AJC Weekly Update - May 9, 2007

American Jewish Committee News Update

Update 254  |  May 9, 2007

101st Annual Meeting Concludes

More than 1,400 AJC members and friends gathered to help celebrate the culmination of AJC's Centennial year at AJC's 101st Annual Dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington. Speakers included Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Argentine First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad. During the week of the Annual Meeting and International Leadership Conference sessions, participants explored top issues facing world Jewry and the current threats facing Israel, as well as strategies on energy independence. Also in attendance were Jewish leaders from more than 50 countries and the graduating class of the Israel National Defense College.

Annual Meeting Video, Audio Available at AJC.ORG

The Annual Dinner and several sessions from the Annual Meeting were webcast live for the first time. Many of the sessions also are available via audio, and several texts of speeches. Visit AJC the website for the full list.

Congratulating Nicolas Sarkozy on Election Victory

AJC was the first major American Jewish organization to formally congratulate Nicolas Sarkozy on his election as president of France. "We have long admired Nicolas Sarkozy as a political leader deeply committed to France's democratic values, his readiness to confront threats to those principles, and his dedication to strengthening trans-Atlantic relations," said David Harris. READ NEWS RELEASE. AJC has enjoyed a close relationship with Sarkozy since he became Interior Minister in 2002 and has met regularly with him in Paris, as well as in New York and Washington on his visits to the U.S. In 2004, Sarkozy delivered an important speech to AJC in Washington. READ SPEECH. "As you assume the responsibilities of office, we hope you will continue to look to AJC as an ally in the essential task of strengthening understanding and cooperation between France and the United States," wrote AJC President Richard Sideman and David Harris in a congratulatory letter. READ LETTER.

Latvian President Receives Award for Diplomatic Excellence

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga received AJC's prestigious Madeline and Bruce Ramer Award for Diplomatic Excellence at the Annual Dinner. READ NEWS RELEASE. Vike-Freiberga was honored for her ties to the U.S., friendship to the Jewish people, strong relations with Israel and devotion to the search for the historical truth about the fate of Latvia's Jews during the Second World War. "We salute your steadfast commitment to the highest ideals of democracy, the rule of law and defense of human dignity," said David Harris. WATCH, READ LATVIAN PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.

Colombian President Honored With Light Unto the Nations Award

AJC honored Colombian President Alvaro Uribe with its Light unto the Nations Award at the Annual Dinner. "President Uribe is a staunch ally of the United States, a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and is a firm believer in human dignity and human development in Colombia and the Americas," said AJC President E. Robert Goodkind. READ NEWS RELEASE. WATCH URIBE SPEECH.

Richard Sideman Elected AJC President

"These turbulent times pose enormous challenges to the Jewish people. With AJC's emphasis upon reason and tolerance, we will confront these problems with measured determination and AJC's trademark diplomacy," said Sideman, who was elected AJC President during the Annual Meeting, succeeding E. Robert Goodkind. Sideman, an AJC member since 1982, has served as president of AJC's San Francisco Chapter. On the national level, he has served as chair of the Community Service Commission, chair of the International Relations Commission, and was the founding chair of the Anti-Semitism Task Force. READ NEWS RELEASE.

AJC Lauds E. Robert Goodkind

E. Robert Goodkind was honored with AJC's Distinguished Leadership Award at a tribute dinner during the Annual Meeting marking the end of his three-year term as AJC president. "This award has been given to me simply for doing what my soul compelled me to do," said Goodkind. READ, LISTEN TO GOODKIND SPEECH. "Bob has brought a sense of excellence to all that he's done. In the process, AJC, over and over again, has been the fortunate beneficiary," said David Harris. LISTEN TO HARRIS REMARKS. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who represents the district where Goodkind resides in Westchester County, also spoke. READ NEWS RELEASE.

Executive Director Receives Latvia's Highest Honor

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga presented the Order of the Three Stars – Commander Class, Latvia's highest honor, to AJC's executive director at the Annual Dinner. "David Harris is a true friend of humanity, of the Jewish people and of Latvia," said President Vike-Freiberga. "You have helped to forge a better future for us all, and for this Latvia and its president are truly grateful." READ NEWS RELEASE.

