By Greg Averbuch | American Jewish Committee Atlanta Chapter President, & Dov Wilker | AJC Atlanta Regional Director
As the debate over the Iran deal rages on in Congress, Israel continues to be targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and anti-Semitic incidents in Europe multiply, the question naturally arises: What can I — one person in the Southeastern United States — do to help?
First of all, you can focus on each issue individually. You can contact your senators and representatives in Congress and encourage them to oppose the deal. You can share your outrage about the rise of BDS and anti-Semitism. You can discuss with your friends and neighbors the role that Israel plays in the region and the positive impact it has.
But what if you looked at your responses and saw the connection among all three issues? How would you proceed then?
You might very well engage in global Jewish advocacy, a strategy that has been developing over more than a century.
It includes Israel advocacy. For example, Cactus, a supermarket chain in Europe, just began a boycott of produce from Israel that originated in the West Bank, and the Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers chose to support the BDS movement and urge cutting off aid to Israel. Clearly we must advocate opposition to such moves.
But advocacy for Israel isn’t enough. We must stand up for Jewish communities in the Diaspora, raise our voices on Jewish issues worldwide, cement relationships with other minority communities and condemn anti-Semitism wherever it exists. That is global Jewish advocacy.
Global Jewish advocacy provides the opportunity to connect with religious and ethnic leaders in the United States and around the world about our similarities and differences.
That is why on Oct. 28 the Jewish community of Atlanta will join with the Archdiocese of Atlanta to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the landmark document that inaugurated historic changes in the Catholic Church’s relations with other faiths. One of the key points of the document is its condemnation of anti-Semitism, which ultimately led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the state of Israel.
Global Jewish advocacy means we engage with diplomats throughout the year. We don’t just discuss the relationship their countries have with Israel, but also the situation of the Jewish communities in those countries and what those governments are doing to protect them, as well as the best practices we have in the United States that can be shared with their governments.
Global Jewish advocacy means that the Jewish community will celebrate our freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt and relate it to the oppression undergone by the black community with a joint Passover seder in the spring.
Global Jewish advocacy means strengthening relationships and developing new partnerships with other minority communities: Asian, Baptist, Indian, Latino, Mormon and Muslim (just to name a few).
And global Jewish advocacy enables the training and education of the next generation of leaders through programs like ACCESS (American Jewish Committee’s young professional program). AJC combines a passion for bridge building with experiences in advocacy and traveling the world with unparalleled access to diplomats, government officials, and ethnic and faith leaders, all for the purpose of making a tangible difference.
As we look forward to the Jewish year 5776 and beyond, consider how you can benefit from the most relevant information, engage with the most effective programming and relationship-building, and develop skills that will make you an effective advocate for the Jewish community and Israel at a time when such advocacy is more important than ever.