Gillian Merron
Gillian Merron

Cultivating new allies

This week I had the privilege of attending AJC (American Jewish Committee) Global Forum. Often referred to as the ‘State Department of the Jewish People’, AJC conducts advocacy on Jewish issues on a global scale, connecting with governments and communities the world over. Last year AJC signed an association agreement with the Board of Deputies which has already led to a number of collaborations including a flagship event for the diplomatic community in London. This sense of solidarity was heightened when I addressed a commemoration of those killed during the recent terror attacks in London.
But what’s striking about AJC’s work is the long-term vision which drives it. The organisation seeks to build alliances with hitherto untapped allies, people who inherently sympathise with the concerns of the Jewish people and understand the importance in defending our shared liberal, democratic values. Movements are always stronger when they find allies in other communities. Senior Vice President of the National Union of Students Rob Young spoke of his pride when awarded a ‘Campus Courage Award’ for speaking up for Jewish students despite not being Jewish himself.
On the diplomatic stage, President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus delivered a heartfelt address in which he emphasised his country’s strong ties with Israel and commitment to developing relations with the Jewish diaspora. As CEO David Harris pointed out – just a few decades ago Cyprus was a member of the non-aligned movement, known for its hostile stance towards the Jewish State.
But it is perhaps AJC’s work with Muslim communities from which we can learn the most. If we are to work towards building a truly cohesive society in which all citizens including Jews feel a strong sense of wellbeing, we must work to identify and cultivate relationships with people in communities which have traditionally had a complicated relationship with Jews. This notion of bridge building will become an increasingly important aspect of our work as we move forward during these difficult times.
About the Author
Gillian is Chief Executive, Board of Deputies
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