The 2009 UJC General Assembly kicked off yesterday in Washington, DC, with approximately 3,000 attendees, on par with the 2007 GA held in Nashville, Tenn., according to organizers.
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor spoke at the opening plenary about the need to stand by Israel, especially against the threat of Iran. Israel, he said, enhances the moral fabric of the United States and the world.
“Israel’s security is synonymous with our own,” he said.
“We must answer our enemy’s dangerous resurgence with greater vigilance,” he added.
The global community must take Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats seriously, he added.
“Each day that passes brings [Ahmadinejad] one step closer to his acquisition of a nuclear bomb – the ultimate threat,” he said.
At a press conference after the plenary, Jerry Silverman, UJC president and CEO, said he’d like to see 1,000 young adults attend next year’s GA. This year, according to GA co-chair Dede Feinberg, “over 100 people under 30” signed up. How to reach out to younger donors has been a problem that has plagued UJC for several years.
Still, Silverman and other GA organizers were pleased with this year’s turnout, although he noted that the short schedule – a full day Monday and only half-days Sunday and Tuesday – does not provide enough time to fully engage each other.
“We’re really pleased with the bar that’s been set for this GA,” he said. “We believe that the GA as a concept needs to be thought of as the Super Bowl of Jewish events.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak later this morning. President Obama had been scheduled for tomorrow but canceled in ordered to attend a memorial ceremony at Fort Hood. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will speak in his stead.