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AJC conference again a Jewish calendar highlight

Last week, some 2 000 Jewish leaders from over70 countries came together to attend the conference of the American Jewish Committee in Washington DC. They included myself and six other representatives of our community. ​
by MARY KLUK | May 21, 2014

The annual AJC meeting is one of the most high-powered and prestigious on the international Jewish calendar and once again the event lived up to expectations. We were treated to an impressive array of top-of-the-range speakers, including international statesmen, academics, journalists and senior Jewish communal leaders.

Added to this was the uplifting experience of meeting and engaging with our colleagues from all over the world. As always, it was wonderful to see how much we share with one another, even where we speak different languages.

Each community is different, but essentially we are united by our common religious and ethnic heritage, by the centrality that Israel plays in our lives and by our mutual commitment to assist one another in ensuring our common safety and wellbeing.

The conference debates focused on such issues as the threat of a nuclear Iran, the re-emergence of global anti-Semitism (particularly in Europe) and the BDS campaign against Israel. With regard to the latter question, I participated in a panel debate with representatives from Latin America, the US and the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), giving a perspective on BDS as it manifests in South Africa.

The final plenary session was addressed by Hilary Clinton, who reassured the audience that her government was fully committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capacity. Throughout the conference, in fact, we were left in no doubt as to the continuing resolute support for Israel by the US.

In the course of our visit, the South African delegation was hosted to a dinner by South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and I met with Rabbi David Rosen, one of those at the forefront of representing world Jewry in the interfaith field.

Among other things, Rabbi Rosen spoke about the forthcoming visit to Israel of Pope Frances, an event of considerable importance to Israel and international Jewry in terms of their relationship with the world Catholic community.

I further visited the US Holocaust Museum, one of the most outstanding institutions of its kind, and was able to compare notes with what is being done by our own Holocaust education and commemoration centres in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.  

On the local front, I am pleased to welcome on board two new staff members, Craig Nudelman and Lauren Kessler, who have joined our Cape team. Craig, who was previously an elected member of the SAJBD Cape Council, is the new Head of Media and Public Affairs while Lauren has taken up a brand new position of “Generation Next Co-ordinator”. I wish them both all success, and look forward to working with them.


  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00 - 13:00.


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