American Jewish Committee (AJC) will serve as the leading partner for a first-of-its-kind summit on the state of antisemitism in middle America. The summit, including a day-long public symposium, Unity Seder, and a private convening of regional Jewish leadership, are part of Driving out Darkness in the Heartland: 2024 Regional Summit on Combating Antisemitism, presented by JCRB/AJC of Kansas City and AJC. 

Hundreds of leaders from educational institutions and faith communities, as well as corporate leaders and elected officials, are expected for the April 16 symposium at Rockhurst University, which will focus on educating and empowering leaders from across the region to understand and take action against antisemitism.

“Antisemitism is not just a problem for Jews. It’s one we must all solve. By convening leaders and stakeholders from across various fields and industries in our region, we seek not only to provide them with an in-depth education on antisemitism, but also to begin crucial conversations on creating region- and industry-specific plans of action,” JCRB/AJC Executive Director Gavriela Geller said.

The symposium will be held three days after the 10th anniversary of the hate-driven murders of three persons at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom in Overland Park, Kan. Two of the victims were the older son and father of Mindy Corporon, who will deliver opening remarks at the symposium. The gunman was a white supremacist intent on killing Jews, though none of the victims were Jewish.

“The heartland is not immune to the patterns of antisemitism we are seeing across the country and the world,” Geller said. “Yet there are ways in which the experiences and concerns of smaller Jewish communities like ours do differ from those in bigger cities. This also means we have unique opportunities to try new ideas and strategies, and drive change from right here in the Midwest.”

The U.S. is currently grappling with unprecedented rates of antisemitism, which increased following the Hamas massacre of 1,200 men, women, children, and babies in Israel on October 7. AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report found 63% of American Jews say the status of Jews in the U.S. is less secure compared to one year ago, up from 41% in 2022. And nearly half of American Jews polled said they have altered their behavior out of fear of antisemitism.

The keynote remarks are scheduled to come from AJC CEO Ted Deutch, who has made the urgency to address antisemitism a top priority. He has said, “If, before October 7, antisemitism was a slow-burning fire, it has now become a five-alarm emergency that requires all of us to douse its flames.”

Holly Huffnagle, AJC’s U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism, is also slated to speak. Other speakers include Kevin Clayton, Senior Vice President, Head of Social Impact at Equity, for the Cleveland Cavaliers; Mike Signer, Former Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia; and Oren Jacobson, Executive Director of Project Shema. 

The symposium will be followed by a convening of Jewish professionals from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma to discuss best practices and tools for addressing antisemitism in rural and mid-sized Jewish communities in the heartland. 

Registration for the conference closes on April 8, 2024. More information on the summit is here.