This year has had its hopeful notes: vaccines to fight the deadly coronavirus, the long-sought passage of the NO HATE Act, and groundbreaking relations between Israel and the Arab world.

But 2021 has also shown us the dangers facing liberal democracy: an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a travesty of justice for Jews in France, rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas terrorists, and a resurgence of antisemitism in the U.S. fueled by white supremacists as well as those who deny Israel’s right to exist.   

Through it all, AJC remains on the frontlines, as demonstrated at AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021, which ended Wednesday with a stirring call to action from AJC CEO David Harris.

“It’s critical that our political leadership take antisemitism seriously and send a clear message of zero tolerance,” Harris said. “We need to expect the same of our institutions, our schools, and colleges. Antisemitism should not be an afterthought. Antisemitism should not be rationalized or legitimized or justified, much less denied.”

“We have a responsibility, I believe, not only to focus on the present challenges,” he added, “but also to help shape the future of the Jewish people.”

Here are a half dozen moments during the four-day event that showcased AJC’s critical efforts to shape that future by combating surging antisemitism around the world, promoting Israel’s place in a reimagined Middle East, and restoring a deeply divided America.

🙌 Together we reimagined what’s possible at #AJCVirtualGloFo. 🙌

From historic announcements to insightful debates to moving moments, AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021 was one for the books.

WATCH the highlights:


 

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 9, 2021


1. Luminaries on Antisemitism Urge Americans to Fight Back

Wake up and stand up, America! Author and columnist for The New York Times Bret Stephens, his former Times colleague Bari Weiss, and AJC Europe General Manager Simone Rodan-Benzaquen called on Americans to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism and reminded American Jews to stop taking Israel for granted, especially as their safety in the U.S. becomes more tenuous.

Together, Weiss, Stephens, and Rodan Benzaquen said all Americans, including President Joe Biden, must be willing to call out antisemitism from their own political tribes on the left and the right.

Calling out antisemitic voices on the far right is “moral gimme,” Weiss said, but she and Stephens both pointed out that antisemitic tropes in the context of opposition to Israel are trickling down and saturating American culture.

“It’s OK now to say that Israel is the most repressive, colonialist, genocidal state in the world,” Stephens said. “Leave aside the fact that’s a bonkers point of view … This is an omen of where the culture is going if the American Jewish community doesn’t start to think seriously about what it owes itself and what it is owed by the rest of the American community.”

Weiss said she gets the sense that the American Jewish community still doesn’t – or doesn’t want to – understand how deeply this ideology has infected institutions that are meant to uphold liberal democracy.

“The idea that this has spread so wide and far is literally so psychologically difficult to process and absorb that people would rather close their eyes and ears to what we have already lost,” she said. “We ‘re feeling like we’re being tugged back into the mean of Jewish history and the only way we can resist that is standing up loudly now because it will not get easier.”

Rodan Benzaquen agreed. After watching the progression of antisemitism in Europe, she has viewed events unfolding in the U.S. with frustration. “You have the impression that you’ve seen the movie already” she said, “and you already know how it’s going to end.”

At #AJCVirtualGloFo, @BariWeiss said that by turning to Jewish history, we can find the lessons, courage, and moral clarity to fight antisemitism.

WATCH her powerful remarks:


 

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 9, 2021


2. AJC Convenes U.S. Senate Caucus on Black Jewish Relations

Three U.S. senators addressing the AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021 worldwide audience announced the launch of a bipartisan Black-Jewish Senate Caucus, convened by AJC.

Caucus co-founders U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Tim Scott (R-SC) said the creation of the caucus reflects the urgent need to bring together African Americans and Jews who have a long history of standing together for social justice and civil rights.

“Black Americans are targeted for their race. Jewish Americans are most targeted for their religion. We have to stop this,” said U.S. Sen. Jackie Rosen of Nevada. “When we stand shoulder to shoulder and say enough is enough, that’s when the healing process of change begins.”

The Black community should denounce attacks against Jews – whether those attacks are targeting visibly Jewish U.S. citizens on the streets of New York or Hamas is targeting Israeli civilians.

“The Black community should be as outspoken against hate in the Jewish community as anybody else,” said Scott. “Having felt the sting and the dehumanization of that hatred, we should speak out.”

History has been made at #AJCVirtualGloFo with the launch of the bipartisan Senate Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations!

WATCH the highlights of this moving event, featuring Caucus co-chairs @SenBooker, @SenJackyRosen, and @SenatorTimScott.


 

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 9, 2021


3. Antisemitism Watchdog in Latin America

From the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires to the recent horrific attacks against the Chilean Jewish community, antisemitism in Latin America is a constant concern.

“Antisemitism has had traumatic and violent dimensions in our region,” said Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), the forum of 35 countries that guides policy and security across the Americas and Caribbean. He added that acts of terror and violence against Jewish communities are also threats “against the society to which they belong.”

