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5779: The Best Time Ever?

Flexigidity: Gidi's Newsletter
5779: The Best Time Ever?
By Gidi Grinstein • Issue #4 • View online
On the eve of 5779, the Jewish People and the State of Israel can celebrate our best time ever. We have been doing better and better for decades, and the question is how much more can we rise? In this newsletter, I share a few thoughts about the condition and direction of the Jewish People and about my key efforts that are aligned with that understanding.

It's Never Been Better
Only seven decades after the Shoah, the Jewish People can celebrate its best time in millennia, at least since the days of King Solomon. Israel’s military, economic and diplomatic might makes it one of the world’s leading nations. The Jewish People, through its world-wide web of communities, is also more secure, prosperous and influential than ever before. Consequently, Jewish culture and art and the world of Torah are also at an all time high. As a people, we have so much to celebrate at the beginning of 5779.
In Fact, It's a New Era in Jewish History
Abraham was famously commanded to be a blessing for the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). Since then, the Jewish People has made consistent and unique contribution to humanity through its innovative societal structure, values and institutions. For millennia, our contribution has been exclusively QUALITATIVE.
Now it our contribution is also QUANTITATIVE. This has been the case for the past two decades or so, as, for the first time in our history, we can actually improve the lives of many millions of people.
This reality is due to a very powerful combination of Israel, world Jewry and technology. The State of Israel is a giant laboratory and incubator for groundbreaking technological and societal innovation. World Jewry, through its communities, is more prosperous and secure than ever before, creating the most powerful distribution network in existence. Finally, dramatic advances in technology allow the Jewish People to scale ideas from Israel via Jewish communities to every corner of the globe.
In other words, the arc of history bent in the direction that empowers the Jewish People to do good at unprecedented scale. At the beginning of 5779, we must appreciate how lucky we are to be living in this tremendously exciting time in Jewish history.
Illustrating 'quantitative contribution' (Source: Israel Forever Foundation)
Illustrating 'quantitative contribution' (Source: Israel Forever Foundation)
But Clouds are Looming
As good as things are at this moment in time, dark clouds are looming. Yes, there are always reasons to be worried, and different people have different concerns. But, from my perspective - as leader of Reut and with the framework of Flexigidity in mind - I see the following threats to our golden epoch:
First, the Israel and the Jewish world are gravitating apart. Powerful trends and mindbogglingly inconsistent policies of the Government of Israel, are driving this trend. Many Israelis and their politicians are turning their backs to World Jewry, informed by a toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance. Meanwhile many Diaspora Jews are decreasing their engagement with and exposure to Israel, unable to embrace a nuanced understanding of Zionism and Israel.
Second, Israel doesn’t seem to be heading toward ending its control over the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria / the West Bank. This issue has profound implications for the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and many feel that it is therefore an ‘internal Israeli matter’.
But I contend that it is also a huge challenge for the Jewish People. Micah Goodman writes about this beautifully in his books The Last Speech of Moses and the Kuzari, referring to the famous book written in the 11th century by Yehuda HaLevy. According to that story, the Jewish sage had no answer to the question whether Jews will use power in a different and more moral way than other nations (Kuzari, Book 1, sec. 114). Hence, the way Israel controls the Palestinians and treats its Arab minority has acute also for Jewish destiny.
Third, Israel is becoming a wedge political issue among Western nations. In Britain, an anti-Semite is the leader of opposition and a likely next Prime Minister, making Israel, of all countries, the centerpiece of his foreign policy. And in the USA, multiple Democratic politicians feel an urge to be anti-Israel. Jewish history - from Egypt to Europe - tells of many calamities that eventuated when Jews became a wedge issue for their societies. We can only imagine the consequences of a perfect storm of multiple anti-Israel governments in leading Western nations. The singling out of Israel, its demonization and delegitimization, disguised as criticism of Israeli policies, are a new form of antisemitism, which is spreading.
Fourth, Jewish communities are polarized and polarizing. This is true especially in the USA since the days of the Obama Administration. American Jewry became the greatest Diaspora community in Jewish history in large part because of its institutions, primarily the Federation system. That simple truth is now being forgotten by so many who would rather celebrate their differences rather than their commonalities and burn bridges rather than build them.
Fifth, the Jewish People is losing its edge. We used to be the only fully literate and global People. These are no longer our exclusives. We used to be powerless but ethics-based and resilient. We are now powerful, even a superpower, but that creates an outlook of entitlement and therefore also vulnerability.
