AJC Access and AJC Global Forum 2013 - (Inter)Faith in Jewmanity restored Two interconnected conferences organized by the American Jewish Committee in Washington D.C. at the turn of May and June 2013 have come to an end. Like many other events of that class and prestige they gathered both rising leaders and veterans of Jewish movements from around the world.
Like plenty of other events AJC Access and AJC Global Forum involved lectures, workshops, receptions and statements. Parties in the lobby and lobbying at the parties. However, there are certain qualities which made both of the events remarkable places to be. One exceptional feature, especially visible at AJC Access, was dedicated to panels and other activities regarding Jewish-Muslim relations. Middle Eastern conflict, though obviously mentioned, was not dominant, with a lot of dialogue instead of advocacy.
Among the many speakers one could hear not only the top Jewish figures but also representatives of the Muslim perspective, such as one of Newsweek's ‘world's most influential women’ Dalia Ziada - well known for her human rights activism in Egypt or recognized scholars like Abdullah Hamidadin. A round of applause was given to Ilja Sichrovsky, one of the leaders of the MuslimJewish Conference, who presented the project of getting young Muslims and Jews together for the third time this year. Giving space to interfaith dialogue in the discussion seems not only extremely interesting from the point of view of those AJC event participants who know little about Islam and were confronted with information less visible in the media, but also may result in a different quality of Jewish leaders’ attitudes toward Muslims in the future. As Sichrovsky said about his friendship with Pakistani co-creator of the conference, “It turned out I don’t control the media and he is not making bombs”.
The AJC Global Forum 2013 hosted United States Secretary of State John Kerry, ambassadors and foreign ministers who showed their support for Israel and countering antiSemitism. A standing ovation was given at the end Polish MFA Radosław Sikorski’s speech, who won the audience not only by stating that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but also by sharing the story of Stanisław Aronson, a Polish Jew, fugitive of Auschwitz, veteran of Polish Home Army and the Warsaw Uprising and later officer of IDF. With his example, Sikorski tried to show the complexity of Polish-Jewish history. A burst of applause filled the room when Sikorski said that Aronson flew from Tel-Aviv and is present at the Global Forum.
This year, AJC Access and AJC Global Forum were not only professionally prepared (which is obvious for AJC events) but with the varied program and themes touched during the events it has shown, with great strength, the different voices and narrations present in Jewish life, not only in America, but globally. It will be very hard for organizers of the 2014 editions to match that level, however I am sure they are very likely to succeed, given their professionalism and enthusiasm.