Sruli Fruchter is a WJC Ronald S. Lauder Fellow and student at Yeshiva University.
“Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel used to say, ‘On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace’” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:17).
When I was privileged to be one of two representatives for the World Jewish Congress at the virtual, 2021 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum in early April, I felt Rabban Shimon's timeless words. This annual forum gathers international youth leaders and Member States to discuss their visions, plans, and perspectives on creating effective change for youth, and further the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for the world. Can there be a place that upholds the world any better?
Session after session, we heard from esteemed world leaders like H.E. Ambassador Xolisa Mfundiso Mabhongo, the Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN, and Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, Executive Office of the Secretary-General. The myriad speakers like these addressed issues such as youth engagement, global health, human rights, and strong institutions. Moreover, discussing the particular realities of these challenges in the world, generally, and in countries, specifically, allowed us to step outside of our limited exposure to our individual communities and learn about those on the other side of the globe. In the same vein, this enabled us to identify the nuances in solutions to whichever problem was on display, finding answers that worked for everyone, not just the vocal few.
Every moment at the ECOSOC Youth Forum reminded me that the work of the World Jewish Congress— or any organization or people trying to enact positive change — is not bound by our geography. Our fight for equality and peace is matched somewhere else in the world by others working toward the same goal. During the networking event at the forum, which was my personal favorite, I met youth leaders from Germany, Algeria, South Africa, and India, among other places. Each of them had the same zeal for their respective visions as we did: the hope for a better future.
On the second day of the forum, the State of Israel and the Jewish People commemorated Yom HaShoah, the day commemorating the Holocaust and the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis. When I shared this with others at the forum via an unofficial WhatsApp group, I received messages of support and love. The sound of hope echoed throughout every single session, and everyone displayed the camaraderie I felt on that day.
Reflecting on the idea of Rabban Shimon from Ethics of the Fathers, I see this forum as a wholehearted manifestation of what holds up the world. From the North, West, East, and South, people are working towards rebuilding our world and sustaining its pillars of justice, truth, and peace.
I cannot express the gratitude I have to WJC and the Ronald S. Lauder Fellowship for giving me the honor of attending the forum as a representative. Now, I am ready to collect the lessons, inspiration, and connections I received to further my work as a Jew in this world.