those who seek the way to perpetuate and cultivate Jewish civilization.

All of this has had pronounced effects on organized Jewish life whether in Israel, in the organized Jewish communities of the diaspora, or in the world Jewish organizations which link the two. The response of the leadership in all three spheres has been to foster constitutional change, restructuring, and reorganization:

In 1992, Israel's Knesset changed its Basic Law to provide for the direct election of the prime minister and added Basic Laws establishing clear human rights protections under the constitution and expanding the judicial review of other branches of government.

  • Two years later the victory of a new slate in the Histadrut elections led to a major reorganization of that venerable institution and Israel's health care system was reorganized.

  • The Jewish Agency for Israel was restructured internally to expand its Board of Governors, to change the organization and governance of the departments, and even to transfer traditional tasks to the Israeli government.

  • In the United States, American Jewry entered into a process of restructuring that points toward a consolidation of the Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, and the United Israel Appeal into the new broad-based organization that could speak in the name of American Jewry in new ways.

  • In the former Soviet Union, organized Jewish communities sprang up throughout the country as soon as it became permissible for Jews to organize freely.

  • European Jewry as a whole has begun to explore new continent-wide intercommunity contacts.

In the wake of all of these and similar developments in other countries, world Jewry as a whole has begun to face the prospect of reinventing itself as old tasks and functions have become obsolete and new ones now demand attention. This report outlines the institutional and functional basis of the world Jewish polity today and proposes an institutional basis for restructuring the world Jewish arena based on the tasks and functions it must be prepared to undertake.

The Goals, Functions, and Principal Institutions
of the World Jewish Polity

The great practical questions of governance are:

  1. What should be done?
  2. Who should do it?
  3. How should it be done?
  4. In many cases, where should it be done?
  5. For or to whom?
  6. Who should pay for it?
  7. How should those involved in the foregoing work together to achieve common tasks?

Increasingly, the last is one of the most important questions. There is evidence that at least since the beginning of the modern epoch, with the growing interdependence of peoples and their institutions and societies, it has become even more complex.

Some Fundamentals

1.1 There is a world Jewish polity that is identifiable as such. It serves a Jewish population that has organized itself into a series of concentric circles, willy-nilly, consisting of all those in the world who subjectively define themselves as Jews or who are recognized as Jews by their respective communities. It is activated by those who are in some way affiliated with organized Jewry through some organization or institution and is led by those who are active in Jewish life in some way.

1.2 Those who are so connected, active in, or follow the activities of the organizations or institutions of the world Jewish polity do so on three planes. The first is through Jewishness or identification with the Jewish people. The second is local organizational affiliation with organizations that themselves are parts of the world Jewish network at one or more steps removed. The third consist of those who participate or follow the world Jewish arena.

1.3 Because of today's crisis of Jewish identity and survival, whereby the old religious and communal models are no longer compelling for so many people born Jews, a more or at least different associational model may be able to contribute something to the resolution of this problem. At least in part this model can be found through the fostering of a sense of Jewish citizenship, locally, countrywide, and worldwide.

2. There are several organized means of connecting with the world Jewish polity. The most common are the world associations of local and countrywide organizations. At the heart of the polity, however, are five entities: the government of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization, the Joint Distribution Committee, and the World Jewish Congress.

3. Many of the connections that hold the world Jewish polity together are non-organizational, including networks that involve international travel and telephoning by Jews to friends and family around the world, reading or watching Jewish printed or visual materials about different communities, ham radio connections and more recently satellites, fax, global Jewish computer communications and the like. All of these are important. Most are independent and few are subject to any kind of hierarchial structuring but remain networks whose use and entry is dependent upon voluntary choice by individuals.

4. The past century has seen a growing compression of the world into an ever smaller compass. Not only have travel and communications become easier and more widespread, but interdependence has grown by quantum leaps. This has implications for the Jewish people by increasing the ease of communication among Jews worldwide. The need for that communication is also greater since Jews are located in more places and farther apart geographically than ever before. At the same time, they are able to communicate with each other more easily than ever before and to be in touch with every part of the Jewish world almost instantaneously. More and more have connections throughout the Jewish world, or at least across long distances within in it. Increasingly individual Jews, Jewish families and Jewish communities are dependent upon resources in other communities whether it is religious direction from Israel or whether it is just for inspiration from the American Jewish experience, or whether it is an "Israel experience" as a means of strengthening Jewish identity.

5. Despite the plethora of organizations and organizational activities, a mojority of world Jewry seem to be unaware of them. For most Jews, knowledge of their local involvements is all they know about organized Jewish life, if that. In some cases, they also know about the countrywide confederations of organizations to which their local bodies, or the equivalent, belong. Relatively few even know of the existence of most of the institutions and organizations that guide the world Jewish polity and have even less knowledge of what they do, who their leaders are, and how they spend the funds available to them. It is a constant effort to acquaint them with even the bare minimum of knowledge required for anything that might be described as citizenship. A deliberate and assertive effort must be made to develop that sense of citizenship and provide the knowledge based upon which it must rest. It may be that even the emotional base will have to be strengthened because of the problems of assimilation abroad in the Jewish world today.

6. Nevetheless, an institutional structure has developed and has generated a network of linkage more or less involving most of the existing organizations and institutions. World Jewry functions even if its functioning is not widely understood by the Jews of the world. While a continuing effort must be made to acquaint more Jews with it, it will continue to function. Those involved in it must help it to function with the maximum possible democracy, efficiency, and effectiveness.

7. Not only is this necessary for the health of the Jewish people and its body politic but it has become increasingly reasonable in a world that has become fare more interconnected than ever before, where dispersed groups survive primarily by formal association and identification and all the informal elements that are part of both. Moreover, the world is more accepting of such phenomena as ethnicity that crosses state borders, national sentiment that is not limited to particular territories, and the existence and maintenance of state-diaspora relationships, all critical components of Jewish peoplehood or nationhood. The Jewish people now has a better opportunity to maintain worldwide unity than it has had since the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. It is up to the leaders and activists in the Jewish world, those who are connected or can be brought to consciousness of this new reality to make the most of it.

8. We can identify the following as the tasks and functions that are performed by the institutions which collectively provide the governance of the world Jewish polity. They are:

  1. nation-building
  2. the development of Israel
  3. relief and rescue of Jewish communities in need
  4. fighting anti-semitism
  5. representing collective Jewish interests in world affairs
  6. mobilization of leadership and activists to undertake these and other functions
  7. governance functions in the world Jewish polity
  8. assuring that there are appropriate bodies for the carrying on of the functions
  9. raising funds to cover the costs of these functions
  10. oversight of the organizations and institutions handling the functions
  11. developing appropriate inter-organizational relations both among the authorities that comprise the world Jewish polity and the local, countrywide, regional, and worldwide arenas.

9. These functions are divided among organizations and institutions operating in four different arenas local, countrywide, regional, and worldwide, either general purpose governance institutions or institutions and organizations specialized according to interests, territorial communities, subdivisions of the Jewish people, or functions.

10. The five major bodies of the world Jewish polity are:

  1. the government of the State of Israel
  2. the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)
  3. the World Zionist Organization (WZO)
  4. The World Jewish Congress (WJC)
  5. the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

They are constituted by or dependent on a number of other bodies, including other worldwide organizations, organizations with a certain worldwide character, some regional bodies, and individual country organizations.

To take one example, Keren HaYesod is nominally a division of the WZO that raises the funds in most of the world upon which the WZO and JAFI are quite dependent. One countrywide Jewish community, that of the United States, has reorganized outside of Keren HaYesod. The functions performed by the KH are performed in the United States by the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal, which serve the same backup purposes for JAFI, only with less focus on supporting the WZO and with full responsibility for funding the JDC. The UJA is a creature of two founding partners, the UIA and JDC, and works to collect funds through 200 plus local Jewish community federations. In fact, UJA has only limited responsibility for raising the funds. Most of the money is raised by the local federations coordinated overall by the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF). After funds are raised through the UJA and the local federations, they are transmitted to the two founding partners. When the funds are transferred to JAFI, oversight functions are placed in the hands of the United Israel Appeal. UIA is responsible for transmitting them to Israel and overseeing the way they are spent. In the other countries, the Jewish community fundraising for JAFI is conducted within the Keren HaYesod framework. Canada is the only major countrywide Jewish community to combine the Keren HaYesod and American systems. In Canada, the local federations raise the funds and transmit them to Canadian United Israel Appeal, which is formally a part of Keren HaYesod but actually quite independent in a manner similar to American UJA. In most countries, Keren HaYesod relies on a combination of external (Israeli) and internal fundraisers who conduct an annual campaign for Israeli (read WZO and JAFI) needs alone.

Or, to take another example, WJC is dependent upon the representative boards or their equivalents in the countries outside of the United States. There and in some other countries, out of necessity it operates on its own. Thus, for the most part, it is dependent upon the voluntary affiliation of these representative boards and voluntary membership in the other bodies for its constituency and on them and connected wealthy individuals for its funding.

