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Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem hosts Conference of Presidents annual summit

February 18, 2024


The Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on February 18 for their 49th annual leadership conference. The event was attended by the leaders of America’s Jewish community alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew.

William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents, told the Museum “In general, the Jewish community is more unified and solitary than any other point in my lifetime – I have never seen this level of connectivity between American Jews and the Israeli people.”

He said their mission trip will meet with Israel’s leaders such as Netanyahu, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, and a number of senior IDF officials. They will also visit kibbutzim destroyed by Hamas during their raid on October 7 and hold a memorial ceremony with survivors at the site of the Nova Music Festival, where 364 innocent partygoers were killed.

Daroff said the lead-up to the trip saw “collaboration between the numerous organizations never seen before,” and that the goal is “to remain as one after the war is one.”

“The Jewish people are strongest when unified – that is the lesson of the last 3,500 years. United we succeed.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed this sentiment, telling the Jewish civic leaders “I've been seeing you here year after year, but this year it's different. Each year you come here to express your solidarity with the State of Israel, solidarity of the Diaspora with the Jewish state, but this year, that solidarity is particularly important, because it's an expression of unity between the Jewish people and the Jewish state, between so many of our friends around the world and the great trial that we are faced with today.”

He described the imperative to return the hostages, and pledged “total victory” against Hamas in the war. Concluding, he told the crowd the “Israel is united as never before.”

The prime minister was then presented with a plaque by Jerusalem artist Sharon Binder with the Biblical quote “The Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” It was also given to Ambassador Lew.

Herbert Block, who heads the American Zionist Movement, and is part of the trip, said “Being at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem seem very appropriate because tolerance understanding is something we need to focus on in our society both in Israel and the world at large, especially at this particular moment.”

The executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoelein, who attended the groundbreaking of the museum, added “It is amazing to see the museum how it is today.”

He spoke also about his trips to Israel since October 7 – this being his fifth – remarking “I saw what my grandparents witnessed in the concentration camps.” The difference, though, “is today we have a Jewish army, state, and air force,” he said.

“I met Simon Wiesenthal on numerous occasions, and he would have seen the acts of Hamas with such horror. Part of the idea of the museum is we do not forget – we educate the next generations so they can recognize the dangers and the lead the charge.”

US Ambassador Lew addressed the crowd, telling the attendees “The Conference of Presidents has long played an important role in civic life in the United States, advocating for the values of American Jews at the highest levels.” Further, being “an effective advocate on behalf of the American Jewish community, advancing core policies that are in the strategic interest of the United States, and of deep concern to American Jews. This includes robust support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense.”

He continued to describe the support his government has offered to Israel, as well as highlighting the heroism of many first responders and the civic initiatives that have lifted the nation up. Additionally, he said “With respect to achieving war aims, 112 hostages are now free because of tireless efforts by the United States.”

Towards the end, Ambassador Lew offered a hopeful message for those at the Museum, saying “From the ashes of October 7, there is a chance to build a better future – a future in which Israel is more secure, and generations of conflict can give way to the long elusive dream of true peace and true security for Israel and this region.”

Photos: Tzahi Kraus

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