Highlights of J Street’s 2017 National Conference

Defending Our Values, Fighting For Our Future
February 25-28, 2017

Featured Address: Mika Almog

Mika Almog is an Israeli writer, columnist and satirist. She’s the granddaughter of Shimon Peres.

Jeremy Ben-Ami Opens J Street’s 2017 National Conference

Opening night video, “Why We’re Here.”

Building an Effective Alternative to the Israeli Right

Energetic, optimistic and virtually unknown to American audiences, a new, young and progressive leadership is emerging in Israel. They are focused on changing Israel’s broken politics and getting ready to help govern and to advance progressive policies. If you’re one of the many who wonder where the leaders of tomorrow are, come meet and be inspired by a sample of this exciting new cadre of leadership.


  • Avi Buskila | Director, Peace Now
  • Mikhael Manekin | Israeli Director, Alliance for Israel’s Future
  • Liat Schlesinger | Executive Director, Molad
  • Michal Zernowitzki | Chairperson, Ultra-Orthodox Caucus of the Israeli Labor Party

Jerusalem 2017: Crisis and Opportunity

Presented by Ir Amim and Palestine-Israel Journal
Jerusalem is constantly in the news, usually with headlines about violence and tension between Israelis​ ​and Palestinians. Talk of​ ​unilaterally moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem has sparked concern​ ​of adding fuel to the flames. The future of Jerusalem is one​ ​of the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian​ ​conflict, and determining its future will be one of the most daunting tasks in achieving a negotiated peace.​ ​Join two Jerusalem-based NGOs, Ir Amim and the Palestine-Israel Journal, to discuss the possibilities and learn about their work together to empower Jerusalem’s youth.


  • Yudith Oppenheimer | Executive Director, Ir Amim
  • Hillel Schenker | Co-Editor, Palestine-Israel Journal
  • Ziad Abu Zayyad | Co-Editor, Palestine-Israel Journal

Bridging Divides, Rebuilding Alliances: How Can the Jewish and Black Communities Work Together?

For decades, liberal American Jews have felt proud of the Jewish community’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and secure in the belief that it is a strong ally to the black community. But major tension over the stance on Israel in the Movement for Black Lives platform helped to surfaced significant divides. This moment should prompt tough questions: How can American Jews be better allies to black communities? How can the Jewish and black communities begin to speak more openly and productively about the questions that divide us and the values they share? Can they find common ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How should Jews acknowledge and elevate the needs and voices of Jewish people of color? What can be done to strengthen the relationship between the two communities, in an era when the threats many communities face are growing?


  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs | Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • April N. Baskin | Vice President of Audacious Hospitality, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Wil Jones | Student Activist
  • Maharat Rori Picker Niess | Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
  • Rev. David Wright | Executive Director, Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston

Shared Values: Fault Lines in the American and Israeli Jewish Communities

The strength of the US-Israeli relationship has long been ascribed to our countries’ “shared values.” Yet we are witnessing growing gulfs within and between both the American Jewish and Israeli Jewish communities. This pertains to attitudes on human rights, pluralism within Judaism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an age of global hyper-partisanship, in which cultural and political chasms are widening, can we still say we have “shared values?” What are the implications for our relationship moving forward?


  • Dr. Dov Waxman | Professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies, Northeastern University
  • Yair Rosenberg | Senior Writer, Tablet Magazine
  • Rabbi Noa Sattath | Director, Israel Religious Action Center
  • Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin | Policy Fellow, Mitvim: Israel Institute for Regional Foreign Policies & Permanent Writer, +972 Magazine
  • Rabbi Shira Stutman | Senior Rabbi, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

Aftershocks: What the Trump Era Means for Israel and the United States

President Trump and, in particular, his advisers present themselves as close allies of Prime Minister Netanyahu, his government and the settlement movement. But their mutual embrace alienates many Americans — particularly Jews and Democrats — who reject Trump’s policies and ideology. For decades, the US-Israel relationship has been grounded in shared interests that transcend party lines in both countries. Yet this consensus is threatened by a new alignment between right-of-center governments with anti-democratic agendas. Does moving from bipartisan alignment to partisan division damage Israel’s interests in the long run? How deep is Israeli support for Trump and his ideals? How will Israel’s centrist and progressive friends in Congress and across the US respond to an Israeli government that aligns with an American administration they distrust? And what openings does this create for critics of both leaders to work together?


