Robert Rechnitz, from Los Angeles, the president of a Zionist organization known as Bnai Zion, married with three children and two grandchildren, served as the chairman of the recent Jerusalem Conference, held after Purim at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
At this point in time, Robert Rechnitz is not well known in Israel or in the Jewish organizational world
However, there is every chance that Robert Rechnitz will soon become a man to be reckoned with, because he has a goal and a vision, and because he puts his money where his mouth is, underwriting much of the costs of the Jerusalem Conference, while launching numerous American investment opportunities in Israeli real estate and Israeli companies, to establish a real business like presence throughout Israel.
In his opening remarks to the Jerusalem Conference, Rechnitz defined the purpose of the Jerusalem conference quite succinctly – to forge a dialogue between Israel’s national/religious camp and the current leadership of the country and with the Jewish people. to demonstrate a presence that Israel and the rest of the world cannot ignore.
Following the Israel government’s Disengagement/Convergence policies, Rechnitz had hoped that the Jerusalem Conference would provide a forum for dialogue with the policy makers of the office of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of the country, yet that did not happen at this conference
Rechnitz expressed his concern that Israel “cannot lose the soul of the country”, and mentioned that he is worried when the Far East becomes “the greatest attraction to the young Israeli”
Indeed, Rechnitz possesses a vision for future Jerusalem Conferences that will, in the spirit of the Hagaddah, “reach out to the son who do not know how to ask”, to reach out to Israeli society and world Jewry.
As a model, Rechnitz expressed deep admiration for the activities of Uzi Landau, who has recently launched a project to acquaint a new generation with the frontiers of Judea and Samaria. Rechnitz also looked to the model of the Ariel College, where 60% of the student population studies from outside of Judea and Samaria.
To that end, Rechnitz suggests that future Jerusalem Conferences have sessions in English, and that world leaders and foreign politicians be given a platform.
A way to realize Rechnitz’s vision would be to plan the next Jerusalem Conference with “outreach” as its theme –
Instead of holding the conference at an isolated location, the conference could be held on the grounds of Hebrew University, where many students and faculty have never had any real exposure to the national religious camp in Israel.
The timing of the sessions could be in the evening, so that working people can attend the conference.
Meanwhile, following through on the Rechnitz vision of outreach, the goal of the next Jerusalem Conference could be to address the question of how to broaden the support base for Israel’s National Religious camp. The massive expulsions from Katif and Samaria proved just how thin that current support base is.
A special session should be held on how to reinvigorate the national religious spirit in Israeli and Disapora youth.
Special sessions could be held on improving the relations between Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria with Israel’s development towns, with the movers and shakers of the Israeli business community, and with diaspora Jewry, with
The next Jerusalem Conference could provide an appropriate setting for educators from all walks of religious education to dialogue with one another.
The question of how the national religious camp can develop new strategies to effectively with the media must also be placed on the agenda, instead of viewing the press as a monolithic enemy.
Te Jerusalem Conference could also provide an appropriate venue to invite the representatives of the foreign governments currently finance the “Settlement Watch” activities of Peace Now.
Ironically, on the same day that the Jerusalem Conference convened, the “Settlement Watch” project of Peace Now conducted a public lecture in downtown Jerusalem on the subject of “get to know the settlements”, in a session that was attended by more than one hundred people from all walks of life in Jerusalem – hardly any of whom defined themselves as “left wing”.Peace Now offered lectures, maps, booklets and tours of Judea and Samaria – something that the national religious camp rarely does.
In accordance with the vision of Robert Rechnitz, these are the people whom the Jerusalem Conference should be attracting – Jews who are curious about Israel’s “settlements”. The fact is that the vast majority of the people of Israel have never been presented with the opportunity to learn about the greatest enterprise of Zionism since 1967. The question remains: Will PEACE NOW teach the people about Israel’s national religious camp or will the Rechnitz vision prevail- to seek out the proverbial child at the Seder table who does not know how to ask the question.