AJC Maintains a Single-Minded Focus on Jews and Israel

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The first thing to know about the American Jewish Committee is that it single-mindedly focuses on Jews and Israel. 

 

The first thing to know about the American Jewish Committee is that it single-mindedly focuses on Jews and Israel.

This week, the AJC is here in Philadelphia, just as last week it was in Cleveland. Not for Democrats and Hillary. Not for Republicans and Trump. It’s here simply to promote the cause of Judaism and the Jewish homeland throughout the world.

With no political agenda at stake, it enabled ambassadors from around the world — Sweden, Norway, India, Botswana, South Korea and more — to mingle at the July 25 diplomatic reception at the Center City law offices of Saul Ewing LLP.

Gazing out the window at a spectacular view of the city from the 38th floor, they enjoyed a full menu of Middle Eastern favorites, including falafel, hummus and Greek salad with grape leaves. There was only a brief formal introduction by AJC leaders, leaving plenty of time for guests to schmooze.

That was the purpose of the event, according to Saul Ewing partner Fred Strober. It gave everyone an opportunity to mix, learn a little about the AJC and Israel, and test out the diplomatic waters.

“For us, it means exposure,” Strober said. “We wanted to make our new facilities available for people visiting Philadelphia. We’re involved as advocates for AJC.”

And yes, it can make a difference.

“We are known for building strong and deep relationships with leaders around the world,” said Maryland Sen. Cheryl Kagan, an AJC board member for 17 years. “Events like this with diplomats strengthen this relationship.

“One of our Washington [D.C.] office’s finest events is our diplomatic seder. We had close to 50 countries attend once. Being able to build those relationships and demystify Judaism and see our commitment to Israel is important.

“Some people are confused or not well informed.”

Earlier in the day, AJC held a panel discussion on anti-Semitism, much of it focusing on the BDS movement.

“It’s a virus that never has been eradicated and probably never will be,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC’s associate director of public policy. “There was a good deal of discussion about anti-Semitism and the BDS movement.

“Rep. [Jerry] Nadler [D-NY] made the point there’s a double standard when it comes to Israel. They’re being held to a standard of no other country in the world.

“Anti-Zionism camouflages anti-Semitism.”

The other thing on everyone’s mind was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who announced her resignation July 24 as head of the Democratic National Committee over leaked emails.

Opinion varied on her predicament, but no one disputed what she’s meant to women in the Democratic Party and to the Jewish community.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Isaacson said. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a public servant of first rank. She’s been close to AJC for years and even went on an AJC trip to Israel a number of years ago.

“It reflects on what’s happening in politics. Politics is a rough business. I was involved myself. Some of the things you think you’re saying in private you wouldn’t want to see in tomorrow’s paper.”

Wasserman Schultz should bow out immediately, Kagan said.

“Debbie has been a remarkable role model for many women in politics, and it seems she’s being asked to take the fall and, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be seeing the exit signs,” she said. “I wish for the sake of our party she would take pride in all she’s accomplished, go back to Florida and focus on her own election.

“But she’s still gonna be a powerful presence in the Democratic Party … I’m not sure this changes anything.” 

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729

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Andy Gotlieb is the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent. He holds 31 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too. Prior newspaper stops include the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Tampa Tribune and the Philadelphia Business Journal. The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various times, business, politics, crime and government, among other beats. The final 2.5 years in that stretch was an editor at the Philadelphia Business Journal, where my responsibilities included complete control over a weekly section and working with both staff writers and freelancers. In late 2005, I switched gears and began working in public relations for the next decade. I learned the ins and outs of public relations -- including being on the other side of the media-PR equation -- and made numerous contacts. I rejoined the ranks of journalism in March 2016, starting as the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent.

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