MIAMI, Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC kicked off its 110th anniversary year at the organization's Board of Governors Institute.
The three-day event in Miami brought together more than 400 people, including AJC President Stanley Bergman and other senior lay leaders, joined by staff from across the country, as well as Europe and Israel; diplomats from more than 20 countries that work closely with AJC; and a range of Florida civic, political, and religious leaders.
"One of the keys to AJC's sustained growth and success over the span of 110 years has been the organization's openness to innovation and re-imagination," said AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris. "AJC, as demonstrated throughout the Board Institute, is focused, vibrant, and engaged with top local and national leaders."
In a plenary conversation with the ambassadors of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, and Uruguay, who traveled especially from Washington, D.C., to participate in the AJC Board Institute gala program, Harris emphasized that "these are friends with whom we have engaged for decades in the pursuit of shared goals."
"The success of AJC to date proves the necessity of this organization to go forward," said Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova. "AJC is family to Bulgarians, always there for us, especially post-1989," after the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. "Thank you to AJC for helping us forge even stronger relations with the United States," she added.
"What AJC does goes beyond Jewish advocacy. AJC stands for the rights of people around the world, including publicly denouncing incidents when Muslims are demonized simply for being Muslim," said Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov, who visited Israel with AJC's Project Interchange (PI). Further, addressing AJC's efforts to combat the rise in anti-Semitism, the ambassador said that "any appearance of anti-Semitism begins a chain reaction that hurts everyone."
Uruguayan Ambassador Carlos Gianelli Derois observed that "the fundamental values in which AJC bases its activities are the same fundamental principles that have always defined [Uruguay's] foreign policy: the promotion of peace in the world, the defense of human rights, and the spread of democratic values all around the world." The ambassador also cited his country's historical support for the establishment of a Jewish state, dating back nearly a century.
Poland's ambassador to the U.S., Ryszard Schnepf, greeted the Board Institute during its opening session. "AJC was the first, and for many years the only, American Jewish organization involved with Poland," said Schnepf.
Key local and state officials were also present to join in the multi-day celebration.
"At this time, AJC's mission is more important than ever," Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera told the 110th anniversary gala.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, also addressing the gala, congratulated "AJC on 110 years of innovative global Jewish advocacy." An alumnus of AJC's PI seminar in Israel, and one of the first Florida mayors to join AJC's Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism initiative, Gimenez said that "AJC's presence in our community has helped advance human rights for our 2.6 million residents, and I look forward to our continued partnership."
Several sessions during the Board Institute addressed current and prospective global challenges and opportunities. Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who served as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2011 to 2015, said, "AJC, with which I've had close contact for decades, is the organization that works to make sure that Israel and the Jewish people around the world are safe and secure."
Two senior members of Congress, Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), herself an alumnus of AJC's PI seminar, provided a congressional perspective on U.S. foreign policy issues in the Middle East.
Moreover, AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs hosted a luncheon addressed by Gary Segura, professor at Stanford University and co-founder and senior partner of Latino Decisions. The firm has partnered with AJC to conduct two pathbreaking surveys -- one on Latino attitudes towards Jews and the other on the Latino Jewish community in the U.S.
At the Institute's closing session, founders of AJC's newly-established Leadership for Tomorrow (LFT) program for Jewish high school students, designed to prepare teens to be effective advocates for Israel, were honored with AJC's first-ever Innovation Award. This was followed by a panel discussion, which featured one Hillel professional and two students, on the campus climate for pro-Israel advocates.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee