I have just returned from spending time in our nation’s capital with 2500 people, many but not all Jews, and quite a number of them diplomats and representatives of more than thirty nations. A number of Temple Sholom members were in attendance. The Chicago contingent from the AJC local chapter numbered more than one hundred!
The annual global forum of the American Jewish Committee is in effect the Jewish People’s summit of ideas, hopes and calls for action. Beneath the specter of the June 30th due date for negotiations with Iran, the tragic renewed rise of antisemitism in Europe, and the flagrantly antisemitic BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement, we heard from top leaders and thinkers concerning these very issues.
One thing I love about the AJC is the nuance. Debates are held, and both sides are given serious attention. The big one this year pitted the arch conservative Israeli Caroline Glick against bestselling author and Haaretz editor Ari Shavit. The topic: Two State Solution or Two State Illusion?
Along with others I lobbied members of congress to work to ensure that only a just agreement with Iran be reached. After all, no agreement is far better than a bad agreement. We also called upon our leaders to oppose the inciting to hate speech of the Palestinian Authority and to speak out against BDS.
At the conference moral heroes were honored, including the brave Druze guard who gave his life defending Jews against a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue last November, a French immigrant from Mali who rescued Jews during the terrorist attack at the kosher market in Paris, and the volunteer synagogue guard in Copenhagen who lost his life defending children at a bat mitzvah party.
We also heard from a UCLA student, not Jewish, who was penalized by her fellow students for visiting Israel. The Los Angeles chapter of the AJC helped her defend herself from the anti-Israel allegations of the student government. Who would have thought such help would be needed?
Melanie and I also dined at the home of the Spanish Ambassador and were thrilled to hear of the cooperation between Spain and Israel and the upcoming law that will allow Sephardic Jews to regain their Spanish citizenship. After having seen first hand in March what the expulsion did to the once glorious Spanish Jewish community, this visit provided a needed tonic.
I think that, somewhat sadly, the work of the American Jewish Committee is more relevant now than ever. After all, it started in 1906 as the Jewish defense agency. And let’s be honest: we Jews need to be defended. I hope you will consider joining me and Melanie and others from Temple Sholom and Chicago next year for this vital event.