Young Jewish international volunteers gather in Switzerland
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Young Jewish international volunteers gather in Switzerland

(JTA) — Some 160 young Jews from 37 countries gathered in the Swiss city of Basel for the first global summit of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a volunteer-based group affiliated with the World Jewish Congress.

Organizers of this week’s summit for the young Jewish public diplomacy activists said it was meant to enhance the international coordination efforts by the volunteers. The Jewish Diplomatic Corps was established in 2006 as a vehicle for engaging young professionals in projects for Israel and the Jewish people.

“It’s a unique opportunity to learn from peers about efforts being mounted all around the world, each in its own context,” said Elisa Trotta-Gamus, an Argentina-based lawyer who was born in Venezuela and has been involved with the Jewish Diplomatic Corps from its inception. “There’s a special dynamic to coming together, and it’s giving a lot of us power and knowledge.”

Organizers said the group’s visit to Strasbourg, a seat of the European Parliament, was significant because it is a center of international diplomacy. But Trotta-Gamus, 34, said she was looking forward to the summit’s move to Basel, where Theodor Herzl, modern Zionism’s founding father, convened the First Zionist Congress in 1897 — one of the most significant events in the effort to create a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

“I am very moved by how Herzl dreamed and made history,” said Trotta-Gamus, a Brandeis University graduate who five years ago left her native Venezuela amid a financial crisis and a government-led campaign of intimidation against the Jewish community under the country’s late leader, Hugo Chavez. “From my humble point of view, he is a role model.”

In a speech Tuesday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder urged the summit participants to “Have a vision, work hard, never stop defending the Jewish people.”

The WJC said the event also marked the 80th anniversary of its founding in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936.