I often find that people, during confrontations, tend to do more speaking than listening. More effort is put into fortifying ones own argument with facts, figures and examples, in order to either prove ones opponent wrong or to completely undermine their belief or perspective.
It is with these findings that I found the AJC Global forum to be a rose amongst an orchid of thorns. The conference was an exceptional example of how doing a lot more listening rather than arguing and debating, can assist leaders in solving some of the most complex issues facing our society today.
I along with Gila Jankelowitz and Rachel Raff had the privilege of attending the annual AJC Global Forum on behalf of SAUJS – South African Union of Jewish Students. The Forum, which hosted more than 2,500 leaders from over 80 countries, gave a platform to a host of speakers ranging from Muslim community leaders to the Presidents of Cyprus and it was from this platform that often-sensitive issues could be addressed and discussed. Gila, Rachel and I participated in sessions where these issues were tackled and we were able to share our perspectives and experiences as Jewish South African students. The session topics that we attended included “Muslims and the Jews”, “Radicalism on the Rise: Is Religion the Disease or the Cure?” and “The Z-word: Zionism and the Contemporary Case for Israel”.
One of the most commendable aspects of the conference was the diversity of its attendees. Participants ranged from Muslims to Jews, students to professionals and Americans to Asians. This immense range in diversity ensured that every voice was heard and each perspective given. It allowed people to engage with each other on problems that they currently face in their country or community and share their knowledge and experience in dealing with them. The open platform could then be used to help other participants. It allowed them to both listen to the speakers and learn from their narrative, and engage with the speakers and other participants, where often the extension of a helping hand was given in the form of contact details and a promise to connect after the proceedings. The identification and engagement on similar issues was a re-occurring theme amongst the student leaders attending the forum, as we have all faced various forms of anti-Semitism on our University campuses.
Subsequent to the sessions and the plenaries was a trip to the Capitol building, which concluded the conference. We were given the opportunity to meet with the representatives of Congressmen Ted Lieu and Michael Doyle in the form of Corey Jacobson and Kate Werley respectively. During these meetings we discussed certain diplomacy and legislation that had either been passed or that was being written to eradicate anti-Semitism within the United States.
The forum encompassed what it means to gain wisdom from listening as opposed to speaking. It was in that sense a meeting of the minds, where each and every person attending came with the objective of learning something new and walking out a little more informed than they were walking in.
I greatly appreciate being given the opportunity to participate in such an incredible event by SAUJS. I now look to use the experience and knowledge gained from the Forum in assisting me in my role as a student leader and global activist.
Written by Dean Weil
Dean is the WITS Chairperson for SAUJS
Walking into AJC's opening plenary, I was startled. And it wasn't because of the blue lights that made me feel like I was on a spaceship. I felt like an alien among all these established politicians, businessmen, diplomats, religious leaders and opinion makers. However, there was a common thread amongst us all. One that eased the overwhelming feeling. We were all here for the same purpose: as activists within the Jewish community, we were working towards a common goal of understanding the world's current issues and finding ways to contribute towards remedying them.
Over the course of the AJC Global Forum, I realised that these established activists once started out like me: a young Jewish student activist. Here was my chance to listen to what they had to say, gain insights from their sessions and workshops and take the inspiration home with me to use constructively towards further empowering myself and SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students) to be 'global agents of change'.
I am extremely grateful to AJC for the exposure provided into the global Jewish community as well as indebted to them for the tools and knowledge that I gained during the remarkable GloFlo.
Written by Rachel Raff
Rachel is the National Vice Chairperson of SAUJS
SAUJS is proud to have once again facilitated the Birthright Tour to Israel, where South African students got to experience Israel for the first time. Our madrich describes the highlights of the tour.
When I first applied to go on Birthright South Africa 2017 as a madrich (councillor), I didn’t know what was to be expected. Having been to Israel on three previous occasions, this would be my first opportunity to visit in some sort of a leadership position.
With the phenomenal experiences that I had, my goal was to provide the Birthright participants with an insightful and bonding experience, one that would forever connect them to the Holy Land. After an excruciating three hour wait in the queue at passport control at Ben-Gurion Airport on the Tuesday morning, our tour eventually commenced...
We were joined by a mixed group of Israelis. They provided invaluable insight into the culture and intricacies of their country (throughout the tour).
With everyone “on board” the tour kicked off, and we spent the first two days in Tiberias. We saw the north of the country during the day, and then had the opportunity to relax and get to know each other in the evenings.
The North was both educational and fun, with highlights including kayaking on the Jordan River and a tour of the ancient and mystical city of Safed.
On the Thursday, we travelled from Tiberias to Jerusalem, and over the course of three days, we explored much of the city. After experiencing the electric atmosphere of the Mahane Yehuda Market on a Friday afternoon, we walked to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat. There we experienced an incredible Friday night service, which pulled at our heartstrings. The group spent a relaxing Shabbos in the city centre, which gave everyone an opportunity to gather their thoughts from the preceding week’s hectic schedule.
We then made our way to the Negev region on Sunday, following an emotional visit to Har Herzl (military cemetery). The Israeli soldiers’ presence made the experience more poignant and meaningful. We then spent the night in Bedouin tents and spent the next day exploring the surrounding area. On Monday we spent the night in Arad, which is located on the border of the Negev and Judean deserts.
A magnificent sunrise greeted us upon summiting Masada, and the day continued with a visit to the Dead Sea. Everyone enjoyed floating in the lowest place on the planet - a tourist must! We travelled onwards towards Tel Aviv that evening and spent the next two days in the bustling city, before our departure.
Birthright was far more enjoyable and inspiring than I could have ever imagined. There is no doubt in my mind that every one of the participants had an amazing time and will be returning to Israel soon! A special bond was formed between everyone, and we all left having made some great new friends.
Written by Isaac Lipschitz
Isaac is one of two SAUJS madrichim that led the group on the 2017 Birthright Tour.