NEWS The World Jewish Congress Gathered in Rome

wjcBy Ada Treves

The board of the World Jewish Congress gathered in Rome last week, for three intense days to discuss key strategic issues and challenges that are of public interest.
Among the topics covered were the fight against anti-Semitism, the problem of the delegitimization of Israel and the necessity to raise the general attention about those many threats that are today a menace to every society.

In his opening remark Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), speaking on behalf of the 21 Italian communities, focused on the example set by Italian Jews, with their constant dialogue with the surrounding society and their ability to nonetheless preserve their values and traditions.

The opening session, that followed a guided tour of the Jewish Community of Rome lead by its President, Ruth Dureghello, saw Congress President Ronald Lauder relate on the efforts deployed in recent years in the various different scenarios.

Lauder, together with other members of the board – David de Rothschild, Chella Safra, Robert Goot and Robert Singer – concentrated on the many initiatives taken, and on what is still to be done.

UCEI’s vice president Roberto Jarach’s speech followed, relating on the contribution of Italian Jews to assist the thousands of immigrants all over the country, and particularly in the Holocaust Memorial of Milan: “We have the image of the word ‘Indifference’ that dominates the entrance of the Memorial, and there was no doubt, we wanted to open it and help. With no indifference.”

Middle East and its problems, as well as global security were big issues all over the congress of the governing Board of the WJC, with a session titled “Iran: aftermath of the nuclear agreement,” with Yossi Cohen, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, in which the Israeli ambassador in Rome Naor Gilon declared: “Not long ago the Iranian nuclear issue was ‘the problem’ par excellence, now unfortunately it is only one of the problems.”

Organized into several sessions, the works involved a significant number of participants, with Cobi Benatoff, one of the vice presidents of the WJC discussing the “change of approach” in the relations between Europe and Israel. Other representatives of Italy, present all along the works, were UCEI Secretary General Gloria Arbib and the national president of the Association of the Jewish Women of Italy Ester Silvana Israel, for the Wizo.

Much interest raised the lesson by Alessandro Politi, director of the NATO Defense College Foundation, political and strategic analyst. Politi focused his speech on the implications for the Jewish world of the tensions in the Middle East, while on Israel and terrorism the security expert Robin Shepherd discussed with the leaders of Congress Omri Segelman, Ariel Muzicant, Shai Hermesh, Colette Avital and Moshe Leshem.

The following sessions, on BDS, the delegitimization on Israel and on interfaith relations involved more prominent personalities, and demonstrated once more, if necessary, how great is the will of confrontation and of open discussions within the Jewish world, with many diverse opinion represented, and the capability to discuss to get to a shared resolution.

Before the final dinner Italian Reforms Minister Maria Elena Boschi was welcomed on stage by the president of the WJC Lauder and declared that “The fight against hatred and anti-Semitism is also a cultural challenge. A challenge that has to be led by schools and through the education of the youngest.”

The president of the Jewish Community of Venice Paolo Gnignati, who presented the program of events for the five-hundredth anniversary of the Ghetto, established in Venice in 1516, explained: “Two principles guide our action, the first is that we do not want in any way to celebrate the ghetto, giving it any positive meaning; the second is that we do not look at this anniversary as an arrival point: for us, the next 500 years are equally important, and every effort must be made to make the area a place of artistic, cultural and spiritual reunion.”

In his closing speech UCEI President Renzo Gattegna, chose to underline once more some of the more recent choices: “We decided to embrace a diverse challenges: an increasingly intense cultural activity, an open confrontation with the whole society, the creation of a network of information that allows us to speak to the nation and to many non-Jewish readers through a daily professional work. We chose information, not propaganda”.