To safeguard Jewish communities and democracy itself, Almagro on Tuesday announced the creation of an OAS Commissioner for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism. Once appointed, the new commissioner will work with all countries in the region to secure the adoption of the Working Definition of Antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The historic announcement came during a conversation Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs and AJC CEO David Harris on the third day of AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021, during which Almagro also expressed profound concern about anti-Israel rhetoric that casts doubt on the Jewish state’s right to exist.

“I want to say it loud and clear,” he said. “Calling for the disappearance of the State of Israel is an act of terrorism and is plain, simple antisemitism.”

Today OAS Sec. Gen. @Almagro_OEA2015 made history at #AJCVirtualGloFo by announcing the creation of the position of Antisemitism Commissioner for Latin America, a vital step in the fight against Jew-hatred.

WATCH:


 

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 9, 2021


4. AJC Opens First Office in Arab Country

A retired U.S. Ambassador who has served in Rabat, Ankara, Algiers, Cairo, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, and Muscat will now head AJC’s first office in an Arab country: AJC Abu Dhabi: The Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding.

Ambassador Marc Sievers, most recently the U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, will work to advance Arab-Jewish and Muslim-Jewish dialogue, relay regional concerns and combat antisemitism in the region.

“It’s wonderful to be based in Abu Dhabi not long after the Abraham Accords” Sievers said during his introduction to the 2021 Virtual AJC Global Forum’s worldwide audience.

Shiekh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the historic move.

“We are thrilled to have you,” he told the audience. “Your presence in the UAE is part of our journey, part of changing mindsets, so let’s keep on working closely, understanding each other better, and trying to look forward rather than looking backward.”

AJC Abu Dhabi will also partner with Jewish communities of the region – in particular, with the Manama-based Association of Gulf Jewish Communities and the Dubai-based Jewish Council of the Emirates – to enrich Jewish life in the Gulf.

AJC, which has fostered cooperation between Arab states and the Jewish world for more than 25 years, today announced the opening of AJC Abu Dhabi 🇦🇪 – our first office in the Arab world!

WATCH:


Learn more about this momentous milestone:
#AJCVirtualGloFo pic.twitter.com/u6J17af8cl

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 7, 2021


5. AJC Unveils Unprecedented Outreach to Iranians in Farsi

Why would AJC create social media channels tailored for Iran, a country that suppresses human rights, sponsors terror around the world, and seeks the destruction of Israel?

AJC recognizes that the Iranian people are not the regime.

“We know the Jewish people and the Iranian people have much in common,” said Saba Soomekh, Associate Director of AJC Los Angeles, who unveiled AJC’s new Farsi-language Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts on Wednesday.

“The intersection of my Iranian, American, and Jewish identities makes me particularly proud to make this exciting announcement,” said Soomekh, who fled with her family on the cusp of the Islamic Revolution and came to the U.S. “AJC Farsi will bolster our efforts to reach Iranians in Iran and diaspora communities in the United States and around the world.”

AJC Farsi builds on the phenomenal success of AJC Arabic’s social media accounts and the An Al Yahud (About the Jews) video series, which have engaged more than 90 million Arabic speakers.

🔴 BREAKING:

Today we’re launching @AJCFarsi—Persian-language social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube—as part of a brand-new effort to reach Iranians in both Iran and diaspora communities around the world.

Together let’s reimagine what’s possible! 🙌

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 7, 2021

 

6. AJC Introduces Arab Gulf Leaders to Israel

Building on the promise of the Abraham Accords and AJC’s engagement with Arab Gulf countries, policymakers and opinion influencers from Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan will travel to Israel starting in November as part of Project Interchange (PI), AJC’s signature educational institute that introduces Israel to leaders from the U.S. and countries around the world.

“The August 2020 signing of the Abraham Accords represented a seismic shift in global geopolitics, one which heralds new opportunities to broaden understanding of, and cooperation with, Israel,” said Nisha Abkarian, Director of AJC Project Interchange, adding that many first-time visitors comprehend the reality and complexity of Israeli democratic society after Project Interchange trips.

As part of its outreach to the Muslim world, Project Interchange has already welcomed to Israel nearly two dozen groups of Muslim leaders from the U.S., Germany, France, India, Indonesia, and North Africa, but never from the Gulf region.

In addition, participants from the U.S. and Europe will now have the opportunity after experiencing Israel to visit one of the Arab countries that signed normalization deals with Israel. The bonus trip aims to deepen understanding of the dynamics of peaceful conflict resolution.

🔴 BREAKING:

American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange is reimagining what’s possible with 2 big announcements:

Our PI trips to Israel will now include visits to Abraham Accord countries, and we will bring Arab delegations from these nations to 🇮🇱!
#AJCVirtualGloFo

— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) June 7, 2021

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