AJC Global Forum 2022 highlights American Jewish Committee’s work

by | Jun 23, 2022 | Trending News

For the first time since 2019, the American Jewish Committee convened its AJC Global Forum in person. More than 1,000 people attended the conference held at Temple Emanu-El in New York City to hear from world leaders and top experts, consider tough questions, and get inspired to advocate for measures critical to the security of the Jewish people.

One of the Forum’s first speakers, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, denounced BDS and promised that New York will not invest in any business that participated in BDS activities.  She also declared that her state “shall not bow to hatred” in speaking about antisemitism. Hochul also announced that her administration had just issued a proclamation about the importance of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and how it is vital to the state’s efforts to fight hatred. 

Antisemitism was a frequent, sobering topic at the Forum. A panel discussion at the Open Plenary noted that today’s antisemitism is coming from very different sources—from the far left and the far right, from universities, colleagues, artists, and friends.

In another panel on the same topic, Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, AJC managing director of Europe, interviewed Katharina von Schnurbein, the first European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

The discussion began by noting that World Jewry is currently experiencing the largest amount of antisemitism since the Holocaust.  When asked what keeps her up at night, Lipstadt replied, “the failure of people to take antisemitism seriously.

“Antisemitism has the unique characteristic of prejudice being a conspiracy theory,” Lipstadt said. She explained the impact of the conspiracy theory: “Jews caused the pandemic, are controlling of the banks, media, institutions, inflation, etc.  The outcome is a lack of confidence in all of these things, and therefore the erosion of the government and democracy.”

An attendee asked how to deal with antisemitism when it comes from a group one is generally aligned with.  Lipstadt responded, “You have to be willing to call out the people with whom you agree on many things when it comes to antisemitism. We can’t just fight it with indignation.”

The good news that Lipstadt reported was that countries are now taking antisemitism seriously, and she is about to convene a conference with world leaders on the topic.

Reminding the attendees that AJC was the first Jewish organization to stand with Ukraine in 1991 in backing the restoration of Ukrainian independence, David Harris, AJC CEO, emphatically stated, “The need for denazification is in Moscow.”

In a powerful video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the crowd from the frontlines. The courageous and embattled world leader called for a stepped-up response to Russia’s brutal war, debunked Putin’s absurd claims that he is “denazifying” Ukraine, and thanked AJC for its significant help. In the earliest days of the war, AJC’s emergency #StandWithUkraine fund raised $2.4 million for urgent humanitarian assistance. Zelensky closed by saying, “We now have a historic opportunity to defend our common freedom, our common security, our common cultural diversity from the greatest wave of hatred.”

Among other video addresses, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken vowed, “The United States is committed to working by your side to tackle the alarming rise in antisemitism around the world.” He said that it is a scourge that the entire U.S. State Department—and he personally—takes very seriously. He also didn’t mince words on Israel, declaring that the U.S. “commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad,” and that “dealing with Iran’s nuclear program is a shared top priority.”

One particularly upbeat panel, Winds of Change: The New Middle East, featured ambassadors from the Kingdom of Bahrain, Israel, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates on what the Abraham Accords have meant to their countries.  They all spoke of peace, tourism, billion-dollar-business deals, and the desire for more countries to participate in the Accords.

David Harris, AJC’s outgoing CEO, was honored throughout the conference, but especially during a program on the final evening. Harris is credited with building AJC into the leading global Jewish organization it is today.

Congressman Ted Deutch, AJC’s incoming CEO, begins his tenure on October 1.

Next year’s AJC Global Forum 2023 heads to Tel Aviv, in celebration of 75 years of Israeli independence.

Steve Budman Photography

Terri Denison