Some of you may say: where is Iran and what about assimilation and intermarriage? Well, I am confident in our ability to contain Iran and eventually to see the collapse of its regime. And with regards to the challenge of assimilation: it has been with us since the days of Egypt and will continue to bother us deep into the future. In this respect, there is nothing new under the sun.
Jeremy Corbyn of UK's Labor embodying antisemitism in current politics. (i24news.tv)
Jeremy Corbyn of UK's Labor embodying antisemitism in current politics. (i24news.tv)
Tremendous opportunities
Yes, that is also true: the opportunities that stand before us as a people are tremendous. I realize that these negative trends may lead to a conclusion that the best days are behind us, but other trends indicate that great days may actually be ahead of us:
First, as mentioned, for the first in our history, we have the ability to improve the lives of many millions of people. We can become the hightest per capita contributors to humanity as a nation, through Israel, and as a People. We can become practically indispensable to solving some of the world’s most acute problems. This used to be a far-fetched dream just a few years ago. But now it is actually a clear direction of the Israeli innovation ecosystem, often referred to as the Startup Nation.
Second, we can actually lead the world in piloting and modeling ‘model communities’. Ask yourself: what does a model society look like in the 21st century? My answer to this question is: a network of communities that enjoy inclusive prosperity and make a significant and distinct contribution to humanity. Israel can be just that!
Third, we can lead at the frontier of value-based societies. As the pace of change is accelerating in this world, we will need more value-based decisions in areas that are rapidly changing because of technological and social change. Jewish society is perfectly aligned to lead on such challenges, and will always have a unique perspective to contribute. Many of our rabbis can now be leaders for their societies, nations and the world, needless to mention the remarkable leadership of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in this regard.
What Am I Working On?
Peter Diamandis framed it best: “the world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest opportunities.” That insight applies also on smaller scale: with regards to the Jewish People, Israel, our cities or communities. A huge array of challenges is calling upon countless entrepreneurs to step onto the field of leadership and make a difference, large of small. I try to be one of them. So, with the risk of being presumptuous, here is how some of the projects, which I am working on, fit into this bigger picture:
First, in a world of accelerating pace of change, the Reut Group is uniquely designed to create and scale innovative societal solutions to big problems facing Israel, the Jewish People and the world. Since 2004, we have created twenty such solutions.
Second, TOM, Tikkun Olam Maker, was inspired by a bold vision of Israel and the Jewish world, through its word-wide web of communities, improving the lives of 250,000,000 people. We are determined to realize this goal by inspiring and supporting a global network of communities of innovators dedicated to this vision. We have already operated in fourteen nations and more are lining up.
Third, Firewall Israel, which is the Reut Institute team dedicated to fighting the de-legitimization of Israel, is now focused on the area of ‘community relations’ namely the relationships between Jewish communities and non-Jewish institutions and communities. We are particularly focused on the challenge created by the use of the idea of ‘intersectionality’ to create a broad anti-Israel coalition, which is often driven by anti-Semitic motivations and is therefore also a long-term threat to the Jewish community.
Fourth, Reut has pledged, with our partners in the Palo Alto JCC, to launch the Z3 Movement and a Nation-State Coalition, to advance the next phase of the relations between Israel and World Jewry. We view this as an essential evolution of Zionism, viewing a vibrant Diaspora as a Zionist imperative for the longevity, wellbeing and resilience of the Jewish People. I am personally involved in and committed to this effort.
Fifth, I remain committed to the ISRAEL 15 Vision, which envisions an Israeli model society, that is organized as a network of communities and enjoys inclusive prosperity. Over the past few years, Reut’s Leapfrog Center has crystallized a model for local economic development, which is now being deployed in the Western Galilee (with Raya Strauss Ben Dror) and in the Western Negev (with Ness Foundation).
Sixth, my book, Flexigidity, remains unique framework for describing the condition and direction of the Jewish People and in offering a powerful framework for leadership.
Long-Distance Running
Long-distance running is my hobby, as well as my attitude. Bill Gates famously said: “people overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in a decade”. My experience has been exactly that: it always takes a decade to do something big. And the month of Tishrei is the best time in the Jewish year to think big and go big.
Shana Tova!
Gidi
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Gidi Grinstein

Flexigidity: Gidi's Newsletter

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