11. Each of these inter-organizational arrangements is generally good. Their level of specialization generally is high enough to avoid extensive conflicts. However, cooperation between them often is antagonistic cooperation, at times reflecting a deeper underlying hostility that manifests itself on specific issues.

12. In addition, while the very top leadership of the Big Five overlaps considerably, as we move down into the lower ranks and out into their supporting organizations, specialization requires individual allocation of time and resources that place limits on other involvements, but in addition, talent, interest, and orientation play their role. Thus there are those leaders and activists who are particularly interested in specific fields of activity.

12.1 First of all, leaders of the State of Israel must live in Israel and have chosen to go into Israeli public life, which is party-political.

12.2 JAFI has leaders from the two channels of the partnership that govern it. One channel includes fundraisers, philanthropists, and community builders, and other, political activists. Those who seek to publicly represent the Jewish people and those who represent their organizations are significantly different types of leaders. There is a perennial tension between them that constantly must be overcome in an ad hoc way.

12.3 JDC voluntary leadership is essentially American (although the professional staff constitutes a world Jewish civil service), often involving people who either do not have the high interest in Israel or the resources to reach equivalent position in JAFI, as well as those who are especially interested in relief and rescue operations.

12.4 WZO leadership is more overtly political and is divided into four groups: those from Israel who are chosen by their political parties, those from the Zionist parties outside the United States who often hold leadership positions in their communities as well, those from the old line Zionist parties inside the United States who generally do not because they lack serious constituencies, and those representing organizations relatively newly affiliated with the WZO who do not see themselves as political in the classic party sense. Arza, Arzenu, Merkaz, WIZO, the World Sephardic Federation and the World Maccabi Union, all of which spread beyond the United States, are of the latter type. The fact that the WZO leadership is not monolithic should help encourage cooperation with the other partners.

12.5 WJC leadership is much less involved with JAFI, as such. They are primarily interested in Jewish foreign relations (anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, etc.). Unlike JDC and WZO, they are not very influential with regard to the State of Israel except at WZO's very highest levels. Their influence was much greater when the Communist bloc existed and so much of the Third World was closed to Israel. Now that the Communist bloc has collapsed, and opposition to Israel in the Third World has so much diminished, the representatives of the State of Israel undertake many of those tasks, and the WJC has had to search for new ones.

13. This group of organizations has developed on an ad hoc basis which, in every case, answered to certain objective and subjective needs developed over a period of at least 100 years or in some cases more. As such, it is not going to be easily changed and must serve as a starting point for any realistic changes that are proposed. On paper, the match between organizations and functions is quite good and there should be no problem in making it better. In reality, however, the problem is more difficult given the demands of leaders for power, prestige, and position which particularly in this network, often focus on the search for good publicity. This is generally true of the world of politics and voluntary organizations and particularly of Jewish organizations, where the competition for recognition is intense. It makes any rationalization or sorting out of functions especially difficult. Thus any recommendations designed to improve the present arrangements must be framed to consider not only objective issues of structure and function but also the political and psychological issues involved. The following options are designed to do that.


Our recommendations will encompass five sets of issues: 1) structural; 2) functional; 3) budgetary; 4) coordination; 5) consciousness-raising.

At this stage, we can suggest specifics only in connection with structural issues and can only do so in the following way:

  1. Present options and recommendations with regard to structural issues.
  2. Recommend the establishment of a representative commission to consider functional issues.
  3. Indicate that once the other issues are sufficiently resolved, it will be necessary to recommend appropriate steps to confront budgetary issues.
  4. Suggest lines for future development of coordination issues and recommend establishment of a representative commission to consider them in detail.
  5. Recommend the development of steps for raising the consciousness of Jews with regard to the world Jewish polity and their places as citizens within it.

Table 1 suggests a matrix of steps from conceptualization to implementation with regard to all five issues.

Table 1


Issues/Steps Concept Recommendations Acceptance Implementation
Structural JCPA Report JCPA Report Each Entity All Entities
Functional Representative Commission Representative Commission Majority of Entities All Entities
Budgetary Select Committee Select Committee Major Entities Major Entities
Coordination JCPA Report Representative Commission Each Entity All Entities
Consciousness Raising JCPA Report JCPA Report Majority of Entities Designated Entities

1. The most detailed recommendations are with regard to future structural arrangements necessary to improve the organization of the world Jewish polity. Here we have been able to give the matter considerable thought on the basis of our analysis and we suggest several options, each based on a different concept, and make recommendations according to each option. For all of these recommendations, all of the relevant entities will have to review them and negotiate their acceptance together and each will have to work to achieve their implementation.

2. With regard to the functional recommendations, on the basis of our findings we believe that whether by change or by design, the present distribution of functions is as adequate as any realistic alternative, hence we do not recommend any basic changes. At the same time, coordination can certainly be improved, especially with regard to the Commonwealth of Independent States, most especially between the Israeli government's Lishkat Ha-Kesher and JAFI. Moreover, once decisions are made in the structural arena, we recommend a representative commission should be established based upon the knowledgeable people involved in the problem, and that it should further review what is being done and what needs to be done in light of any changes in structure and/or in the field, and recommend what should be done and by whom. Acceptance of their recommendations will need to be by each entity -- if not every one, than a majority of them -- and all entities will have to be involved in implementation.

3. Our recommendation on budgetary issues is that a select committee be established including the voluntary and professional leaders of the entities involved plus some expert assistance to develop appropriate concepts of budgetary responsibility and to make recommendations for their achievement. Acceptance of those recommendations will essentially be the province of the major entities, those who provide the lion's share of the budget, but implementation will require all entities.

4. Issues of coordination are addressed in general terms in this report. It sets forth a concept of coordination that is essential for a world Jewish polity to function. A representative commission should be appointed at the appropriate time to take that concept in its fullness and from it derive recommendations for concrete steps to achieve greater coordination. Each entity will have to accept those recommendations and all will have to work together on their implementation.

5. Several recommendations are made with regard to citizenship and consciousness-raising. They will have to be fleshed out by educational experts in conjunction with selected leaders from each entity. All will then have to work together in their implementation. Thus this report should serve as the beginning of a process that will involve those entities that have a place in the world Jewish polity and their leaders in building the "final product" which, as in every other dynamic situation, will undoubtedly continue to develop after it is in place. This process should, however, lead to a new or modified "product" being put in place.

1. Structural Recommendations

Regarding the structural options, let us first summarize the conditions which the options have to reflect:

1.1 We have already identified the government of the State of Israel as the most powerful of the five organizations, controlling a politically sovereign state with all that entails, a budget incredibly larger than the total expenditures of all the rest, raised by taxation enforced by law, a growing share of the Jewish population of the world, and an ideology of centrality reinforced by appropriate beliefs as to Israel's centrality at present and its likely greater centrality in the future. On the other hand, as a politically sovereign state under present world conditions, Israel cannot serve the Jewish people in all of its needs to the satisfaction of all Jews. It has already been demonstrated that world Jewry cannot be mobilized unless it has a share of the action. It cannot have that share only through a functioning state which properly guards its political independence to the point where it has no room for seriously influential representation from the diaspora, even on the part of the Jews whom it considers part of its basic constituency.

2. By the same token, the World Jewish Congress cannot perform this integrating function even if it were totally rebuilt as an organization. It is the farthest removed from the other four in terms of its structure and functions and is essentially limited to representation and negotiation on issues of Jewish foreign policies. It is the least represented among the Big Five in other areas and has by far the smallest budget.

3. The World Zionist Organization is part of the Jewish Agency because in its entire history, it could not become the single or major representative of the Jewish people that its sought to be and is now far weaker as an organization than it was in the late 1920s or even the early 1970s.

4. Even the Joint Distribution Committee, whose budget is slightly more than a tenth of that JAFI, would be inappropriate in playing that integrative role. First of all, not only are the State of Israel and JAFI, which includes the WZO, far larger than the JDC, but the JDC is strictly an American organization and its voluntary leadership cannot be considered representative of the rest of world Jewry and certainly not of the State of Israel. If that were changed to make it more representative, it would suffer from the same problems as JAFI. Moreover, should the JAFI budget be shifted, in part, to the JDC, an appropriate enlarged structure would have to be established to manage it, probably including many of the same people who staff the structure of JAFI today.

5. This leaves the Jewish Agency for Israel. It has by far the largest budget of any voluntary Jewish organization in the world and, after the State of Israel the largest Jewish budget. It is the only body that is broadly representative, including senior Israeli politicians and community leaders from the diaspora. Although it does not formally include as many of the representative organizations designed to represent the Jews to the world as does the WJC, many such representatives have entered JAFI on the WZO side of the partnership. Thus the only potential candidate for playing the lead role in the world Jewish polity is JAFI unless there were to be a very substantial restructuring of organized world Jewry, designed from "on high" yet acceptable to bodies that clearly have their own purposes interests and the means to maintain themselves.

Our first recommendation then, is that we recognize JAFI's critical position at the nexus of the world Jewish network and play to its strengths in whatever is done, recognizing that JAFI is the principal body around which to leverage the rest of the network into more effective operations.

