Capital Jewish Forum – roots and aspirations

July 12, 2010 Agencies
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Manny Waks, the founder of the Capital Jewish Forum is expanding his organisation and embracing overseas participation.

Manny Waks with former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert

While serving as the Executive Officer for the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Manny Waks observed that many of his young adult peers were disengaged from the organized Jewish community, which is centered around synagogues, day schools, and Israel advocacy.

Waks, now Vice President of the Canberra Jewish community, decided to build a different Jewish communal model that would better appeal to young professionals like himself.

He founded the Capital Jewish Forum (CJF) in August 2009 to promote discussion and engagement with intellectuals, dignitaries and leaders on topics which are of relevance to Jewish academic, policy and business professionals. He is further developing his project this summer as a Summer Fellow at the PresenTense 2010 Global Institute in Jerusalem.

Australian Ambassador to Israel Andrea Faulkner with Manny Waks

Launched by Mr. Mark Dreyfus MP at the Australian Parliament House, the CJF recently established its Board of Advisers, which is chaired by Assoc. Prof. Danny Ben-Moshe and includes among its members Mr. Dreyfus, Mr. Jeremy Jones AM, Mr. Bob Magid, Mr. Gad Ben-Ari, and Ambassador Martin Indyk (full list below).

The CJF, a non-partisan organization, provides a means of engagement through “a secure and inclusive environment for Jewish professionals whose personal perspectives are welcomed, indeed encouraged,” according to Waks.

Monthly luncheons and evening sessions with prominent speakers like the Egyptian, Jordanian, Indonesian, and American ambassadors are platforms for participants to network with each other and with leading figures in Australia.

These events appeal to Jewish professionals not engaged by traditional Jewish organizations, which hold specific cultural, ideological, or political views many Jews do not hold, especially related to Israel. Waks notes that “a significant portion of all Australian Jews may be considered unaffiliated and disengaged.”

With about thirty participants at each event and around five-hundred members in total, Waks considers his program an effective way to reach Jewish professionals. He hopes to expand to a national forum held in other cities in Australia and to replicate the unique CJF model in other countries. In addition, other activities including international missions, such as a high-level delegation to Indonesia, are being considered.

Waks hopes to develop international connections at the prestigious six-week PresenTense Global Institute. He has joined fifteen other budding Jewish social entrepreneurs from Australia, Israel, and America to gain the skills and connections necessary to launch their ventures.

PresenTense has given Waks “tools and expertise for an effective way forward.” It has also situated his project in the context of the global Jewish community. “It’s part of a global movement of social entrepreneurship,” Waks stated.

Flo Low, Chair of the Institute Steering Committee, praised these social entrepreneurs. “The 2010 Fellows represent some of the most innovative Jewish minds today.  They are embarking on projects that have the potential to transform Jewish life here in Jerusalem and around the world.”

Here is a full list of the Capital Jewish Forum Board of Advisers:

Chair: Assoc. Prof. Danny Ben-Moshe: Senior Research Fellow – Centre for Strategic and Economic Studies, Victoria University & film-maker


Mr Vic Alhadeff: CEO – NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

Mr Allen Bolaffi: President – Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (South Australia) & Company Director

Mr Steve Denenberg: Executive Director – Union for Progressive Judaism

Mr Mark Dreyfus MP: Member of Parliament

Mr Jeremy Jones AM: Director of International & Community Affairs – Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council & former President – Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant: Rabbi – Jewish Care, Victoria & former President – Rabbinical Council of Victoria

Mr Steve Leiblich: Director of Public Affairs – Jewish Community Council of Western Australia & Chairman – Amristar Solutions Pty Ltd & iDelve Pty Ltd

Mr Bob Magid: Publisher – Australian Jewish News & Managing Director – TMG Developments

Prof. Andrew Markus: Pratt Foundation Research Professor – Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University

Ms Eva Migdal: Creative Director & Co-founder – Hatch Generation

Dr. Andre Oboler, PhD: Director – Community Internet Engagement Project, Zionist Federation of Australia & social media expert

Prof. Kim Rubenstein: Director – Centre for International and Public Law, Australian National University

Mr Gary Samowitz: CEO – Jewish Aid Australia

Dr Anita Shroot: President – ACT Jewish Community

Mr Geoffrey Winn: Lawyer, legal consultant & author

Rabbi Levi Wolff: Rabbi – Central Synagogue, Sydney


Mr Gad Ben-Ari: Managing Director – APCO Worldwide, Israel & former Director General – Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal

Mr Aharon Horwitz: Co-founder & Director – PresenTense Group

Mr Martin Indyk: Vice President & Director – Foreign Policy, Brookings Institute & former US Ambassador to Israel & US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs

Mr Paul Israel: Executive Director – Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce

Ms Rebecca Zeffert: Founder & Executive Director – Israel-Asia Center

Dr. Jacques Gorlin, PhD: President – The Gorlin Family Foundation & The Gorlin Group

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