By Hannah Simon
The American Jewish Committee of Dallas (AJC Dallas) hosted its first Diplomatic Marathon at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 24, at the Prism Center in North Dallas. The morning program consisted of opening remarks from Joel Schwitzer, regional director of the AJC Dallas; Beth Huddleston, chief of protocol and international relations for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson; and a virtual welcome from Rashad Hussain, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, who was called back to Washington unexpectedly. Following those remarks, guests attended two plenary sessions, and some attendees participated in closed-door advocacy meetings with diplomats in attendance.
Harriet Whiting, AJC Dallas president, explained that the diplomatic marathon is one of the ways to meet and share points of view to seek and understand the priorities and issues of other countries. She said, “Advocacy is the essence of the AJC. This building of relationships with diplomats affords us the opportunity to speak out for Israel, combat antisemitism and promote democratic values. The additional opportunity to provide meaningful discussion of the war in Ukraine and to explore the international nature of our North Texas region makes this a compelling initiative for AJC leaders as well as the broader Jewish community.”
The first plenary of the morning addressed the war in Ukraine. The session opened with a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing the June 2022 AJC Global Forum on the ongoing Russian war of aggression and appealing to the AJC to help advocate for continued assistance. Adam Lampert, past AJC Dallas president, moderated a panel that included Sebastian Rejak, AJC Central Europe director; Robert Rusiecki, consul general of Poland; and Cantor Vicky Glikin of Temple Emanu-El.
Rejak spoke about AJC’s immediate reaction to Russia’s aggression and the agency’s continuous support for Ukrainians, both Jewish and non-Jewish. He also told the audience that the AJC has been advocating to the Biden administration to continue supporting Ukraine on all possible levels.
Rusiecki noted that the Polish government created new laws to accommodate the millions of Ukrainian refugees who fled to Poland and are being absorbed into Polish society.
Cantor Glikin, who lived in Ukraine until she was 13, spoke about her time in April volunteering in Poland, where she used her professional skill set and fluency in Russian and Ukrainian to lead Passover Seders for Ukrainian refugees (see TJP cover story from April 28 at https://tjpnews.com/vicky-glikin-recounts-visit-to-poland/). Glikin also conducted musical programs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and Ukrainian to give the refugees an opportunity to gather and sing music that was familiar to them.
The second plenary, moderated by Ray Termini, AJC Dallas vice president of international affairs, addressed the development of North Texas as an emerging international hub. The panel included Harry Whalen of the Frisco Economic Development Corporation; Jaynie Schultz, Dallas city council member; and Liz Brailsford, World Affairs Council of DFW president & CEO. The trio shared insights about the region, its economic potential and diversity.
Whalen spoke of Frisco being ranked the No. 1 safest city in America by SmartAsset and the DFW Metroplex being an established international hub. He also spoke about the explosion of people and businesses the DFW Metroplex has experienced. Whalen provided a statistic to help the audience understand the ethnic diversity of Frisco. Approximately 40% of its population was born elsewhere in the world.
Schultz told the audience about the City of Dallas’ plans to develop the area around the Prism Center, which the city purchased in April 2021, to make into an international district to reflect the cultures of the people moving to North Texas. She shared the news of partnering with the Dallas Independent School District to bring a pre-K to 12th grade International STEAM Academy to the area as well. Schultz also mentioned the commitment of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson to the international community and his desire to make everyone feel welcome no matter where they were born. Schultz spoke directly to the diplomats present, saying, “Dallas needs your help to best reflect your countries. I am asking for your input and ideas for this district.”
Brailsford explained the four pillars of work performed by the World Affairs Council of DFW. Those pillars are speaker and public programs, educational work, the International Visitors Program and protocol services with the City of Dallas.
Schwitzer, regional director of AJC Dallas, articulated the importance of the AJC’s diplomatic role: “As the diplomatic arm of the Jewish community, AJC prioritizes these engagements in order to share perspectives on issues of concern to world Jewry, encourage relationships and mutual investments with Israel and combat global antisemitism. In bringing the annual Diplomatic Marathon to Dallas, we have the opportunity to highlight the burgeoning International District and become cheerleaders for the exciting steps North Texas is taking as an established international hub.”
The diplomats in attendance included:
Canada: Rebekah Dowd, senior foreign policy and diplomacy service officer
Germany: Kai Hennig, consul general
Mexico: Francisco de la Torre, consul general; Edurne Pineda, deputy consul general
Japan: Masaya Sagawa, deputy consul general; Sam Shichijo, honorary consul
Morocco: Jim Falk, honorary consul
Peru: Liliana Trelles, consul general
Poland: Robert Rusiecki, consul general
Lampert, current member of the AJC National Board of Governors, summed up the importance of the event as follows: “It is clear that Dallas is interested in global issues including the crisis in Ukraine, which has had a ripple effect across the globe. AJC hosted a great event, and I hope even more people attend this event next year. AJC is the single most influential global Jewish advocacy organization in the world and I am proud to be a part of it.”
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, the AJC will host An Evening with The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon. For more information and to register, visit https://bit.ly/3fCkD6i. Registration is free, but RSVP is required. AJC will hold its premier global Jewish advocacy gathering in Tel Aviv, Israel on June 11-14, 2023, with an optional Shabbaton on June 9-10. To register, visit https://bit.ly/3U8vXpR. Register before Nov. 17 for the lowest rate.