Option 1. Continue Incremental Development. One way to do that is to continue down the incrementalist path with more deliberate efforts on the basis of formal plans to develop the world Jewish polity. Had this been done earlier, it is very likely that such plans would have been resisted and had little success. Working on the kind of ad hoc, incrementalist basis that world Jewry has followed until now, has lead to substantial and often unrecognized progress. Had no World Zionist Organization been established in 1897, it is unlikely that the State of Israel would have been achieved. The establishment of the state in 1948 was clearly a prerequisite for what has developed worldwide by giving the Jewish people an anchor, a power position from which they could make other subsequent choices which not only focused their attention but inspired them to contribute to undertake a level of voluntary activity not seen elsewhere in the world. That includes the raising of the substantial funds which, although we know that they represent only a fraction of the potential available, still represent a level of voluntary contributions not hereto foreseen. Moreover, a viable sense of successful Jewish peoplehood was a direct result of the Zionist enterprise.

Meanwhile, the great migration of the Jewish people coupled with the destruction of the older European centers led most of the Jewish world, certainly all of its principal parts, to make a new beginning on an essentially equal basis to rebuild their local and countrywide communities. The consolidation of these new Jewries, in the interwar and the first postwar generations was a necessary preparatory step for beginning to develop world Jewish institutions. It was also during that period that the JDC, JAFI, WJC, Keren HaYesod, UIA, CJF, UJA and most of the federations in the United States were founded. Moreover, in many of the older communities, representative boards or the equivalent were also founded during this period. At the same time there was developed a slowly growing congeries of organizations and institutions for relief and redevelopment purposes in the diaspora and to fund the development of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and then in the state.

Still it was not until the 1970s that real steps could be taken to develop effective worldwide institutions that were truly multi-country or that substantial attention could be turned to those organizations and institutions that existed and relations among them strengthened on a coordinated basis. What we have now, has developed incrementally out of the foregoing experiences. It is not without its tensions and problems but assigned tasks are fulfilled and there is a reasonable amount of coordination. What is absent is a higher level of effectiveness where there is overlapping, and a lack of planning for the future which may or may not be possible.

Allowing things to develop on an incremental basis, then, is not unreasonable to avoid conflicts and will allow more people to achieve leadership positions and to specialize according to their interests and capabilities. They may not even cost appreciably more money, although presumably there are some savings to be gained through more coordination because it will spare the Jewish people the cost of maintaining the additional organizations that are inevitable under such circumstances. Even that is not certain since we now know that what might seem to be possible savings gained from consolidation of organizations are lost because other organizations have to become larger to take over their responsibilities and thus cost more, and not only a little bit. Larger organizations not only mean more staff and operating costs but also lead inevitably to more complex structures and those who are entrusted with managing those structures require larger salaries and stronger support staffs for increased responsibilities. So even what are apparently obvious savings are not in any respect guaranteed.

At the present time there are coordinating committees linking the institutions and organizations involved where there is a perceived need. One step might be to increase their number and give them more teeth. This could be done as part of incremental development. At the very least, there should be committees appointed by JAFI and every other organization within the network to enhance coordination in practical ways and it must be a very high level committee. The JAFI committee should be charged with budgetary oversight over JAFI allocations and JAFI transfers to other members of the network. Through the budgetary process, the committee should be empowered to examine connections.

Option 2. A Leadership Council for the Big Five. A second option would be to establish a leadership council involving the presidents of the four leading organizations an an equivalent figure from Israel, that can meet whenever is necessary to coordinate activities and whose unanimous decisions would be binding on all five organizations. The council should have a limited but well defined sphere of jurisdiction, a very small secretariate preferably located within the office of the secretary general of JAFI. The permanent members of the council should be able to delegate participation in meetings to appropriate senior officials of their organizations, either other ministers, or other officers, or directors-general. The directors-general themselves should form a parallel body which can meet more regularly. This option would allow incremental developments to continue to take place under monitored conditions and could provide for a greater measure of coordination and planning.

Option 3. An assembly of major world Jewish bodies should be established. This option would be modeled after the United Nations. It would have three principal governing institutions.

First would be an assembly of all the major Jewish world organizations. All organizations would be treated equally. They would meet once a year and discuss problems of worldwide Jewish concern and would recommend courses of action. The Assembly would be the equivalent of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The second body would be a leadership council equivalent to the UN Security Council. The five major organizations would be permanent members and a limited number of other members of the Assembly would be selected for set terms from different categories of organizations. Each category would have to agree among themselves as to who would be represented when. Each of the five permanent members could have, perhaps, limited veto powers that could suspend action on certain measures (e.g., a suspensive veto able to delay action for a year). This body would make actual decisions that would have to pass it with an appropriate majority, including the five current members and a majority of the rotating members. The five permanent members acting unanimously would have a veto.

The third institution would be the secretariat, headed by a secretary general with a small staff to undertake the business of the world body.

Option 4. Broadening JAFI. JAFI is undergoing a process of additional reorganization at this time, designed to expand the membership in each of its governing bodies to include other groups from the Jewish world. A fourth option would be to expand the JAFI governing institutions so as to include those organizations left out at present. Right now, the State of Israel and the World Zionist Organization are represented as are the fund-raising organizations and, through them, community representatives of those countries such as the United States and Canada. The JDC and the WJC are not formally represented although they are indirectly represented by voluntary leaders who are otherwise appointed. It would be necessary to include them in the JAFI executive as well as on the Board of Governors and the Assembly. Other organizations could be included in the Assembly and/or the Board of Governors. This would strengthen the appropriate existing institution and include the others within it. The question is can they achieve any discipline, even voluntary discipline among the member organizations and will the others accept JAFI's role in all of this. If they would, this would move along the whole process of building a world Jewish polity substantially.

Option 5. Strengthening the representational base of the world Jewish polity. Option five is predicated on the adoption of a combination of options three and four but with a system of representation based on countries and upon any existing organization. This system would involve one or another or some combination of two systems. The countrywide Jewish communities in the world would be represented in the governing bodies of JAFI, with the number of representatives from each based on their Jewish population. For example, for the Assembly there could be one representative per 50,000 Jews or major fraction thereof. Under this arrangement, in an Assembly of at least 300 members, American Jewry would have approximately 108 representatives, Israel 84, the United Kingdom 6, France 12, South Africa 2, Australia 2, and so on. Additional representatives could be allocated in three bases: fundraising achievements, a special bonus for Israel, and a bonus for a regional organization and cooperation. In other words, if the Jewish communities of the various republics that formerly comprise the Soviet Union and now comprising the CIS would come together in a single organization including their countrywide organizations, they would get some appropriate increase in their collective representation. The same would be true for the members of the European Community. If we assume a ten percent bonus for each, we would still have a smaller assembly than at present, no more than 350-400 members including fractional numbers. So we could actually lower the threshold of representation if we wished. Similar formulas could be devised for the Board of Governors. Within the larger country delegations, local communities and organizations could be represented with appropriate formulas. For example, it would still be possible to maintain the division between the WZO, UJA and Keren HaYesod if deemed desirable. Representation could be broadened and the formula could include representation of organizations as well.

Under either of the Jewish Agency-centered options, JAFI's role has to be expanded to at least provide some kind of financial support for the functions of the other Big Five organizations in such a way that would guarantee the appropriate primacy of the organization in its proper sphere(s). Thus JDC would retain primary responsibility for relief and rehabilitation, WJC primary responsibility for the fight against anti-Semitism, with other Jewish problems "allocated" to the appropriate functional bodies.

2. Functional, Budgetary, and Coordinative Recommendations

2.1 The functions of the world Jewish polity should be those matters of worldwide concern for the Jewish people or those aspects of Jewish concerns that have a worldwide or substantial multi-country dimension. Most of them are identified among the eleven listed earlier. In an immediate sense, very little needs to be done to change this list. However, there does need to be a reordering of some of the priorities on it.

For the moment, for example, the development of Israel is becoming more a responsibility of the government of Israel and private enterprise within the state or outside of it and seems likely to need less public investment. Indeed, the public bodies engaged in developmental tasks in the past often give the appearance of looking around for new projects of dubious economic and even less esthetic or environmental value in order to keep themselves alive. Since Israel has been the subject of a substantial push from diaspora Jewry, especially American Jewry, toward privatization, it would be a mistake for primarily diaspora-funded Jewish public bodies to insist on playing a greater role in development efforts than is warranted for the sake of self-preservation, especially since the major public role, that of planning and developing infrastructure and maintaining certain environmental and social controls, is best, and indeed can only be undertaken by the governments of Israel.

Relief and rescue operations, on the other hand, will continue to be a Jewish people-wide responsibility, subject to new considerations, the extent to which such operations will be needed at any given time, and the ability of the various instrumentalities of the Jewish people to coordinate their activities and share in the effort. There a major effort must be made to improve the present situation. It is to be hoped that any restructuring of the world Jewish polity would have that in mind as one of its principal objectives.

