New post-October 7 venture seeks to bring world’s Jews together

Global Jewry aims to promote the idea that Jews belong to one big family


Accentuate the positive: Sandy Cardin, one of the team behind Global Jewry

Imagine if the Jewish people had a website, asks Sandy Cardin. “What would that website look like? We would talk about all the beautiful things that the Jewish people are doing all over the world, all the activities we are undertaking.”

Such a collective address has not existed before. But his new enterprise, Global Jewry, has begun to start filling the gap, to inspire a change of perspective so that we think of ourselves first as part of a global people rather than defining our Jewishness primarily through our local patch.

Cardin is a longtime activist, who for 25 years was head of the most important American philanthropic organisations, the Schusterman Family Foundation, which every year convenes a summit of Jews from across the world who are making an impact.

Following that he was involved in a venture called Our Common Destiny, which sought to build better Israel-diaspora relations.

What prompted Global Jewry was the wave of protests in Israel against the government’s planned judicial reforms which reverberated across the Jewish world. “Wherever one stood, the nature of the conversation and the language being used by those for and against was very divisive, very dangerous. That was the impetus to say something to tone down the rhetoric within the Jewish community. We need to do something to remind people we are all in this together, that there is a Jewish family and we have to work this out. That was the trigger.”

The demonstrations abruptly ended with the atrocities of October 7 — an event that awakened a wider sense of belonging among many Jews which Cardin believes has made them more open to the idea behind Global Jewry.

Eli Ovits, a British oleh who is the former executive director of Limmud UK, said, “At this time when communities feel more vulnerable than they did before October 7, the idea of being part of something bigger than yourself, part of a global Jewish family, is very powerful and necessary.”

He is one of an executive committee of 16 that also includes JW3 chief executive Raymond Simonson and the co-chairman of the London Jewish Forum, Andrew Gilbert.

But a wider pool of 700 supporters have signed up as advisers, and 170 organisations have agreed to be partners.

Cardin is candid in saying there was “no strategic plan, no big funding, no great thinking — just an idea that it was time for the Jewish people to find ways to reconnect, to reunite and to think about ourselves as a global people, a global movement”.

Its primary instrument is its website where it has started constructing a directory of Jewish resources in areas ranging from history and culture to tikkun olam which takes the form of a database of Jewish organisations worldwide. The hope is that anyone looking for an entry point into Jewish life will be able to find something appealing and at the same time see “the breadth of what is taking place in the Jewish world”, said Cardin.

“The thesis is there is something out there for everyone but everyone doesn’t know the full menu. If somehow we can present that menu in an attractive, easily accessible way, that will be able to engage new people and make people who are engaged feel better about being part of the Jewish family and we will be stronger and more united for it.”

Global Jewry does not intend to be another Jewish organisation muscling in on the territory of others but to be a “catalyst” which enhances the work of all. “Part of the challenge we have in the Jewish world is the whole is less than the sum of its parts,” Cardin said.

Personally, he prefers talking about the notion of a Jewish “family” rather than “people” because peoplehood seems more abstract. “People understand that in families you are connected. But you are not all the same, you don’t always believe the same things, you don’t always have pleasant conversations. You have differences, there is discord. But you are family. At the end of the day, you know you are one. You come together, you work through things.”

In Cardin’s thinking, it is important that Jewish life outside Israel or the US is not seen as “an adjunct, an afterthought. Every Jew matters, regardless of where they live or the size of the community where they participate.”

Ovits said he was “profoundly impressed” already with the diversity of the people who have so far come on board.

While October 7 may have engendered a greater sense of inter-Jewish solidarity Cardin sounds a note of caution. “We understand there is a limit when people are connected only by adversity, only when they have a common enemy,” he said.

“Looking forward, looking long-term, that’s not what we want. What we want is people to feel connected and united because of the positives, the values we share, the history, the culture, the traditions, the heritage. The positive should be forging our connections and will make them much stronger than if we only coalesce when people are attacking us.”

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