Penn Hillel will host former Representative and CEO of the American Jewish Committee Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) on Feb. 21.
The event will feature an open conversation with Deutch, “a lifelong Jewish and pro-Israel activist," according to Penn Hillel. Promotion for the event says that Deutch will speak on United States-Israel affairs, regional security, and congressional experience.
Jeffrey Greenberg, director of campus affairs at the AJC, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Deutch has historically been vocal, particularly in Congress, about his perspective on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. He said that he expects that Deutch’s “inseparable bond between himself and the State of Israel” will offer the Penn community a unique perspective on U.S.-Israeli affairs.
“If you look at his time in Congress, he was always extremely open. He was unafraid to take the microphone when it came to speaking about the U.S.-Israel relationship. It’s something, as we would say in the Jewish community, is kitsch," Greenberg said. "Because, you know, it’s in his gut, it’s a part of who he is."
The AJC is an advocacy group based in New York City that was founded in 1906. According to its website, the committee is committed to “[impacting] policy and opinion on some of the most important issues facing the Jewish people.”
Greenberg said that connecting with members of the Penn community furthers the mission of the commission.
“We see Penn as the educational ground for the future leaders of the world," Greenberg said. "So when it comes to connecting with the future leaders of the world, obviously that’s a priority for the AJC … Ideally, we want to be able to make these inroads and connections so that 20 years down the road, post-college and later on in [students’] careers, we’re connecting."
College sophomore and Vice President of Israel Engagement at Penn Hillel Maya Harpaz said she looks forward to the opportunity for students of all religious backgrounds and experiences with Israeli affairs to join in on the conversation.
“We don’t need just Jews to fight against antisemitism and speak out against antisemitism," Harpaz said. "It’s important and necessary to have non-Jews on our side, too, so I think that if we get an audience that’s filled with both Jewish students and non-Jewish students, it’ll be really impactful for understanding what antisemitism is."
Greenberg echoed the importance of having a diverse audience in attendance.
“That’s one of the core values that we have at the AJC and that Hillel shares, which is the commitment to pluralism and wanting everyone to be able to be in a room together, to learn from one another and have these thoughtful, nuanced conversations,” Greenberg said.
Harpaz, who worked on Deutch’s Congressional Youth Council in her high school years, was key in connecting Penn Hillel with the former congressman for this event. She reached out to Deutch earlier this year, who was “super receptive and willing to come,” and connected her to his chief of staff to plan the visit during his pre-existing trip to Philadelphia. Harpaz will be moderating the conversation with Deutch.
Director of Operations at Penn Hillel Rachel Saifer underscored the importance of having these conversations, as they empower students to be well-versed in Israeli affairs.
“I think a lot of ignorance comes from not understanding what’s going on," Saifer said. "Things get misinterpreted and issues can happen, building hate based on misunderstanding. So I think a foundation of knowledge is the way to defeat that."