Young Jewish international volunteers gather in Basel

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — More than 150 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 the summit, which was attended in Basel and Strasbourg by some160 young Jewish public diplomacy activists, said it was meant to enhance the international coordination efforts by the volunteers of the group, which was set up in 2006 as a vehicle for engaging young professionals in project of importance 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.”

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

“I have to say, I am very, very much looking forward to Basel,” 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. “I am very moved by how Herzl dreamed and made history. From my humble point of view, he is a role model.”

During a speech Tuesday before the 160 summit participants, who hail from 37 countries, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder urge them to, “Have a vision, work hard, never stop defending the Jewish people.”

The event, WJC wrote in a statement, was also to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the organization Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936.


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