One of the few functional areas to which the major institutions of the world Jewish polity have given too little support and in recent decades even less than in an earlier period culminating at the 1950s, is that of Jewish culture and higher education. This is partly because other tasks have been more urgent, partly because the leaders of the world Jewish polity after 1970 have not always been as capable as they could or should be in appreciating the importance of Jewish culture and higher education. It has taken them more than a little time to realize that there is a role for the world Jewish polity to play in improving Jewish education at lower levels and even there much needs to be done to appropriately define and delineate the worldwide functions of the world Jewish polity in connection with pre-school, elementary, and secondary Jewish education.

Even less has been done with regard to higher or tertiary Jewish education and culture. In a sense this is ironic because those are the two functions that are most appropriately worldwide in scope and lend themselves to worldwide efforts because local and countrywide efforts, except in a very few Jewish communities, have been too weak in and of themselves or relying on their own resources. It is true that certain limited efforts have been made within the world Jewish polity, whether in connection with the establishment, support, and governance of the universities in Israel or with organizations such as the World Union for Jewish Studies, the International Center for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, or the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. All except the last, however, have been initiatives from outside of the mainstream of the world Jewish polity. The first has never acquired the recognition it should have from the polity's leaders, the second at one point had a modest amount of recognition but has not been supported appropriately, even in consideration of the limited resources available, while the third was essentially a one-time effort that continues to exist on the momentum of that effort but is constantly being reduced in significance for budgetary reasons alone. Some of the slack has been taken up by private bodies, especially private foundations, Jewish organizations on a local or countrywide basis or outside of the Big Five in the world arena, or even by non-Jewish sources. But this is not adequate and more of an effort must be made on the part of the mainstream institutions of the world Jewish polity themselves if that polity is to be more than simply a congeries of institutions concerned with Jewish survival and will also be concerned with the quality of Jewish life.

JAFI in particular could take a more active role in higher education and culture and should. The WZO used to and indeed in the 1970s launched a number of major initiatives in the higher education and cultural spheres. Most if not all have since perished because of changes in leadership whose interests have differed and reductions in available funding. If WZO no longer has the funds to undertake these tasks, then JAFI must. The JDC could expand its role as provider of seed money in these areas.

Our second recommendation is to establish a task force of professionals and voluntary leaders, with a few knowledgeable academics to determine what is not being done under the present system and what needs to be done, or needs to be done better. Because we see the many places and situations where various institutions and organizations are rubbing against each other, what we might call "squeak points," and we see how so many decisions are made on a political (not necessarily a partisan but not according to any "objective" standards either) basis, we assume that there are truly problematic areas of operations or functions not undertaken. However, these are feelings, frequently born out of frustration. We do not really know if there are such problems.

Table 2


Functions Is now Should be
Relief and Rescue GOI*, JAFI, JDC Same
Defense (Physical
and Anti-semitism
Education GOI, JAFI, JDC, WZO Same
Social Welfare GOI, JAFI, JDC Same
Building Israel's Economy (Development) GOI, JAFI, JDC, WZO Same
Religious GOI, JAFI, JDC, WZO Same
Interest Aggregation GOI, WZO, WJC Same
*GOI - Government of Israel

In recent years research, for this project and others that we have undertaken in related areas and in political science, public administration, and economics on equivalent topics, indicates that these major problems are normal problems of power and prestige that manifest themselves in any political arena and which occur between departments within organizations, perhaps less visibly, as well as between organizations and institutions where they become more visible because they are more exposed. These are matters of cultural rather than structural change and maybe even personality change in some cases, if they are subject to change at all. Certain kinds of structures will tend to minimize them and others to maximize them, but we find little or no evidence of either kind of structural impact in this case, especially since in many cases these political, cultural and personality-based tensions and squeak points are given a certain added meaning or momentum because of real ideological differences which, however papered over by a certain rhetoric of partnership, still do exist and are very real.

This taskforce will need to look not only at the functional questions per se but also at budgetary issues and issues of coordination that accompany them. How will we pay for what we do? How much should we pay for different functions, at least in what proportions? And given the fact that different bodies will be involved in administering the same functions or providing the same services, how are they best coordinated?

In a sense this can only be done once the structural relationship has been agreed upon and the appropriate bodies buy into it. In part, however, even these structural arrangements may depend upon certain guidelines for the functional, budgetary, and coordinative frameworks.

3. Consciousness-Raising

3.1 A serious effort must be made to develop a sense of citizenship in the world Jewish polity among Jews. This must be done not only by placing a greater emphasis on Jewish education, but especially by emphasizing civic education including more knowledge about how the world Jewish polity and its components work. It should be presented in such a way that it will generate a sense of excitement about it and interest in being part of it.

3.2 More effort needs to be put into fostering personal connections and communications across the world Jewish polity. This includes support for "Israel Experience" programs of all kinds and for all ages. It also includes investment in improving the global Jewish computer network, a global television network, and global satellite communications among other things.

How to Proceed

After a series of consultations with the principals involved, essentially the Big Five plus whatever representatives of their constituents and affiliates they want to bring in, a working conference on the future of the world Jewish polity should be called at which time there should be review of this report and a discussion of the options presented. The conference should be held in Jerusalem, preferably in July 1994, perhaps following the Jewish Agency Assembly. Invited should be the leaders of the various principal organizations, academic specialists, and various other civic and economic leaders or activists of the Jewish people. The number should be kept limited so that the group will have a chance to have serious discussions and an exchange of views hopefully with the point of reaching some kind of consensus as to how to proceed further.

There should then be a period in which the representatives of the various bodies involved should have a chance to discuss the results of the conference with their respective bodies in preparation for a larger congress or assembly to be called by the President of Israel, thereby lending it the authority of the state for what should be the first concrete, formal steps toward whatever kind of reconstitutive act will emerge. That congress should be broader-based, with representatives from all the relevant countries, communities and organizations. At that point, if the congress produces acceptable results, such meetings and negotiations as are necessary can be pursued through the usual manner.


State and Diaspora in a Renewed Jewish Polity

The Jewish people is a great people that too often confounds those who know it with its intimacy and localisms. It is global in scope and all too often parochial in content. It transcends time and space, yet its members and leaders operate as if they were all sitting around a kitchen table among family. Its true character is embodied in these paradoxes. Here we will look at the organizational dynamics of the world Jewish polity and its communities in the post-World War II period, one and a half generations into the postmodern epoch.

State and Diaspora: World Jewry in the New World Context

The environment of the contemporary Jewish polity is marked by the twin realities of restored Jewish statehood and an extensive Jewish diaspora based upon voluntary community structures transformed by modernization, especially in the post-World War II era. It is easy to describe these as twin poles -- the state and the diaspora -- but that is oversimplified. The diaspora itself is too variegated to fit under one label. In addition, too many diaspora communities are dependent upon the state for their Jewish survival. Too many Jews in the state look to the diaspora communities for support or opportunity in one way or another. On one hand, the two are very different in their structures, in their functions, and in their concerns -- a difference which at least at the moment is growing. At the same time, both the positive and negative trends in contemporary Jewish life shape elements of the population in both to the point where serious Jews in both have more in common with each other than they have with their less seriously Jewish brethren.

Moreover, both state and diaspora are being affected by the larger world, by the new postmodern phenomenon of the changing state system. We are in a period in which the modern ideal of the nation state has been eroded by a reality in which there are very few true nation-states in the world. The old view is giving way to the idea of the citizen-state in which all those legitimately located within the state's territory expect equal standing and entitlement. In an era of welfare state humanism, the citizen state is further giving away to the service state, whereby anybody who is found within the boundaries of a particular state and has normal human needs, has a certain entitlement to having those needs met as part of his or her human (as distinct from political) rights. These needs have been variously defined, ranging from basic health care to more far-reaching entitlements.

This new situation has dual consequences for the Jewish people. In the diaspora it means that Jews may more freely make their Jewishness a major focus of their identity. Hence we have moved from the days when the French Revolution began the emancipation of Europe's Jews with the slogan "to the Jews as men, everything; to the Jews as Jews, nothing," to a postmodern version of the Hellenistic politeuma, a polity within a polity, for those who want it. Those diaspora Jews who want to are developing a kind of dual citizenship as citizens of the states of which they are a part and at the same time citizens of the Jewish people. On the other hand, for those Jews who want to assimilate fully or partially, who ignore their Jewishness and do not seek Jewish ties, they are able to do so with impunity. No pressure, or at least very little, will be applied on them to identify as Jews, not only in the New World where significant pressure to remain Jewish has never been a reality, but also in the Old World where it was until very recently.

This new phase unquestionably has been stimulated by the existence of the State of Israel in both positive and negative ways: positively because Israel has provided a new national focus for Jewish identity to challenge the strictly religious focus which had become the accepted understanding of Judaism on the part of both Jews and gentiles in the Emancipation era, and negatively by focusing the attention of the enemies of the Jews on the Jewish people as a whole whom they see as serving the State of Israel wherever Jews are found.

