On January 12th, a standing-room-only crowd poured into the large meeting room at AJC’s New York headquarters for a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 17 terror victims of the recent attacks in Paris. Not even a wet, wintry day could dampen the resolve of those gathered together to mark the tragic events of the previous days.
For me, the solemnity of the occasion hit home upon entering the elevator, where a sign prominently displayed the words, “Je suis Juif.” The room was packed with AJC members, staff, dignitaries from 10 different countries and religious leaders from various faiths.
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the Director of AJC’s Paris office, addressed the crowd via video conference. She stressed the significance that 3.7 million French citizens took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims. There was an unmistakable message to the French Jewish community that they were not alone. What was less clear, she said, was whether this show of unity would quickly recede or coalesce into meaningful policy changes.
Consul General Bertrand Lortholary and French ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre also spoke, touching on the magnitude of the stakes in the fight against terrorism. Ambassador Delattre said, “The fight against anti-Semitism is an existential threat to all of us.” He pointed out that the demonstrations throughout France were unprecedented in its history. He appeared shaken with emotion as he uttered his closing words: “Vive la République. Vive la France.”
David Harris, AJC’s charismatic Executive Director, spoke about feeling both sorrow and anger on the occasion of the attacks. He related his anger to the task of explaining the tragedy to his elderly mother, a French-born Holocaust survivor. He expressed outrage that the lives of French Jews, now 70 years removed from the Holocaust, remain endangered in the country founded on the core principles of liberté, egalité, fraternité. He spoke of the mandate for the international community to stand shoulder to shoulder to defeat Islamic terror.
David then introduced a surprise guest, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN. He praised her as a true friend of AJC and a fierce advocate against anti-Semitism. She spoke about the threat of anti-Semitism to pluralism and “everything Europe stands for.” She added that the US must confront this scourge with all the tools at our disposal.
Attending this meeting at a time of great crisis reminded me of why I feel grateful to be a member of AJC. Events far away increasingly hit close to home. When reading about them causes us to wring our hands and fret over the madness in today’s world, we are not acting constructively. AJC provides an opportunity for us to join hands and take meaningful action, which is the most effective way I know to combat anti-Semitism, promote Israel’s place in the world and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. These are AJC’s top priorities.
Through its vast network of relationships with political, religious and ethnic leaders at home and around the world, AJC is able to shape events that matter most to the Jewish community. Whether I’m showing my support as a spectator, as was the case at the January 12th meeting, or speaking directly to a diplomat or congressman as a member of an AJC delegation, I firmly believe that I am making a difference about issues that are vitally important. If you are not yet involved with AJC, I hope you will consider joining us today!
Top Left Photo from left to right: Executive Director David Harris, Consul General of France to New York Bertrand Lortholary, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, AJC Paris Chair Rene-Pierre Azria, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Ambassador Francois Delattre.
It was the eighth night of Hanukkah―a dreary and drizzly night outside, but a joyous and radiant night inside the Consulate of India at East 64th Street in New York City on December 23. On the mantelpiece of the ornate grand salon, adorned with a shining electric menorah and a dangling blue-and-white "Happy Hanukkah" banner, a bronze bust of Gandhi peered at the capacity crowd. At the invitation of Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Consul General of India, members of the Jewish and Indian communities of the metropolitan area had come to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights.
With the American and Indian flags behind them, representatives of the governments of India and Israel, of the Jewish community, and of the Indian-American community gathered on the podium to light a real menorah. Nissim Reubin, Assistant Director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute, recited the blessings as Consul General Mulay, Israeli Deputy Consul General Amir Sagie, and New Jersey State Assemblyman Raj Mukherji took turns lighting the candles.
"We are here to celebrate heritage, friendship, and what is common to humanity," Consul General Mulay told the crowd. Light has meaning in every religion, he explained, because the very energy within us is made of light. Noting that an Indian saying speaks of lighting lamps one from another, the Consul General expressed the hope that the evening's celebration would "give us inspiration to find in us the true meaning of light."
Consul General Mulay added that "we also celebrate the trilateral friendship between the United States, Israel and India. Our prime minister feels very close to Israel and has said so on several occasions." The Consul General stressed the importance of the economic relationship between India and Israel and expressed the hope that it, and interaction between young people in particular, would continue to grow. He also expressed his appreciation to President Obama for planning to visit India in January to mark and attend India's Republic Day festivities
Israeli Deputy Consul General Amir Sagie praised the friendship that has developed with the Indian government and indicated that the two countries are "headed for a great future." He spoke warmly of the
triangular brotherhood between Israel and India, "the two older brothers," and the "new civilization" of the United States.
"Hanukkah celebrates religious freedom and justice," New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji remarked "and we are here to celebrate religious freedom for all people." He drew some good-natured laughter from the audience when he added: "All three of our nations share these values; all three of us threw off British colonial rule."
On behalf of AJC, Buzz Warren, New Jersey Diplomatic Outreach Team Leader for India, thanked Consul General Mulay "for being such a good friend of AJC and the Jewish community" and for making the consulate "a place where we feel very comfortable and enjoy attending all events."
Leaving the consulate―after a generous buffet dinner hosted by the Consul General, and after mingling with the large mixed crowd that had come together for the evening―it seemed to me that the evening drizzle outside had shed much of its dreariness and put sparkle into the city lights.