Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

By Michael Kagan, Campus Coordinator

This year’s AJC Global Forum was filled with many incredible moments showcasing much of the incredible work being done to advance the needs of the Jewish and pro-Israel world. As with each Global Forum, a common theme arises as a focal point for the 3-day long discussion and this year's involved many difficult conversations.  

Sunday began with Executive Director of The David Project, Phil Brodsky, talking about the challenges students face when engaging progressive and non-Jewish students about Israel. As Phil pointed out, “When you reach out to a member of another club from a place of supporting Israel, you start to talk yourself out of it. We worry about someone bringing up something negative so it discourages us from starting the conversation.” Phil also brought up the important point of bringing diverse viewpoints to the pro-Israel narrative to create a more nuanced conversation. “The more different backgrounds and experiences you can bring together, the better. They will help you enrich the conversation."  

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War prompting different responses within the Jewish community and inviting some difficult conversations. A panel hosted by Ilana Dayan, investigative journalist from Channel 2 Israel, and including Amit Segal, Barack David, and Sivan Meir, discussed the effect these conversations have on Israel today. Though there were many disagreements, there was also a clear understanding that having these difficult discussions helps to ensure the safety and security of Israel that we all strive for.

As with any conference involving Israel on campus, BDS was a main topic. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement continues to incite hatred against Israel and the Jewish people and as pro-Israel advocates, we must be ready to engage others even if it means having tough conversations. Though the effects of the movement are felt across the globe, particularly on college campuses, this year’s Global Forum highlighted many successes in combatting BDS and strengthening the pro-Israel cause. AJC praised the Governors United Against BDS, a letter signed by all 50 governors of the United States which condemns the BDS movement and recognizes Israel as a vital U.S. ally. The conference also recognized a student advocate, Ariela Rivkin, with the 2017 Campus Courage Award for her tremendous efforts in combatting BDS resolutions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and for reminding us what it means to stand proudly against anti-Semitism.

As we digest the many moments and conversations experienced throughout the conference, there is much work to be done, but the pro-Israel community is more than prepared to succeed. Many times in our advocacy efforts, the topic of Israel won’t be comfortable and responses may be hostile. In order for us to create the change we seek, we must all be willing to engage in constructive dialogue and bring each of our different perspectives to the table. This year’s Global Forum was a profound success with all eyes looking towards Jerusalem in 2018.