While this new situation has strengthened the diaspora's recognition of the necessity to maintain its ties with Israel and its legitimate ability to do so, it is also beginning to challenge the very foundations of the Jewish state in the sense that the world, especially the West, is becoming less and less willing to accept the idea of a national state on more than merely circumstantial grounds, that is to say, one that serves and represents a particular ethnic, religious, or cultural group because they represent the predominant population locally. The legitimacy of a state to provide special support to maintain the identity of the dominant ethnic group, especially when a religious component is involved in that effort, is increasingly suspect. Ten years ago, these were merely dark clouds on Israel's horizon, but now they have come closer as the peace process has made Israel, as a state deemed to be Western, that looks to the West, and is engaged in a struggle with another nation that challenges the very existence of Jewish nationality, particularly vulnerable to the consequences of this trend.

At the same time, as Israel becomes more a part of the common world culture, its own Jews have more choice as to whether to be Jewish in any significant way or to treat their Jewishness merely as an accident of birth. The very Jewishness of Israel as a Jewish state has been challenged from within as well as from without as many Jews, especially the most vociferous ones, follow a common modern penchant of some Jews to think of themselves as universal men, part of a world civilization, and to dismiss their Jewishness as at most incidental and at worst a burden. The reconciliation of Jews and Arabs that is presently taking place only reinforces the possibility of making that choice in Israel as well as in the rest of that world.

Kinship and Consent: The Shape of the Postmodern Polity

Today new voices have been raised claiming that we have reached "the end of history," not as Hegel saw it but in the incipient triumph of the liberal democratic political order. As Jews who have witnessed several putative ends to history, we have in every case wisely recognized that the Messianic Age is yet to come, so we are not likely, at least as a collectivity, to be taken in by this latest proclamation of the end. Nor is it entirely certain that the world political order will end in the liberal democratic model as it developed in the modern epoch. The postmodern polity seems to be not only a matter of consenting individuals living within the framework of a political compact designed to protect their rights, but one in which there has been a revival of the political interests of primordial groups. The new political structures now developing are faced with the problem of combining kinship and consent. The demands of primordial groups for a political role within a democratic state must at some point involve a more complex political compact combining individual and group rights, what is sometimes referred to these days as a social contract. Each polity will have to make its own combination of the two.

The new world Jewish polity begins, as in the past, with the kinship of all Jews. Today, however, if not in earlier times, we must understand that the primordial group can only exist as a polity by virtue of the consent of its members to recognize their obligations to each other and to it. Primordial ties still link the Jews of Israel with those of the diaspora, but increasingly those ties will and must rely upon consent as well. Jews always have been and remain a covenantal people, whose political and social compacts somehow fall within the framework of the classic covenants of Jewish peoplehood. Thus it is not surprising that the religious bond remains the most powerful one in two senses: as the one with the widest reach and at the same time the one that provokes the most intense commitment. On one hand, some two-thirds of the Jews in the world identify themselves through religious ties, however casual. On the other, the centers of Jewish energy today are increasingly to be found among those who are zealously religious.

At the same time, the bonds uniting Jews continue to be more than religious. We nominally refer to them as national and cultural. In fact, all three are outgrowths of a kind of tribal sense of kinship which survives among very sophisticated people as a powerful force based on perceived collective experiences. In today's world, the Jews benefit from the trend which once again recognizes the legitimacy and appropriateness of primordial ties. At the same time, today's world demands that every individual be free to choose whether or not he or she will accept the bonds of his or her primordial group. If they wish, they can choose for themselves a different set of ties. We see this most clearly in the not-immediately-political realm of intermarriage. Jews and non-Jews are making choices, mostly by default, regarding their links with the Jewish people. This is a phenomenon that will not go away unless, Heaven forbid, Jews once again become such a pariah people that none will have us. In a world which hallows individual choice, nothing -- not religion, not culture, not nationality -- can prevent a significant amount of intermarriage and other forms of shifting identities once there is propinquity between Jews and non-Jews.

How is the Jewish polity to cope with this? It is, in essence, a crisis of citizenship. Just when it is possible to think of oneself as a citizen of a world Jewish polity even outside of Israel, the very underpinnings of Jewish citizenship are being eroded and the Jewish polity must confront the question of how it copes with that reality.

Citizenship is one of the two great constitutional problems of the contemporary world Jewish polity. The other is organizational. How does the Jewish polity foster a sense of Jewish citizenship? In part by creating an organizational framework through which the various segments of the Jewish people will remain linked to one another at a time when their ways of life are so different, of institutions which can be mobilized to foster a sense of Jewish citizenship among those eligible or who need to be made eligible.

Pluralism and Federalism:
Constitutional Constraints on Excessive Diversity

If being Jewish has moved from a matter of inevitability to a matter of choice, it is a choice made increasingly through pluralistic forms. This, too, is not surprising. In the general world, pluralism has become accepted as a desideratum. Pluralism is a reality among Jews as well, though not all Jews accept its legitimacy. On the other hand, pluralism cannot and should not be an end in itself. It is too amorphous and has no standards other than the norm of plural expression itself -- any claim for the right of self-expression becomes as legitimate as any other, a position incompatible with Judaism or any monotheistic religion which, by its very nature, is based on certain norms. In the general world, increasingly pluralism is both maintained and harnessed through federalism, through the structured organization of power on the basis of combining self-rule and shared rule, through multiple centers of power and self-expression linked constitutionally within appropriate common frameworks. In terms of formal political institutions, the federalist revolution is sweeping the world; some 70 percent of the world's population now lives within federal systems or in political systems partially utilizing federal arrangements.

Beyond the organizational dimension, the world may also be discovering the virtues of federal liberty as opposed to the deficiencies of natural liberty. In the case of the latter, everyone is presumed to be able to do as he or she pleases, subject only to the constraints of nature and the problems of hurting others; in practice a form of moral anarchy, made particularly problematic by the fact that most of the time we cannot know if our actions are hurting others. Under conditions of federal liberty, on the other hand, people come together and bind themselves by covenant to a particular moral and civil order and then are free to live up to the terms of the covenant. Federal liberty is the liberty advocated by the great modern political thinkers and statesmen who were quite aware of the problems of democracy where natural liberty prevailed. A Jewish polity, committed as it is to the basic norms of Jewish civilization, can only survive on the basis of federal liberty.

Pluralism is a reality for Jews. Federal liberty is part of the historic Jewish heritage since it represents the biblical understanding of liberty. So, too, are federal institutions, beginning in the biblical days of the tribal federation. Today the Jewish people is reconstituting its polity along federal lines because it must. Many voices in Israel still talk in centralistic terms, seeing Israel as a kind of queen bee, an unrestrictedly dominant center to which diaspora Jews will pay homage and bring their checks. (In most cases these same Jews want Israel to be internally centralized as well by restricting or eliminating serious local liberty and pluralism.) In fact, however, the demographic character of the world Jewish polity is such that the world's largest Jewish community is in the diaspora in what is still the world's most powerful country. Other diaspora communities, even if far less powerful than the American Jewish community, still make their own choices. What has developed as a result is an institutional means of accommodating the reality of a politically sovereign state and a highly disparate group of voluntary diaspora communities. The result is a network of multi-country Jewish organizations, the most important of which is the Jewish Agency for Israel, the fulcrum of the emerging network.

This new organizational network is vital because as in most such things, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. An organized framework and institutional structure adds a focus and drive that unorganized numbers cannot. On the other hand, organization is not enough. In a world in which the growth of expectations for individual self-fulfillment in place of collective goals is the norm, not only are organizational structures but federal liberty itself at risk. Some of the consequences for Jews have been well noted. Assimilation, demographic decline, secularization, and, on the other hand, religious extremism are all matters about which much has been said and written. Despite the progress we have made organizationally, our polity seems to rest on a bed of shifting sand. In a sense, it is up to the organizational network of the polity to put roots down into the sand so as to hold those shifting sands together.

Critical to these changes are the power shifts that have taken place in the world in the wake of World War II. Power has shifted from Europe to what were formerly the peripheries of Europe, including the United States of America, the former Soviet Union, and now Japan and East Asia. For Jews, power has shifted from Europe to Israel, North America, and the English-speaking Southern Hemisphere. Thus, of the ten largest countrywide Jewish communities in the world, only two are on the European continent, exclusively in Europe, while six are located in lands that 150 years ago had less Jews than a middle sized city in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.

The Spread of Organized Jewish Life

Although 90 percent of all Jews in the world live in the 11 largest countrywide communities, between 85 and 94 countries have organized Jewish communal life. At least 80 have permanent communities, that is to say, indigenous Jews who apparently have no intention of leaving the country and maintain communal institutions. Up to another 14 have transient ones, that is to say, outposts of Israel or American Jewry whose Jews originate in one or both of those countries and are there on a temporary basis for diplomatic, business, or military reasons, yet maintain some form of Jewish communal life for themselves. There are another 21 countries known to have Jewish residents but no organized Jewish community life. No doubt there are Jews to be found in other countries as well, if one were to look more closely, but they need not concern us here.

