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Z3 online event brings big names to talk peoplehood, Israel, and the Diaspora

This year’s Z3 event won’t be what people might expect. Now in its sixth year, Z3, which originally was dubbed Zionism 3.0, is an opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues in Israel and the Diaspora. But this is definitely not going to be your typical conference, and not just because it’s going virtual.

“We’re not calling it a conference, because it’s not,” says Rabbi Amitai Fraiman, director of the Z3 Project, part of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California. Instead, he says, it will provide an opportunity to innovate and forge the kinds of connections only available virtually.

Last year’s Z3 conference saw 1,200 gather in Palo Alto; this year the project is responding to the shift brought on by the pandemic by making the event both small enough to work in an online format and large enough to encompass content from around the world.

Instead of a one-day event, this year’s Z3 will be eight days, starting Dec. 10, as a cooperative endeavor with “upwards of 30 JCCs” from Seattle to Mexico City.

“You can really travel the Jewish world in eight days during Hanukkah,” Fraiman says.

Each day of Z3 will begin with a panel, then move on to local programming, which Fraiman says is both an opportunity for other JCCs to connect a local conversation to a global one, and a way to bring more eyes — and screens — to this year’s Z3.

Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, will lead a Z3 lunch and learn on Dec. 13.

Tucson Jewish Community Center president and CEO Todd Rockoff, who attended last year’s Z3 in Palo Alto, will moderate a lunch and learn program on Monday, Dec. 14 at noon, “Can We Really Have Equal Voices if We Don’t Speak the Same Language?” The panelists will be Nir Braudo, Muki Jankelowitz, and Sharon Singer. Braudo is deputy director of BINA – the Jewish Movement for Social Change. Jankelowitz is a tour educator, originally from South Africa, who helped lead a multifaith group from Southern Arizona on an Israel trip in 2018. Singer is a translator, editor and localization specialist in Israel who has become a popular speaker in the digital diplomacy world.

“We are very excited that this year we, in Tucson, are able to participate in the Z3 Project virtual gathering. I look forward to our community experiencing Z3 first hand during the week of Hanukkah and having authentic dialogue with all involved,” Rockoff says.

This year’s Z3 is subtitled “Visions of a Shared Future” and like previous years, it will offer a slate of diverse, high-profile speakers and range of topics. They include former New York Times op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss on media and the public square, novelist Nicole Krauss on Jewish arts during the pandemic, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer on Middle East politics, football player Zach Banner on the role athletes have in fighting bias, speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz on Judaism’s future, and Natan Sharansky on peoplehood.

Also on the schedule is another large-scale participatory event, one that Fraiman is excited about.

“We’re going to do the largest Jewish giving circle to date,” he says.

Organizers will offer ticket buyers the chance to vote on broadly defined areas related to seven Jewish values or interests, from tikkun olam to safety and security. Each “pillar” will have an associated project, and by identifying what is most important to them, Z3 participants will help to decide where a lump sum of charitable giving funds will go. Fraiman says the amount of money will depend on how many people buy tickets, but it might reach five or even six figures.

“The way the people vote to allocate this money, the money will be allocated,” Fraiman says.

 Z3: Visions of a Shared Future” runs Dec. 10-17. Tickets are $36 general, $18 students and seniors

 AJP Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this article.