There are times as a development professional when a call to action becomes a defining moment in your career. This was a very difficult summer because it seemed every day I came to work, I was besieged with briefings on: that latest round of rocket attacks in Israel; our fellow Jews attacked in Europe and Latin America; and the unleashing of a massive wave of anti-Semitism and outright hatred directed towards Jews. However, because I am privileged to work for and support an organization that advocates on behalf of the global Jewish community and firmly believes in Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh (all Jews are responsible for one another) I took this moment to say Hineni (hear I am), here is my chance to make a difference.
I can personally affirm that my colleagues at AJC, especially our staff in the European offices, are in overdrive reaching out to their government, interfaith, religious and media contacts to combat this surge of anti-Semitism and defend Israel against those who attack its very existence. However, they need our help.
AJC is launching a special fundraising effort – The Defining Moment Campaign. The objective of the Defining Moment Campaign is to provide funding to expand AJC’s advocacy platform, with a special emphasis in three key strategic areas:
1) Increase the capacity of Project Interchange so that we can bring more influential decision makers to Israel, particularly politicians, journalists and diplomats.
2) Bolster the capacity of our European offices so that we can respond even more powerfully to the massive scale of anti-Semitism infecting Europe.
3) Expand our media and communications efforts in the US and globally so that we can more broadly make the case against anti-Semitism and for Israel.
AJC’s Executive Director, David Harris said, “Today, unlike seventy years ago, each of us knows what is going on in Europe, as well as in the Middle East and Latin America – we know. And because we know, we cannot idly stand-by. We must speak out, we must demand change, we must have a global platform and that platform needs to be as robust and as powerful as the situation that we are now facing demands.”
Today I am speaking out, today I am asking for change. I hope you will join with me and with AJC and say Hineni (Here I am)! Please consider making a gift to support our effort. If you have already made a gift this year, then I ask you to consider making an extra gift. You may make a gift on line by clicking here or calling our office at (973) 379-7844.
As the new President of the AJC Metro Region, I expected to be busy over the summer preparing for the upcoming year, but the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza this summer kept me busier than I ever imagined. In August, all 22 regional offices of AJC were asked to reach out and meet with members of Congress home during the congressional recess. Therefore, I like to think that whatever we accomplished in New Jersey was replicated throughout the country. After a whirlwind of four meetings in three days with three congressmen and one senator’s staff, I have learned three essential things.
First, our state representatives need and want to hear from their constituents. Our relationship with Senatory Cory Booker is a testament to that fact. Since he has taken office, we met with Booker’s staff in Washington during the Global Forum in May, with the Senator in June and have corresponded throughout the summer seeking his support for Israel, the Iron Dome and on behalf the European Jewish community. It was no surprise thathis office reached out to AJC on a busy week in August when we already had three meetings with NJ congressmen scheduled. We were asked to gather a group of Jewish leadership for a next day meeting with Booker’s foreign policy and defense advisor so that she could hear directly from key Jewish constituents and bring our conversation back to the Senator. We succeeded in getting a powerful group of Jewish leaders to the meeting. During our conversation we expressed our gratitude for Booker’s strong support for Israel in his public statements as well as his cosponsoring of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, S.Res. 498, a resolution regarding U.S. support of Israel’s right to defend itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from Hamas, increased funding of the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. We explained our deep personal concern for the safety and security of the people living in Israel and for Jews living in Europe and Latin America. We asked that the Senator continue to speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism, especially in any meetings with any European counterparts. We also asked that he consider bringing a resolution to the Senate similar to the current House resolution regarding anti-Semitism.
Second, our meetings are an opportunity to bring less prominent issues to the forefront and to try to find solutions. Our representatives are well versed in the top line issues that concern the Jewish community today, but our meetings give us a chance to discuss nuances that make a difference on how an issue is perceived or which might bring a sidelined issue back to prominence. In each of these meetings, for instance we discussed our concern regarding the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and were surprised how the conversations progressed from engaging our Jewish youth in Jewish Issues, to the importance of investing in the only democracy in the Middle East, and how to create successful interfaith dialogue on difficult topics. As a result, one congressman, who was previously unaware of our concern regarding BDS, promised to include language about the importance of investing in Israel rather than divesting into any of his speeches regarding Israel and the Middle East.
Third, our advocacy meetings impacted our representatives, but also on my understanding of the necessity of being an advocate for Israel and our NJ Jewish Community. The intensity of the situation this summer provided me with new insight into the importance of AJC’s mission, its ability to respond quickly to changing world events, and its effectiveness in reaching decision makers. Throughout the summer, we had had other opportunities to meet with our elected officials, including June meetings with Senators Menendez and Booker and at community Pro-Israel rallies, but these intimate August meetings after weeks of fighting in Gaza and a proliferation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic events around the world really drove home the point. Reflecting on the plight of European Jewry during the Holocaust, I feel so fortunate to be able to be a part of AJC and have such incredible access to our elected officials who truly want to hear about our concerns.
AJC Board Members speaking with Congressman Leonard Lance