Almost all of these communities have undergone reconstitution since World War II and many underwent an earlier reconstitution during the modern epoch. Especially in the not quite 200 years covered by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jewish communities throughout the world went from organic to associational ones in their structure, that is to say, from communities organized by those born into them along traditional lines to ones organized along formal lines as a modern voluntary or quasi-voluntary associations whose members choose to identify with them on an individual basis.

Five forms of association emerged during the modern epoch. The consistoire model in France and the French-speaking countries; the cultesgemeinde model in Germany and the German-speaking countries; the united congregations plus a representative board model of the United Kingdom and the British Empire; the independent congregational model of the United States; and the landsmanschaften plus kehillah model of Latin America. Worldwide, the nineteenth century saw the reemergence of a civil structure for the Jewish polity, initially in the form of a network of shtadlanim, then through several shtadlanic organizations led by the Alliance Israelite Universelle, and finally in the form of mass-based organizations claiming to speak in the name of world Jewry, of which the first and most successful was the World Zionist Organization. The WZO gave birth to three of the four others that today form the pentagon of the world Jewish polity: the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the World Jewish Congress. Each of these was an adaptation to the conditions of modernity in its particular environment.

In the postmodern epoch, which can be said to have begun in 1948 with the reestablishment of the State of Israel, all of these underwent a further reconstitution. First and foremost was the emergence of the renewed Jewish state which by its nature became the most important Jewish community and a dominant, if not the dominant, player in the world Jewish polity. In each diaspora community there was a double movement to eliminate whatever non-voluntary arrangements remained from the modern epoch and toward federated models of community organization, locally and countrywide.

In the United States, for example, by now the largest and most powerful diaspora community, the independent congregational framework remained but within an overarching structure dominated by powerful local community federations that provided or supported the provision of almost all non-congregational services within each local community and were responsible for raising the major share of the funds for Israel and Jewish communal needs. These local community federations were linked through the Council of Jewish Federations, which became extremely powerful in relation to the United Jewish Appeal, the United Israel Appeal, and the Joint Distribution Committee, as well as the various "national" organizations serving American Jewry countrywide, some of which were actually initiated by CJF.

These new federated structures emphasized the civil rather than the religious dimension of Jewish life. The transition was particularly evident in France (and other consistorial countries) where the Consistoire, which once had a near monopoly on Jewish life, with government backing, had to share power first with the CRIF, the representative board of French Jewry for community relations purposes founded at the height of World War II, and later with the Fonds Social Juif Unifie, initiated as the major social service and fundraising body of French Jewry with the assistance of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the aftermath of the war. The rise to power of the federation movement in the United States and the FSJU in France reflected the shift within the civil sector from political and community relations bodies to social service and fundraising institutions, often with the active support of Israel. This shift was to make itself manifest in the emergent world Jewish polity.

The relative position of communities like Great Britain, where such a shift did not take place and the religious bodies, on one hand, and representative boards, on the other, retained leading roles, declined. In countries like South Africa, where the South African Jewish Board of Deputies managed to secure a major role in fundraising for Jewish purposes, Jewish education, and social service delivery, the transformation assured the continued hegemony of the representative board. The communities of Central Europe, which had always been more comprehensive, did not have this problem of adaptation. To them the real problem was the shift from government-supported to voluntary structures.

At the beginning of the second postwar generation, even the Latin American Jewish communities began to move toward federated models, linking first the various country-of-origin communities and increasingly the network of schools and community centers that were coming to represent the heart of the community. More secular than any other set of Jewish communities in the free world, they had almost no congregational structures to contend with in the organizational realm. Rather, they had powerful older elements from the immigrant days, based on countries-of-origin, the division between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and to some extent the political divisions among the Jews who settled in them.

The Domains of Authority in the Jewish Polity

Since the very beginning of the Jewish polity in biblical times, authority and power within it have been divided among three domains, referred to since the Second Commonwealth as the keter torah (literally, the crown or domain of Torah), keter kehunah (the crown of priesthood), and keter malkhut (the crown of civil rule). Keter torah, initially the domain through which God's word could be communicated to the Jewish people, became over time the domain which controlled the interpretation and explication of the constitutional foundations of the Jewish polity (Adat Bnai Yisrael in the Bible). Originally the domain of the Prophets, it later became the domain of the sages and rabbinical authorities. The keter kehunah, originally the domain of a hereditary priesthood and since the destruction of the Temple the domain of religious officiants of all kinds, developed into the channel through which the people reached out from their immediate personal and collective concerns to the transcendent Power. The keter malkhut, originally in the hands of elders and magistrates (zekenim and nesiim), then judges and kings (shoftim and melakhim), and after that patriarchs (nesiim) and parnasim, was the domain responsible for handling the civil affairs of Adat Bnai Yisrael.

These domains have undergone many adaptations in the long course of Jewish history but they have continued to constitute the basic framework for the institutions of the Jewish polity and power-sharing within those institutions. No Jewish community can exist as a fully articulated community without them. Even where individual congregations constitute the community, they are governed by rabbis (keter torah), congregational boards (keter malkhut), and hazanim (keter kehunah) through power-sharing arrangements of one kind or another.

In today's large communities, these ketarim are represented by complex institutions and institutional networks. In France, for example, where matters are relatively simple, the FSJU and the CRIF constitute the keter malkhut; the Consistoire and other synagogue federations, the keter kehunah; and the Chief Rabbi, the keter torah. The same pattern exists in Great Britain with the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Welfare Board, the United Synagogue, and the other synagogue federations, and the Chief Rabbi and batei din occupying the three ketarim, respectively. In the United States, matters are more complicated but the division is equally clear. The keter malkhut consists of the local federations and their countrywide expressions. The keter kehunah consists of the local congregations and their countrywide congregational bodies, and the keter torah, of the great rabbis, seminaries, and academic institutions serving the community.

Israel, too, in effect maintains this three-fold division. We can view the civil governmental institutions of the state as the keter malkhut, the local religious councils as the keter kehunah, and the chief rabbis and batei din as the keter torah. In sum, while, from the political perspective, the State of Israel has a fully articulated set of institutions similar to those of other states, from a Jewish perspective its civil institutions are principally those of the keter malkhut, while, because of the special character of the state as a Jewish state, there are important state-sponsored and quasi-state institutions giving expression to the other two ketarim as well. As in the past, expressions of the keter kehunah are overwhelmingly local in both Israel and the diaspora.

For over half a millennium prior to the nineteenth century, the full articulation of these domains was principally local, occasionally countrywide. After the final collapse of the Islamic empire in the eleventh century, the world Jewish polity existed only as a network of posekim within the keter torah.

Only in the nineteenth century were the Jews successful in beginning the reconstitution of a more articulated institutional structure for the edah, through the keter malkhut whose role was strengthened by the breakup of the unity of the keter torah as a result of religious reform, on one hand, and the emergence of countervailing ultra-Orthodoxy, on the other. In the course of the twentieth century, the fragmentation of the keter torah continued while the power of the keter malkhut was strengthened immeasurably by the establishment of the State of Israel and the emergence of corresponding bodies as dominant in the diaspora communities. The end of the first postwar generation brought with it a major step forward in the institutional concretization of the world Jewish polity through the reconstitution of the Jewish Agency for Israel, clearly an instrumentality of the keter malkhut. Not only did these changes involve a series of local reconstitutions but they marked a millennial shift in the distribution of authority and power within the Jewish polity. That shift is connected with the general reconstitution of the polity as a whole. To the extent that Jewish unity could only be maintained through the keter malkhut, that keter was strengthened within the overall framework of the Jewish polity. Thus the reconstitution of the Jewish polity in our times has been accompanied by a millennial shift of the balance of power from the keter torah to the keter malkhut in all three arenas of Jewish political organization -- local, countrywide, and edah-wide.

From another perspective, four types of institutions have emerged in the diaspora. Most comprehensive are the government-like institutions, such as the local and countrywide community federations dealing with fundraising and social planning, the representative boards and community relations organizations dealing with external relations, local and countrywide boards of Jewish education, and similar organizations for assisting Israel. Parallel to them are localistic institutions, such as congregations and community and sports centers catering to the more immediately personal needs of Jews.

In addition there are general-purpose mass-based organizations which often seek to gain control of the government-like institutions, to give them a particular direction or ideological content, as in the case of the Zionist parties, or which have fraternal, educational, or social welfare purposes such as B'nai B'rith. Finally there are special-interest institutions and organizations devoted to very specific tasks such as individual schools, yeshivot, and rabbinical seminaries, hospitals, and health and welfare institutions. Most of these are local but some serve larger regional and countrywide constituencies.

Most of the institutions within this four-fold division fall within the keter malkhut, though in some cases, such as religious congregations, schools and yeshivot, they include institutions of the other two ketarim as well. In this sense the four-fold division reflects both the persistence of the ketarim as active domains and the new balance among them in contemporary Jewish life.

