The sixth B’nai B’rith Europe Young Jewish Adult Forum, organized in association with B’nai B’rith United Kingdom, was held in London Nov. 16 to 18 and was highlighted by special guest Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas terrorists and held captive for five years.
About 200 delegates from more than 20 European countries, Israel and the United States shared a memorable event under the theme “Disobedience.” The idea was for attendees to think about Jewish traditions, self-criticism and thinking outside the box and how all of these factors have played a part in Jewish survival.
The spotlight was on Shalit, who was freed last year. While attending the forum, Shalit was awarded with an honorary B’nai B’rith membership.
The Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub received Shalit at his residence, along with B’nai B’rith leaders. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was also present at the highly emotional meeting.
Shalit then visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, meeting with the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt, President of B’nai B’rith Europe Ralph Hofmann, President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Jean Etherton, Director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem (which played a big role in ensuring Shalit’s presence at the forum) Alan Schneider, and International Vice President and Chair of the Young Adult Commission of B’nai B’rith Europe John P. Reeves.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs attended the forum and spoke at the gala dinner about the vital importance of the rejuvenation of B’nai B’rith around the globe. B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin also spoke about the Gaza situation and its potential consequences for Israel and the Middle East.
During the conference, Etherton and Hofmann greeted the participants and distinguished speakers. Ishmael Khaldi, counsellor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London, was one of the distinguished speakers, giving a fascinating account of his experiences as an Israeli diplomat, a Bedouin and a Muslim.
The Forum was very successful, not only because of the turnout and the speakers, but because of the primary organizers Simone Hofmann and Reeves.
Rebecca Saltzman, the International Chair of the B’nai B’rith Young Professional Network and recent recipient of the Label A. Katz award, was present at the forum and extended an open invitation for all young professionals to seek her out and discuss ways to connect B’nai B’rith communities across the globe. Saltzman noted how enthusiastic the attendees were about getting involved in their communities and bolstering the Young Professional Network.
Margaret Brearley, Ph.D. an expert on Jewish-Christian relations; Rabbi Andrew Steinman, writer and publicist; and Hagai Segal, specialist on Middle East affairs, all tackled the “Disobedience” theme of the forum.
The panel speakers on the B’nai B’rith Workshop “From Theory to Practice” included Honorary Life President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Sylvia Lewin, Raoul Beck of Geneva, Hofmann and Schneider.
The co-chairs of the forum, Valerie Achache and Simon Weinstein, moderated various discussions with help from Nuno Wahnon Martins, B’nai B’rith director of EU affairs.