Egyptian-born Italian Journalist Receives AJC Mass Media Award

Magdi Allam, the Egyptian-born vice editor of Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily newspaper, and an outspoken supporter of Israel, received AJC's Mass Media Award. "Israel represents affirmation of the sanctity of life for all human kind," said Allam in a passionate address at the Annual Meeting that prompted a sustained standing ovation. "Standing up for Israel's right to exist means standing up on the right side of the divide between civilization and barbarity." READ NEWS RELEASE. "The AJC Mass Media Award encourages me to go on with more and more determination to assert the truth and defend the right of human life for all, including, centrally, the State of Israel," said Allam, who warned strongly about the corrosive myths about Jews and Israel propagated across the Arab world. READ, LISTEN TO ALLAM SPEECH.  Allam is the subject of David Harris’s national radio message on the CBS radio network, airing during the Osgood FileLISTEN.

Father Patrick Desbois Receives AJC's Jan Karski Award

AJC honored Father Patrick Desbois, a central figure in Jewish-Christian relations, with its Jan Karski Award. "Father Desbois's efforts to identify the mass graves of Jewish victims of the Shoah and ensure that these unnamed Holocaust victims are remembered, combined with his dedication to furthering understanding between Christians and Jews, are a testament to the human spirit and the power of good," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's director of international Jewish affairs. READ NEWS RELEASE. Over the last decade, his "Operation Ukraine" program has been instrumental in identifying the mass graves of Eastern European Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. "I do this work to combat a wave of Holocaust denial being used to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish people," said Desbois. "When the last of the Holocaust survivors passes away, Holocaust denial will become worse." WATCH, LISTEN TO DESBOIS'S SPEECH.

Colombian Jewish Community Signs Association Agreement

Colombia's Jewish community signed an association agreement with AJC during the Annual Meeting, attended by a large number of Jewish leaders from Latin America. "The American Jewish Committee is politically the most important Jewish organization in the world," said Marcos Peckel, president of the Bogotá Jewish community. Peckal signed the accord on behalf of Colombia's entire Jewish community. READ NEWS RELEASE. This is the seventh AJC association agreement with a Latin American Jewish community, and the 24th worldwide.

Greek Jewish Community Formalizes Ties

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and AJC signed an agreement formally linking the two organizations. "The Greek Jewish communities have worked with, and relied on, AJC for many years," said KIS President Moses C. Constantinis. "We look forward to this new chapter in our mutually beneficial relationship, which will also strengthen Greek-U.S. relations." READ NEWS RELEASE.

Former CIA Director Talks Tough on Energy Independence

"We need to destroy oil's role as a strategic commodity," said former CIA Director R. James Woolsey in a major address on energy at the Annual Meeting. Woolsey decried the dangerous dependence of the U.S. and other leading nations on oil from despotic Islamic regimes, and stressed that solutions to oil dependence must ensure that security concerns, the environment and cost are addressed. READ NEWS RELEASE. "We want a way to propel ourselves around that is secure, that is clean, and that is affordable as possible," said Woolsey, currently distinguished advisor to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "There are no single solutions in this business, it's a portfolio approach." LISTEN TO WOOLSEY SPEECH.

Davos Chairman Explores Poverty-Extremism Link

Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum (Davos), described a disturbing connection between poverty-stricken nations and expressions of violent extremism, often in the form of anti-Semitism, in his address at the Annual Meeting opening plenary session. READ NEWS RELEASE. "As the more educated, creative, entrepreneurial and plugged-in segments of global society have been brought closer together in this global world, those left behind have become prey to the hate-filled vitriol of radicalized Islamic thought or poisonous canards and stereotypes about Jews, immigrants and other minority groups," said Schwab. LISTEN, WATCH SCHWAB SPEECH.

