American Jewish Committee (AJC) communities from around the world — not just America — come together every year for the annual AJC Global Forum.
Usually, the forum is held in Washington, D.C., but this year, for the first time in AJC’s 112-year history, it will be held in Jerusalem from June 10 to 13.
“This is a historic moment in time,” said Marcia Bronstein, regional director of AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey. “Everybody’s coming to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary [and] to advocate for Israel’s place in the world, which is one of the key missions that AJC has. We’re going to be doing that. We’re also going to be making a statement as Diaspora Jews that Israel is a place for all Jews.”
Bronstein said AJC expected only about 500 people to come this year, but nearly 2,000 people from across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia are planning on attending.
That includes 30 people in the AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey delegation. Among the participants are current and past AJC leaders, student delegates and young leadership, clergy and other community members.
Speakers at the AJC Global Forum in Israel include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz; Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council; Naftali Bennett, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs; Tzipi Livni, head of the Israeli Hatnuah party; Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov; and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
The forum also includes other programming like services, tours, master classes and excursions on topics such as “The Jewish Connection to Israel, and “Shul-Hopping through the City of Gold.”
Bronstein herself will staff an Advocacy in Action luncheon with Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lankan Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. AJC has ongoing engagement with Sri Lanka, including missions to Colombo, the country’s capital.
The forum will feature programming specific for young leaders, Bronstein said, who are confronted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) and anti-Israel rhetoric on college campuses.
One of the young leaders attending with AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey is Stacy Jarvis, a rising senior at Penn State University studying international politics and international affairs. In June, Jarvis is also starting the AJC’s Goldman Summer Fellowship.
Jarvis said she is most looking forward to an excursion she signed up to participate in that will tour Abrahamic religions in Jerusalem.
“Studying international affairs, there’s a lot to learn from AJC and Global Forum about how organizations help to achieve more peaceful relations between countries or between actors,” she said. “The knowledge that I gain from working for AJC will give me a new perspective on my education in the fall, and I’ll have some more experiences, how all of the things we talk about in class play out in the real world.”
Congregation Temple Beth’El Rabbi Debra Bowen and her husband started attending the annual forum five years ago, when a group of AJC members came to the African-American synagogue to hear a “kosher soul” concert. Afterward, AJC extended an invitation to attend the forum in D.C. that year.
“No one questioned who or what I was,” Bowen said. “I received such a warm welcome. Particularly the Philadelphia/New Jersey group is just amazing. They’re wonderful people there, and we interact, not only at the conference, but on other given occasions. They come to our shul to daven with us. For us, it’s just wonderful.”
This year, another couple from her synagogue are joining her and her husband as well. Bowen said she’s excited to just be in Israel and get to meet Jews from around the world.
“That land affects you in such an amazing way,” she said. “I look forward to being able to daven at the Kotel on Shabbat, just meeting with people from AJC and others I’ve never met.”