Wednesday and Thursday were the last two days of the meeting of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations. The theme of this meeting is “Strength Through Unity.” Most of these talks and panels focused on internal and external threats to Israel, Iran & the Middle East, rising antisemitism, relations with Jews in the Diaspora, and the upcoming 3rd elections for a government.
In general, the panels and speakers had a good gender balance, and I was pleased to see so many influential women invited to present. Of course, we continued to hear from recognizable Israeli leaders – politicians, journalists, and military leaders.
One of the most interesting panels included four journalists, assessing the Israeli elections. Two of the journalists had just returned to Israel from the US, where they had been in Iowa and New Hampshire, observing the first delegate selections for the Democratic Party. Their insights were interesting – just hearing a perspective from outside of the US media.
Another of the speakers we heard demanded that we call out antisemitism where and when we see it – regardless of the politics of the originator. Clearly, there is a rising concern about both antisemitism and anti-Zionism in countries beyond the US and Israel. We heard from people involved in the Jewish communities in Great Britain, Latin America, South Africa, and Turkey – all discussing the effects that acts of violence have had there. Similarly, we heard about legislation aimed at delegitimizing Israel – in the UN and in Ireland!
There were calls to action and demands to raise our collective and individual voices. One of the most impactful admonitions I heard was from an MK (Member of Knesset), who told us “Do not speak about leaders, speak about agenda. Leaders can change positions. Agendas make clear what actions to take.” These words resonated with me, and reminded me of our work on tikkun olam.
On the last day, we heard from Michal Uziyahu, who lives in the Gaza District, in Eshkol. She spoke passionately about what it is like raising children within sight of Gaza: teaching children how to get to bomb shelters in 15 seconds, NOT to touch balloons, and to be tolerant – not to hate. She is working with the “Goodness Project,” focused on creating investment opportunities in Eshkol that will employ Palestinians from Gaza and bring more reliable electricity to the area. Another reminder that one person CAN make a difference!
The conference ended late on Thursday, and Marla and I headed off to Tel Aviv, where women have already begun arriving for our 2020 WRJ Mission. Stay tuned!