Global Fellow Profile: Manny Waks, Capital Jewish Forum

Global Fellow Profile: Manny Waks, Capital Jewish Forum

Ben Chaidell>>Mon Jul 12, 2010

The “It” Spot for Jewish Professionals: The Capital Jewish Forum

Australian Jewish Leader Develops Venture at PresenTense Jerusalem Institute

July 8, 2010, JERUSALEM— 

While serving as the Executive Officer for the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission in Australia, 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 Jewish community in Canberra (Australia’s capital), 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.

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.  

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. In Jerusalem 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.”

Feel free to contact Manny Waks by email at or by phone at his Israel number (+972 (0)54 724 4274) or Australian number (+61 (0)438 100 476).


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