The Operational Spheres of the Edah

These institutions operate in the three principal arenas of the edah -- local, countrywide, and edah-wide -- where they also can be grouped according to spheres of activity. The most locally based of these is the religious-congregational sphere, anchored in individual synagogues but extending beyond that to countrywide religious institutions including religious movements, rabbinical seminaries, and batei din, and finally to the world synagogue movements, initially paper organizations, but since the World Zionist Organization opened its doors to them by encouraging them to establish Zionist parties to speak in the name of each movement, they, too, are becoming actors on the world Jewish stage.

A second sphere is the educational-cultural sphere which includes those instrumentalities of Jewish education and culture -- local, countrywide, and edah-wide. Schools, libraries, camps, ulpanim, Jewish studies programs, informal educational efforts, grounded in local communities but initiated and supported with the assistance of countrywide and edah-wide bodies, in the latter case, particularly the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. In this sphere, too, are the museums, theaters, art galleries, publishing houses, and the like that emphasize Jewish and Hebrew culture.

In the diaspora, the educational-cultural sphere serves as something of a bridge between the institutions and movements of the religious-congregational sphere which have a great stake in Jewish education, and the third sphere, the communal-welfare sphere, which speaks in the name of the total Jewish community. It has already been noted that the centers of communal power in the diaspora have moved into the communal-welfare organizations. That sphere has taken up a critical framing role in every arena of the edah. It includes the Jewish community federations, the FSJU, those representative boards engaged in internal communal governance and in the provision of social services to their community, as well as the institutions that actually provide the social services -- Jewish community centers, Jewish family service organizations, hospitals, old age homes, and the like. In many communities the communal-welfare sphere is predominantly countrywide in character although, as in the case of most of Jewish life, there is a heavy local tilt in it as well. It is perhaps least manifested as a sphere in the edah as a whole, although bodies like the JDC constitute its edah-wide manifestation.

External relations constitutes a fourth sphere, including all those institutions and organizations serving the Jewish people in their relations with the non-Jewish world, ranging from local Jewish community relations councils to countrywide organizations such as the CRIF in France, the Board of Deputies in Great Britain, and the "national" community relations organizations in the United States (e.g., NJCRAC, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith). Edah-wide, the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist Organization, and the State of Israel are the pillars of this sphere.

Finally, there is the Israel-edah sphere which includes those comprehensive institutions designed to deal with Israel and the edah as a whole. The first and foremost of these is, of course, the State of Israel itself. Along with it is the network whose fulcrum is the Jewish Agency for Israel and includes the World Zionist Organization, the Magbiot (United Jewish Appeal, United Israel Appeal, Keren Hayesod), the Jewish National Fund, the various other national institutions serving the Jewish people as a whole, and bodies such as the World Jewish Congress and the JDC. It is this sphere which is presently in the process of being institutionalized more comprehensively than at any time since the days of the resh galuta and gaonim in Babylonia came to an end 1,000 years ago. These spheres acquired separate articulation in the course of the past century. Prior to 1948, they were substantially separate in their operations. Since then they have been growing closer together, following the general patterns of institutional linkage in the late twentieth century. Today the activities of each generate externalities having real consequences for the others even as the spheres themselves remain distinct within the new institutional complex of the edah.

The Renewed World Jewish Polity

Guiding and shaping the reemergence of a world Jewish polity is the principal constitutional and organizational task of our generation. In the mid-nineteenth century, leading Jewish figures in the various European countries of the Emancipation such as Adolph Criemieux in France and Sir Moses Montefiore in Britain assumed the role of shtadlanim, using their influence, backed by the governments of their respective countries acting for their own reasons of state, to try to alleviate the conditions of Jews in those countries not yet emancipated. They formed a network that represented the first visible contemporary expression of the keter malkhut edah-wide. With the founding of the Alliance Israelite Universalle in 1860 and continuing through the founding of similar organizations in the other countries of Western Europe and the United States, the work of these shtadlanim was institutionalized in what we might call shtadlanic organizations, dominated by local notables, that cooperated with each other to try to achieve the security goals of the Jewish people.

In the late nineteenth century, there was a popular revolt against domination of Jewish affairs by shtadlanim. This revolt was manifested in organizations such as the Jewish Workers Bund and more importantly the World Zionist Organization, whose efforts to capture the communities is a well-known chapter of Zionist history and which in a larger sense had to do with the struggle over how the world Jewish polity would be reconstituted. In World War I, the World Zionist Organization won a major victory as a result of the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Eretz Israel. While it was not yet able to speak in the name of a majority of the Jewish people, it became the driving force for Jewish national self-expression. In the interwar period it struggled with the JDC, the final organizational product of the emancipationist worldview, founded in the U.S. in 1914 to coordinate American Jewish rescue workers in World War I. Recognizing its limits outside of the sphere of rebuilding the Jewish national home in Palestine, it gave birth to the World Jewish Congress in 1936 to extend its reach to the fight against anti-Semitism in the diaspora as Nazism reached its peak.

World War II and the Holocaust gave Zionism its triumph under tragic circumstances. All other Jewish organizations, with one or two minor exceptions, joined with the WZO to secure the establishment of the state. With its establishment, the state became the dominant actor in the world Jewish polity, but it was limited by its obligations as a politically sovereign state and by the reluctance of the diaspora leaders as citizens of their own states to commit their communities to its direction.

The problem of linking a politically sovereign state and voluntary diaspora communities required an institutional solution of its own. The World Zionist Organization and its creature, the Jewish Agency for Israel, which had been founded in 1929 pursuant to the terms of the British Mandate, led the Yishuv in the 1930s and 1940s and then gave way to the government of the state after 1948. During most of the first generation of the new state, the WZO and JAFI languished as the state's arm for mobilizing diaspora funding for the absorption of immigrants, but, in time, they came to provide a basis for the new institutional structure.

After the Six-Day War, when a new enthusiasm for Jewish peoplehood emerged within the state and the diaspora communities, the Jewish Agency was reconstituted to include representatives of the Magbiot in its governance alongside of those of the WZO. In a relatively short time, the representatives chosen by the principal Magbiot were determined by the diaspora communities they served so that the Jewish Agency became the institutional bridge between Israel, represented through the WZO, and the major diaspora communities, represented through the institutions of the communal-welfare and Israel-edah spheres. Recently, the introduction of representatives of the religious-congregational sphere into the WZO brought that body, which had previously at least partially represented the external relations sphere of the diaspora communities as well as Israel, to represent the religious-congregational sphere as well. As indicated, the Jewish Agency became the fulcrum of this newly constituted network of edah-wide and major countrywide organizations, including the Council of Jewish Federations in the United States and Israel's major political parties. This new institutional structure is still in its beginning stages, but for the first time in 1,000 years it has given the edah a framework for decision-making that links all of its arenas and is reasonably comprehensive in and of itself.

Key Questions for Further Study

This leaves us with certain key questions for continued and further study:

1. Now that we have a framework within which to study them, we need to better examine the functions of the Jewish polity such as defense, education, religious affairs, health and welfare services, and the general problems of self-government in a people with both a state and a diaspora.

2. Key questions of citizenship and affiliation with the Jewish polity, including the great question of who is a Jew in the new context of assimilation and intermarriage need to be addressed from the perspective of the Jewish polity. On one hand, probably a majority of Jews would still like a definition of Jewishness that would be halakhically valid, while on the other, reality suggests that many of those who identify as Jews would not be considered Jewish from a halakhic point of view. In such a situation, this becomes a critical issue for the edah as an edah. The edah has to determine and employ certain criteria of citizenship for purposes of affiliation and leadership recruitment in the diaspora and to determine status in Israel. Simply understanding being Jewish as a matter of citizenship could be helpful.

3. This leads to some critical questions with regard to patterns of participation. The edah today, especially but not exclusively in the diaspora, can be seen as a series of concentric circles. At its core is a small circle consisting of those Jews who live complete Jewish lives in every day, in every way, according to a Jewish rhythm. Surrounding them is a circle of highly committed Jews, very much involved in Jewish affairs but whose rhythm of life is not necessarily fully Jewish in the same way. Around that circle is yet another, of those who are moderately active in Jewish life and affairs. Around that circle is a larger one of those who are Jewishly-affiliated in some way and "pay their dues" as it were, but are not especially active as Jews in Jewish affairs. Around them is another circle of those who identify as Jews, periodically affiliate or are involved in Jewish life in some way, but mostly go about their own business. Beyond that circle is another one of those who do not deny their Jewishness but do not identify with the Jewish people in any particular way. Finally there is an outer circle of those whose very Jewishness is unclear, the products of intermarriage. These circles are of unequal size. The boundaries between them are somewhat indefinite and always permeable, and the body of circles has no clear ending at its edges, as we read almost day-by-day in connection with the Jews of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Moreover, there appears to be a growing gap between the inner and outer circles, with the inner circle pulling together more tightly and the outer circles drifting further away. Times of crisis may shift people from one circle to another but rarely do they move more than two circles in either direction.

