A few months after attending the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference I am back in D.C., for the annual global forum of the American Jewish Committee. There are certain obvious differences between the two experiences. Back then, the city had two inches of snow and the U.S. government therefore shut down. Today it is 90 degrees and muggier than a Louisiana bayou. Also, instead of 15000 attendees we have a more manageable 1500 or so. Some of the speakers (and jokes) are the same, such as Senator John McCain. Both conferences share a love for Israel and a passion for helping Israel be supported by the world.
The biggest difference for me is reflected in my experience last night. I attended, along with about twenty-five others, a dinner hosted by the Czech Republic embassy, presided over by its young and engaging Charges d’Affaires. Whereas the AIPAC agenda (for obvious reasons, based on its mandate) focuses on a steady drum-beat of demonstrating why Israel deserves American praise and continued financial support, our conversation last night was more nuanced. At one point our host even acknowledged that his country finds it hard standing alone in the European Union, a steady island of support in an increasingly hostile sea.
AJC precisely matters for such conversations. They are open, direct and helpful in allowing friends of Israel to hear the concerns of other friends of Israel. I know that the Czech Republic (and before that Czechoslovakia) was a supporter of Israel since the very beginning, selling her arms when literally no other country in the world would help. It is vital that we keep checking in with such allies. The AJC makes that possible.
Enjoying the hospitality of our hosts reminded me that Prague is a magical place that American Jews owe to themselves to visit. I look forward to taking a group from Temple Sholom hopefully before too long. So dust off the Kafka, dream of good Pilsner, and get ready to find the Golem trampling down fog-shrouded Mitteleuropa streets.
And be grateful for good friends throughout the world.
Rabbi Edwin Cole Goldberg