Advocacy Training in Washington

AJC leaders from across the country gathered in Washington the day before the Annual Meeting for advocacy training and action on issues regarding the Middle East and energy independence. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) engaged in a vibrant dinner conversation with the more than 100 AJC members who came to Washington in advance of the Annual Meeting. They also visited several dozen Representatives and Senators in their Capitol Hill offices.

Leadership Awards for Members of Congress

During the Annual Meeting, AJC presented its Congressional Leadership Award to Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Chris Shays (R-CT), Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), and Nita Lowey (D-NY). Senator John Danforth received AJC's prestigious American Liberties Medallion.

Delays in Rosen-Weissman Case Causes Concern

AJC expressed concern with the consequences of serious delays by the government in going forward with its case against former AIPAC staffers Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, and the resultant impact on their constitutional rights. "Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman are entitled to their day in court to explain their actions and be given every opportunity to rebut allegations that they illegally passed on classified information in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act – a statute never before used to prosecute private citizens," AJC said. READ NEWS RELEASE.

AJC's Mideast Briefing: Understanding Olmert's Holding-On

Eran Lerman, director of AJC's Israel/Middle East Office, examines Ehud Olmert's decision to stay in office despite public calls for his resignation, and why "there is not much to celebrate in post-Winograd Israeli politics." READ BRIEFING.

AJC Blogs

At the Jerusalem Post blog, David Harris shares his top-ten list of the ways in which Israel is treated differently than other nations. READ BLOG. To read what's on the minds of AJC's staff experts visit ajcwire.org.

Africa Institute Visits Ethiopia

An AJC Africa Institute delegation visited Ethiopia to discuss with President Girma Woldegiorgis the institute's initiatives. Stanley Bergman, chair of the Africa Institute, and Marion Bergman, president of AJC's Long Island Chapter, also met with Tekeda Alemu, State Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Abba Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and president of the World Council of Churches; as well as with the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian leaders expressed their friendship with Israel and the Jewish people, and invited the AJC group to participate in September in ceremonies welcoming the new millennium on the Ethiopian calendar.

In the Media

Agence France Presse, describing AJC as "the leading U.S. Jewish organization," and JTA published stories about AJC's work with newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The New York Jewish Week published an op-ed by Steven Bayme, director of AJC's Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations, about attacks on pro-Israel advocates in the Jewish community.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an op-ed by Rabbi Anson Laytner, director of AJC's Seattle Chapter, about the role of religious leaders in the same-sex marriage debate.

The Atlantic Times, a monthly newspaper devoted to transatlantic relations, devoted a half-page story about AJC's efforts in Germany, including the work of the Ramer Center for German-Jewish Relations, recent ACCESS visits, and work with Germany's Turkish community. Deidre Berger, director of AJC's Berlin office, was extensively quoted. READ ARTICLE.

EFE (Spanish news agency) and a number of Colombian newspapers, radio and television stations covered President Alvaro Uribe's address to AJC's Annual Dinner.

Argentine First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's address to the Annual Dinner was broadcast live on television stations in Argentina, and also was covered extensively in Argentine media.

JTA published briefs on the Richard Sideman's election as AJC president, and on the AJC statement regarding the Rosen-Weissman case.

The BBC quoted Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's international director of interreligious affairs, in an article about the possibility that the Vatican may reintroduce the Latin mass, which contains troubling references to Jews.

The Forward cited AJC's condemnation of Don Imus in an article about the aftermath in the African American community of the controversy.

Felice Gaer, director of AJC's Blaustein Institute, was quoted by the Associated Press, Washington Post, and Associated Baptist Press, on abuses of religious freedom in Iraq.

The publication of two UN Watch reports exposing the abuses of the UN Human Rights Council was covered by major media around the world, including the Associated Press, (carried in the Washington Post and International Herald Tribune); Reuters; the German wire service Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA); the Bangkok Post; and the Montreal Gazette.

The European Jewish Press wire service published a story about AJC's association agreement with the Greek Jewish community.

Please contact Kenneth Bandler, AJC's Director of Communications,
at bandlerk@ajc.org with any questions or comments.
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