NEW YORK (Nov. 4)
Anyone wanting to attend the North American federation system’s upcoming conference in Jerusalem had to sign a waiver releasing the United Jewish Communities from any security-related liabilities.
But after accepting “any and all risks to my safety and security” — and despite a recently updated U.S. government travel warning for the region — delegates seem unfazed by the risks as they gear up for the UJC’s annual General Assembly, to be held Nov. 16-19.
Asked if his community has shown signs of concern, Gary Weinstein, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas replied: “No, no and no — no issues, no concerns and no one’s talking about it.” People “just get numb” to the ongoing Palestinian intifada, Weinstein said.
That insouciance may be due to the type of people attending the event.
“People going to the G.A. anyway are your most committed folks,” Weinstein said. “The G.A. is primarily for leadership, and so we’re not finding really any ripples.”
In fact, fear about the security situation may be better measured by those who chose not to attend the conference.
Probably due to the ongoing violence, the Alabama delegation shrunk to seven from 15 or 20 in 1998, the last time the General Assembly was held in Jerusalem, said Richard Friedman, executive vice president of the Birmingham Jewish Federation.
But none of the seven Alabamians headed for Israel has “expressed any particular concerns about safety,” Friedman said.
Several events on the program likely will require significant security measures. They include tours to more than 200 sites throughout Israel, from lunching with Israel Defense Forces soldiers in Tel Aviv to touring mixed Jewish-Arab cities to a solidarity march through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.
While UJC officials would not go into details about G.A. security, it’s clear that measures will be considerable.
“We are not limited by budget” or any other constraints, and are “simply doing everything possible so that all our participants will be safe while traveling in the country — in Jerusalem and elsewhere,” said Nachman Shai, the UJC’s director general in Israel.
Shai said his office has been working with police and other agencies to secure the event.
For the Philadelphia delegation, the difficult time in Israel creates even more interest in attending this year’s assembly, officials said.
“I think people are glad to be going to make a stand for solidarity,” and are “very confident” about UJC security, said Susan Bodner, director of marketing and communications for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“When people go and times are tough, it’s even a deeper statement of commitment.”