  • Aluf Benn | Editor-in-Chief, Haaretz
  • Omer Bar Lev | Member of Knesset, Zionist Union
  • Professor Steven M. Cohen | Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy, HUC-JIR
  • Dr. Philip Gordon | Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Akram Hasson | Member of Knesset, Kulanu Party
  • Alan P. Solow | Former Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
  • Tamar Zandberg | Member of Knesset, Meretz Party
  • Ayman Odeh | Head, Joint List

To view just the keynote portion of this session featuring MK Ayman Odeh, click here.

Policymakers Roundtable: Conflicts, Chaos and Opportunity in the Middle East

Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog’s Video Message to Conference Participants

There is no shortage of challenges facing the United States in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict marks 50 years of occupation in 2017 with no end in sight. Iran’s sponsorship of terror and ongoing efforts to increase its regional influence threaten its neighbors. And, of course, non-state extremists from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State are tearing nations apart and spreading terror globally. American policymakers must wrestle in coming years with defining American interests in this troubled region, assessing the risks to those interests and defining the best roads forward to advance them.

This plenary will open with keynote remarks from a leading voice on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a panel of the nation’s leading diplomats will delve into the challenges, while looking for opportunities. The session will also feature greetings from the Leader of the Israeli Opposition Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog.


  • Chris Murphy | United States Senator, Connecticut
  • Tom Friedman | Foreign Affairs Columnist and Author, New York Times 
  • Michèle Flournoy | Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Center for a New American Security
  • Ambassador Martin Indyk | Executive Vice President, The Brookings Institution
  • Rob Malley | Former Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region
  • Amb. Maen Erekat | Chief of PLO Delegation in Washington, DC

To view just the keynote portion of this session featuring Senator Chris Murphy, click here.

What’s Gaza Got to Do With It?

Since the 2007 Hamas takeover, the Gaza Strip’s impact on the peace process has been fraught, and the fate of its two million residents uncertain. A recent UN report claimed that the Strip will be uninhabitable by the year 2020, just three years from now. Recent polling shows that Israelis are well aware of the risks of leaving Gaza to languish but don’t really know what to do about it. Come hear options for improving the situation in Gaza and turning it from part of the problem into part of the solution.


  • Tania Hary | Executive Director, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
  • Yousef Bashir | Foreign Affairs Intern, Representative Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
  • Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin | Policy Fellow, Mitvim: Israel Institute for Regional Foreign Policies & Permanent Writer, +972 Magazine

Rising to the Challenge: American Jewish Leadership in the Trump Era

How should American Jews, many of whom are marching in the streets for Jewish values, expect their communal institutions to participate in the public debate moving forward? President Trump received only 25 percent of the Jewish vote in 2016, and the majority of American Jews disapprove of his bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny. In a community that is deeply committed to the concept of democracy and inclusion, what is the role of the organized American Jewish community in this fraught political environment? And what is the role of its leadership in continuing to advocate for a two-state solution when both American and Israeli governments seem to be moving in the opposite direction?


  • Eva Borgwardt | J Street U, Regional Co-Chair, Northwest
  • J.J. Goldberg | Editor-at-Large, Jewish Daily Forward 
  • Brooke Davies | President, J Street U National Board
  • Nancy K. Kaufman | Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women
  • Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner | Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Barry Shrage | President, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston
  • Daniel J. Sokatch | CEO, New Israel Fund

Featured address: Senator Bernie Sanders

What’s Next for Palestinian Leadership?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is doing much to strengthen his control over the Fatah party, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority — yet polls show increasingly deep public discontent with the present state of Palestinian political leadership and disapproval of the president. There is recognition that succession for the 81-year-old president is a real and near-term issue, but there is no clarity on who will follow Abbas or even what the process will be for determining succession. Join us for a discussion of the political and social dynamics in Palestinian society and for an exploration of who might succeed Abbas and what that would mean for Palestinian politics and policy.


  • Ziad AbuZayyad | Co-Editor, Palestine-Israel Journal 
  • Ali Abu Awwad | Founder, Taghyeer (Change) Palestinian National Nonviolence Movement
  • Bashar Azzeh | Palestinian Entrepreneur and Youth Activist
  • Omar Shaban | Director, PalThink for Strategic Studies

Gala Dinner


  • Nancy Pelosi | Democratic Leader
  • Tim Kaine | United States Senator, Virginia
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami | President, J Street
  • Dr. Madeleine Albright | Former Secretary of State
  • Roger Cohen | Columnist, New York Times

To view only Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s speech, click here.