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June 29, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 29, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 29, 2012 PAGE 11A Shilo Productions Israeli President Shimon Peres (1) awards former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with Israel's Presidential Medal on June 18. Shilo Productions Dr. Ruth Westheimer speaks June 21 about "The Future of Sex" during the Israeli Presidential Conference. By Uriel Heilman JERUSALEM (JTA)-- What do hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Zionist critic Peter Beinart and Dr. Ruth have in com- mon? If you're still puzzling over that one, you're not alone. So are the partici- pants at this year's 2012 Israeli Presidential Confer- ence, which featured those four among dozens of other panelists at the confab held last week in Jerusalem. Titled "Facing Tomor- row," the conference assem- bled leading entrepreneurs, politicians, academics and Jewish community figures from around the world, and with them a bevy of publi- cists, journalists and myriad other hangers-on. There was Dr. Ruth Wes- theimer, the octogenar- ian sexologist, opening the conference in a one-on-one, center-stage discussion with Israeli technology investor and entrepreneur Yossi Vardi. There was Terje Roed-Larsen, the Norwegian U.N. diplomat who played a key role in the Oslo Accords and now heads the International Peace Institute, looking lost in the exhibit hall. In a corner near the bar, Noam Shalit, father of freed captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, chatted with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jew- ish Organizations. Stuck in the crowd, Alexander Mashkevich, the Kazakh- Israeli minerals oligarch and one of the conference's benefactors, smiled politely amid a scowling coterie of thuggish men wearing shiny white suits. It was a conference of bold-faced names without a coherent theme. Some sessions focused on Israel's strategic threats and Jewish identity. Others were about the future of smartphones and cloud computing. A group of neuroscientists led a discussion on how ma- chines can help the brain. Israeli President Shimon Peres, the conference's host, held a public work meeting with the president of Croatia. Some of the first-timers among the 4,000 or so at- tendees-an overwhelm- ingly but not exclusively Shilo Productions Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks June19 at the Is- raeli presidential Conference. Jewish group--weren't quite sure what to make of it. "I'm trying to figure out what the conference is even about," said Dov Waxman, a professor from the City University of New York who blogs on the Daily Beast and is writing a book about Jewish politics. "What is the purpose of this? Is it to pontificate about the Jewish future? It's like a schmooze- lest, I think." Indeed, perhaps more than anything else, the con- ference, now in its fourth year, aspires to be a sort of Jewish Davos--a gathering where the A-listers of the Jewish world can meet, network, exchange ideas and maybe have a good time. Except unlike the exclusive Davos World Economic Fo- rum, it's a lot easier to get in and there's no registra- tion fee. The conference is a tes- tament to the star power and vision of Peres. Its $2.7 million price tag is paid for largely by the 88-year-old president's friends and asso- ciates, including corporate and philanthropic sponsors, and its theme is something that Israeli politicians, at least, are not known for thinking too much about: the long-term future If it is to become a fix- ture on the annual Jewish conference calendar, the Israeli Presidential Con- ference will be the only real muir|disciplinary one. What other Jewish forum brings together the likes of Cisco's CEO, Israeli singer- songwriter Achinoam Nini (a.k.a. Noa), Henry Kissing- er, Paralympics swimmer Keren Leibovitch, Obama administration adviser Den- nis Ross, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair and Israeli film- maker Joseph Cedar? Where else can you go from a session in which Cis- co Chairman John Cham- bers talks about the future of data on the Internet to a talk by Nobel laureate Dan- iel Kahneman, a Princeton University psychologist, about the inherent advan- tage hawks have over doves in political arguments? Or from a discourse by Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, about the need for Israel to earn the conditional love of American Jews, to one in which Dr. Ruth offers tips about ~male orgasms? The Israeli Presidential Conference is deliberately eclectic, while the Jewish world's other major annual gatherings are focused. The biggest Jewish conference of the year--the springtime gathering in Washington of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which for two years running has drawn more than 10,000 people--is about U.S.- Israel politics. The annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which a decade ago drew crowds similar to AIPAC at the time--about 3,000 to 4,000--is mostly about Jewish communal business and hasn't grown in 10 years. The Reform movement's biennial (6,000 attendees this year) and the annual Chabad-Lubavitch shluchim conference (4,000 attendees) are limited to specific religious denomi- nations. The Presidential Confer- ence was about a lot of differ- ent things, with a heavy dose of politics and technology. "I think it's great to be at a conference that's a crossroads of significant policymaking Jews from around the world with dif-. ferent political, religious and cultural backgrounds," said Steven M. Cohen, direc- tor of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University's Wagner School. The conference is also unusual for Israel. Most presenters spoke in English, even the Israelis, and there were more suits and ties than some Israelis see in a lifetime. Every time Peres entered a room, hewas given a rousing ovation. On opening night, Peres bestowed Israel's first- ever presidential medal on Kissinger, calling him a "brother" and hailing "the tremendous effort you made to help us on every occasion as a great statesman and as a great Jew." No mention was made of the revelation two years ago on then-released Nixon tapes on which Kissinger could be heard telling the U.S. president in 1973 that it was not a U.S. concern if the Soviet Union decided to put the Jews in gas chambers. Kissinger later apologized for the remark One notable al sence from the conferenc ,was Israelt Prime Mrnl~ter Benjamin Netanyahu, who canceled his appearance due to a leg injury suffered during a soccer game a few days earlier. Your in Orlando Real Estate!l!! GALE MILGRIM, PA -REALTOR OrlandoJewishRealtor. com To read my Glowing Client Testimonials and BIOlllll Over 25 years sales experience Over $200 Million in Lifetime Sales 407-443-9832 Parent 2 Jewish Academy Alumni Member Congregation Ohev Shalom Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando Supporter I~SII)~qlAI EK ESIA~ O Tracy Friend (age 41) has lost 18~ body fat, 33 Ibs. and a total of 24.75 inches! Who Else Wants to Lose r o ! 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