Another element in the pattern of Jewish participation is the division between cosmopolitans and locals. Cosmopolitans are those who see the larger picture and who are concerned with their communities as a whole, and as a result, with the Jewish people as a whole. Locals see only the narrow aspects of their own lives as Jews and are involved accordingly. The cosmopolitan-local distinction is an essentially human one, with all human beings either cosmopolitans or locals. Organized Jewish life is built to accommodate both. Locals tend to concentrate in the localistic institutions of the religious-congregational sphere and cosmopolitans in the communal-welfare, external relations, and Israel-edah spheres. Only the educational-cultural sphere tends to reach out to both in about equal proportions.

4. As we have seen, there are significant issues of authority and power to be explored, including changing sources of legitimacy and issues of federal versus hierarchical arrangements. The shift in power among the ketarim is, on one hand, an accomplished fact, strengthened by the fact that it is only in the domain of the keter malkhut that all Jews will still sit together, even those who will not recognize each other's legitimacy within the framework of the keter torah or those who have no interest in the activities of the keter kehunah. On the other hand, the keter malkhut is now beginning to consider whether it needs to acquire the ability to grant Jewish legitimacy on its own. Up to now it has accepted the constitutional role of the keter torah as the source of that legitimacy, indirectly if not directly. The secular elements in the Zionist movement were the first to challenge the authority of the keter torah in this way, but the who is a Jew issue is universalizing the challenge beyond the State of Israel.

While the edah was always federal in character, both in the original sense of being founded on a covenant (the word federal is derived from the Latin foedus which means covenant and is a direct translation of the Hebrew brit) and in its political-communal organization which involves a matrix of centers bound together within the common frame of Torah-as-constitution and sometimes common institutional frameworks in addition to the Torah. However, in the last centuries before the modernization of the Jewish people, rule within the edah had become increasingly oligarchical and, with the intervention of the non-Jewish authorities, it was easy for oligarchies to become hierarchical as well. In the contemporary diaspora, this hierarchical structure has fallen by the wayside because voluntary communities require the active consent of their members, which among Jews can only be done through the recognition of the basic equality of all Jews and the broad distribution of power among many centers.

In Israel, the founders of the new state borrowed a hierarchical model of government from Eastern and Central Europe which has turned out to be very dysfunctional in terms of Jewish political culture and behavior and after the first generation with regard to such matters as economic development as well. It is significant that the Israel Defense Forces, which as an army could be expected to be the most hierarchical institution, has actually done the most to accommodate the egalitarian and federal elements in Jewish life within its framework, as a result has been perhaps the state's most successful institution.

5. This, in turn, leads to the question of accommodating Jewish political culture and behavior in frameworks of organized Jewish life, particularly in questions of leadership and representation. What is representation in a voluntary context? How do a state and diaspora live together? How do they represent their respective constituencies? How do their leaders, chosen in such different ways, share power and interact? This task is further complicated among Jews by the fact that in a small people, Jewish leaders, like most other Jews, play multiple roles. They do so in order to accomplish the many tasks before us with the limited manpower available.

6. Another set of questions revolve around the emerging constitution of the contemporary edah. Until modernization, the Torah, as interpreted, was unequivocally the constitution of the Jewish people. During the modern epoch, this unequivocal position of the Torah disappeared. Torah was no longer understood or interpreted within a common framework and there were those who rejected the Torah as constitution altogether, as they rejected the religious dimension of being Jewish. At the end of the modern epoch the very notion of a common constitution seemed extremely problematic.

More recently, however, there seems to be a reassertion of the principle of constitutionalism for the edah, with the Torah, however interpreted, in some way at its core and Eretz Israel as its rallying point. The full impact of this question has yet to touch us. At present we are still struggling with the reconstitution of the edah, just as the previous generation struggled with the consolidation of the state and the reconstitution of the individual countrywide communities and the generation before struggled to achieve the establishment of the state and the emergence of new Jewish centers in the diaspora. Even if it is not the principal question for us to address at this point, at sometime within the next 30 years we will probably have to begin addressing it.

7. This raises the whole question of the relationship between the so-called religious and secular dimensions of Jewish life, a separation almost impossible to achieve within the classical Jewish framework but which has become real enough as Jews have become part of the modern world. This question involves both matters of commitment and ideology and matters of authority and power. The struggle between those who claim authority on religious grounds and those who claim it on civil or secular is visible enough. It is intensified by the problems of religious commitment, on one hand, and the ideological divisions among those who see themselves as religiously committed as well as those who reject religious commitment.

8. Another question has to do with the division into public and private in Jewish life. In classical Jewish life, there was hardly any such division, just as there was not in the ancient polis. It is the hallmark of modernity that such a division should exist, that there should be spheres of private behavior in which individuals are not subject to the dictates of the public sector -- civil or religious -- except by their own choice. The modern epoch invented the idea of civil society, that is to say, a political order that has both public and private space. Public space is necessary for the political order to exist as a res publica, the only legitimate political order. In modern political thought and belief, a proper res publica, a republic, must be a democratic republic which rests upon individual rights or the existence of a private sphere. Contemporary Jewish institutions willy-nilly recognize this: Israel by design; diaspora communities because as voluntary associations they cannot be comprehensive. In Israel there is a continuing struggle regarding the boundaries between public and private, especially in the sphere of the Jewishness of the state. In the diaspora, there are problems of the extent to which the private behavior of Jews interferes with Jewish public purposes. There is another dimension here and that is which diaspora institutions should be considered public and which private.

9. Another issue revolves around the relations between citizens and politicians in Israel, volunteers and professionals in the diaspora. In Israel, for historic reasons, professional politicians have come to dominate the country's public leadership, leaving little room for citizens who do not choose politics as a career to participate in the public sphere. In the diaspora, especially in the United States, the development of a Jewish civil service has been a major gain in Jewish life but it has also encroached upon the old role of voluntary leadership. At the present time in both settings citizens and volunteers have challenged the professionals for redistribution of power between them. This is an issue on the current Jewish agenda, one that is likely to continue to be a permanent one which each generation will have to resolve in its own way.

10. The edah must also cope with the facts of a new Jewish public, not only divided between the religious of various kinds and the non-religious, but in more complex and sophisticated ways. For example, there have been Sephardim and Ashkenazim in Jewish life for 1,000 years, but it is only in our time that they have had to share the same political and communal structures. While the Sephardic-Ashkenazic division, a product of a certain diaspora milieu, may be on its way out, for the moment it does involve a certain amount of tension and stress within Jewish life.

Perhaps more important in the long run is the renormalization of the Jewish people. For the Jewish people, normalization is not as the original Zionists thought to be kakhol hagoyim (like all the nations). Rather it is the revival of the three camps that have been present in Jewish life when the Jews have lived in their own land: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes.

The Pharisee camp emphasizes the role of the keter torah as expressed through the halakhah in all its detail and with its primary emphasis on maintaining detailed control over the behavior of every Jew through the study and internalization of its norms and practices with an end to making all Jews holy. It triumphed after the destruction of the Second Commonwealth when the portability of the Pharisaic system became extraordinarily functional for a people exiled from its land, always on the move, and in need of a sense of its special status among the nations. It survives among the traditionally religious, its militant form among the ultra-Orthodox.

The Essene camp emphasizes the achievement of holiness through the development of small, self-contained communities of those dedicated to its pursuit. It disappeared when there no longer was a state to protect it. A neo-Essene camp reemerged in the early days of the Zionist enterprise in the form of Israel's kibbutzim that both separate themselves in their way of life from the larger Jewish society but also see themselves as a vanguard within it.

The Sadducean camp emphasized the role of the state and its civil religion (in ancient times, the Temple and its world) as the basis of Jewish identity. It disappeared with the loss of Jewish control over any part of Eretz Israel. With the restoration of that control, it has reemerged, especially among the non-religious Jewish community. At first these non-religious Jews appeared to be simply secularists. In the last generation, however, we have come to see that they are developing a form of Judaism of their own, a neo-Sadducean Judaism, rooted in the State of Israel and the civil religion that is developing to accompany it.

As these last two camps have reappeared in Israel, they have developed parallels in the diaspora. By and large, the Essene parallels are to be found in the periodic Jewish counter cultural movements -- the North American havurot, for example -- but they are inevitably quite fragile since they do not have the dual protections of land and state. Neo-Sadduceanism has been more successful, at the very least becoming the civil religion of the Jewish leadership of the keter malkhut in the communities. The relationships among these three camps are in the formative stages, just as the camps are themselves, but they undoubtedly represent the basis for conflict and cooperation in the Jewish world in the future.

11. Finally there is the question of what is the real strength of a community. In a sense, Jewish political and communal organization is stronger and more comprehensive than it has been at any time in at least 1,000 and perhaps 2,000 years. At the same time, that structure rests increasingly on a base of shifting sands, of a Jewish people that is less well-defined than ever before in Jewish history, at least since the days of the Patriarchs, and more open to the world around it with all that entails in the way of assimilation. Indeed, it may very well be the organized Jewish community that holds Jews together who could not be held together in any other way under contemporary circumstances. A structured edah is clearly a necessary condition for contemporary Jewish survival. Whether it is a sufficient one remains to be seen.

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