June 18, 2020
The decision to host AJC Global Forum 2020 in Berlin was historic. But when the global COVID-19 pandemic forced the event’s cancellation, that didn’t stop AJC from making history by hosting its first-ever Virtual Global Forum this week.
Here are five defining moments that showcased AJC’s critical efforts to strengthen interfaith ties, bolster Black-Jewish relations, promote Israel’s place in the world, combat antisemitism, and protect the rights of all people.
- Muslim World League Leader Calls for Unity
During the opening plenary of the AJC Virtual Global Forum, Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League and Chairman of the Centre for Responsible Leadership, said the lessons of the Holocaust should be applied to confronting extremists who have violently attacked and continue to threaten Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others.
“Just as the forces of good stood shoulder to shoulder against evil on battlefields across Europe so many years ago, we now must unite against those who promote hatred and intolerance today,” Dr. Al-Issa said. “Together, we are fighting to create a better, more equal world in which there is no place for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any other form of prejudice.”
In January, Dr. Al-Issa joined AJC CEO David Harris and other AJC leaders on a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. He brought with him a delegation of 62 prominent Islamic scholars from 28 countries – the most senior Islamic leadership delegation ever to visit Auschwitz or any Nazi German death camp.
“We have said repeatedly that we‘re determined to help write a promising 21st century chapter in Muslim-Jewish relations,” Harris said. “Dr. Al-Issa’s powerful speech today offers us another good reason for optimism and inspiration.” Click here to watch Dr. Al-Issa’s full remarks.
- UAE Expresses Support for Relationship With Israel
History was made when Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash of the United Arab Emirates said isolating Israel was misguided and communication and cooperation are needed.
In a conversation with AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson, Dr. Gargash said the UAE can work with Israel on some areas, including fighting the new coronavirus and developing new technologies, while still having political differences over such questions as the future of the West Bank.
“I think we can have a political disagreement with Israel and try to bridge other differences,” Dr. Gargash said, noting AJC has been “has been a quite remarkable bridge for the region.”
The conversation builds on AJC’s two decades of diplomacy in the Gulf region and marks a significant step in strengthening the organization’s regional relationships.
The UAE’s international approach reflects the country’s tradition for tolerance of other faiths and ethnicities, Dr. Gargash said. “The Middle East region, the Arab world, should be more tolerant of diversity,” he noted. “Demonizing the other has not helped.”
- Offices Open in Memory of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd
AJC took its efforts to confront racism in America to the next level on Thursday, announcing two new regional offices – one in Louisville, Kentucky in memory of Breonna Taylor and another in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in memory of George Floyd. The deaths of Floyd and Taylor, both killed by police in recent months, have renewed calls for racial justice across the country.
At last year’s Global Forum, AJC unveiled the Congressional Caucus for Black Jewish Relations and the Community of Conscience, an effort to galvanize Americans around the core values of democracy. All these efforts build on AJC’s legacy of fighting for civil rights, human dignity, and pluralism.
“We want to be part of the solution,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “We want to restore the promise of America for all.”
- Prime Time for Prime Ministers of Albania and Greece
Three heads of government appeared at this year’s AJC Virtual Global Forum. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel helped kick off the event, delivering remarks during the opening plenary. Later in the week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis sat down for a conversation with AJC CEO David Harris and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke with David Schwammenthal, Director of AJC’s Transatlantic institute.
In his role as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Rama has made combating antisemitism a priority for the 57-member state organization. During the conversation, he expressed great admiration for Israel.
“Israel is a shining example of a country that has made a miracle,” he said. “It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you know.”
Mistotakis, whose father established diplomatic relations between Greece and Israel during his term as prime minister, also pledged support for Israel. He went on to declare that it is his personal mission to keep neo-Nazis out of political leadership.
“Greece is moving away from the politics of anger and hate,” he stressed, noting that his country has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism.
- Three Generations Share Their Stories
Yes, AJC made history at this year’s Virtual Global Forum. But sometimes the most powerful moments are reflections on what brought us to this point.
Throughout the five-day event, a dozen AJC lay leaders and staff shared memories of the Holocaust – either their personal anguish or that of their parents and grandparents. Their testimonies before every session highlighted the resilience and determination of the Jewish people and the 75 years of progress since the end of World War II.
Survivors who had planned to attend AJC Global Forum in Berlin shared how they wrestled with the prospect of setting foot on German soil for the first time since their families endured the Shoah.
“In the end I decided it was the right thing to do,” said Beverly Block Rosenbaum, whose mother was pulled from the line to the gas chamber by a Nazi officer who said she was too pretty to be a Jew. She replied that she was a Jew and proud. She survived. “Like my mother on the Nazi selection line, I will never be afraid to say I am a proud Jew,” Rosenbaum declared.