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Some 3,000 Jewish communal professionals converged on Nashville for the federations’ annual General Assembly.

Addressing the opening plenary at the sprawling Opryland Hotel and Convention Center on Sunday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the next U.S. president will have to restore America’s moral authority before securing peace in the Middle East.

“We can’t bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together unless we have moral authority, and we’ve squandered that over the last seven years,” Dean said. “Part of the reason Israel has survived for 60 years is because they have had moral authority.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was supposed to address the assembly, but she could not attend. Israel’s minister of welfare, social services and Diaspora affairs, Isaac Herzog, spoke in her place. Herzog said the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis, Md., are “a wonderful way to jump-start the peace process, which has been dormant or dead for the last seven years.”

The yearly conference of the United Jewish Communities federation umbrella group serves as a workshop and meet-and-greet for the lay and professional leaders of North America’s Jewish federation system and its affiliates. This year’s theme is “One People, One Destiny.”

Others who addressed the opening plenary included Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen; the Jewish basketball coach of the University of Tennessee, Bruce Pearl; and Yeshiva University professor of Jewish history and thought Rabbi Jacob Schachter.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give an address at the convention’s closing plenary Nov. 13.

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