New York -- The 2023-24 cohort of World Jewish Congress Lauder Fellows gathered in New York this week to mark the start of the program's yearly activities. Over the course of their five day opening seminar, the group of twenty-seven student leaders from twenty countries engaged with WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and other high-level speakers for roundtable discussions and lectures, deepening their understanding of the World Jewish Congress, diplomatic tactics, and the challenges facing the global Jewish community.
“You were picked for the Fellowship because you have the guts to stand up. It is not easy to be a Jew,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder told the Fellows. “You are the best of the best. I’m here to listen to you and support you as you take on today’s challenges in your local communities and campuses.”
WJC NextGen Director Yoni Hammerman opened the seminar with remarks on Friday which were followed by Shabbat services at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue. From there, Fellows held meaningful discussions on the state of world Jewry and went on a walking tour of New York City, home to more than 1 million Jews.
The following day began with a roundtable discussion with WJC Executive Vice President Maram Stern about the main challenges facing the global Jewish community and how grassroots issues relate to the global diplomatic challenges, and an intimate discussion with WJC’s Head of Programs and Strategy Daniel Radomski about global Jewry. Adela Cojab, a Mexican-born Israel activist, and current law student at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, spoke about the power of activism and advocacy. The day continued with a lunch with former Fellows who joined the new cohort as they build out their work plans for the year and finished with a tour of The Jewish Museum of New York.
On Monday, the Fellows had the chance to deepen their understanding of the World Jewish Congress by learning about different programming and initiatives, including diplomacy with WJC’s Executive Director of the Executive Office Lauren Rose. Additional sessions focused onto build an effective social media narrative with WJC’s Executive Director of Communications Cory Weiss, and how to combat antisemitism in the online sphere with WJC’s Technology and Human Rights Director Yfat Barak-Cheney.
The Lauder Fellows also met with the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris, who highlighted the challenges and opportunities on the global quest to protect human rights and enshrine them as a key goal of the United Nations. In motivating the Fellows, ASG for Human Rights Brands Kehris said, “protecting human rights is a key task of young activists and leaders at this critical time.” The group also met with Deputy Chief of Mission of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, Jonathan Miller, and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, Lucie Hindlsová.
The Opening Seminar concluded with a roundtable with Benjamin Ryberg, Chief Operating Officer of the Lawfare Project on the rise of boycotts against Israel in the corporate sector and on university campuses. That then led to a Leadership Bridge Salon, where the Fellows had the opportunity to discuss in small groups the challenges facing Diaspora Jewry, and how to foster Jewish unity.
WJC Executive Vice President Maram Stern provided Fellows with a comprehensive overview of the World Jewish Congress's key priorities and initiatives. The session explored WJC's multifaceted approach to combating antisemitism, advocating for Israel, promoting Holocaust education, and preserving Jewish heritage and culture.
Daniel Radomski, Head of WJC Strategy & Programs, provided a captivating and insightful exploration of the diverse and vibrant aspects of the global Jewish community. Fellows were immersed in a comprehensive journey through the historical, cultural, and contemporary dimensions of Jewish life around the world.
Adela Cojab, a Israel activist, and current law student at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, provided an examination of the distinctions and intersections between these two powerful approaches to social change. Fellows engaged in a dynamic discussion exploring the role of advocacy in promoting policy change and influencing decision-makers, contrasted with the hands-on, grassroots nature of activism.
Former Fellows joined the 2023-2024 cohort of the Fellowship where they were able to provide insight on their time as a Lauder Fellowship, provide tips and best practices, and shared their own personal experiences.
As part of the Lauder Fellowship, each Fellow comes up their work plan for the year, or a passion project they want to work on as a Fellow. During this session, Fellows were split up into breakout groups with a member of the NextGen staff where they were able to collaborate to generate innovative ideas and strategies for upcoming projects or initiatives. Through an interactive and creative process, Fellows shared their expertise and perspectives, exploring various approaches to address challenges and achieve specific goals.
At the Jewish Museum of New York, Fellows were able embark on personalized journeys, exploring the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Jewish people at their own pace.
Lauren Rose, Executive Director of WJC’s Executive Office, led an engaging session offering Fellows a comprehensive overview of the principles and practices of international diplomacy. The session aimed to equip Fellows with foundational knowledge and skills to understand WJC’s diplomatic initiatives.
During the roundtable discussion Fellows engaged in an exclusive and engaging conversation with WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. This gathering provided a unique opportunity to explore the President Lauder’s vast experience and insights on global affairs, diplomacy, and philanthropy. Through candid discussions, attendees gained valuable perspectives, leaving inspired to make a positive impact on the world and their local Jewish community.
Cory Weiss, Executive Director of Communications Strategy, discussed the intricacies of creating compelling and impactful narratives on social media platforms and shared valuable strategies and techniques to effectively engage audiences, craft a coherent brand story, and leverage social media as a powerful communication tool.
Yfat Barak-Cheney, WJC Technology and Human Rights Director, delved into the innovative use of virtual reality technology to address and combat online hate, particularly targeting antisemitism. The discussion explored practical applications of virtual reality to foster understanding, empathy, and a sense of collective responsibility in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of online hate.
Lucie Hindlsová, Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, offered Fellows a unique insight into the diplomatic experience within the vibrant city of New York. Attendees gained valuable perspectives on the intricacies of diplomatic work, cultural diplomacy, and the importance of building strong networks in this global hub.
Jonathan Miller, Deputy Permanent Representative at Israel's mission to the United Nations in New York, provided a comprehensive analysis of Israel's role in the complex world of multilateral diplomacy. The discussion covered the challenges Israel faces in international forums and the opportunities it seeks to leverage in advancing its interests and promote dialogue on pressing global issues.
The tour of the United Nations provided Fellows with an immersive and insightful experience at the global headquarters of diplomacy. The Fellows had the unique opportunity to explore the iconic UN complex, guided by UN staff who shared the history, functions, and significance of this international institution.
Ilze Brands Kehris, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, delved into the essential efforts of the United Nations in advocating for and safeguarding human rights worldwide. The discussion explored the challenges faced by the UN in its quest to promote human rights and the significance of collaborative global action in advancing this crucial endeavor.
Benjamin Ryberg, Chief Operating Officer of the Lawfare Project, provided Fellows with an illuminating discussion focused on the intersection of law and advocacy in safeguarding the rights and liberties of the global Jewish community and combating antisemitism. The Fellows gained insights into the legal strategies employed by The Lawfare Project to protect Jewish rights and foster awareness about the challenges and opportunities in utilizing legal avenues to counter antisemitism.
Fellows engaged in a constructive dialogue on the critical topic of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish diaspora. In thought-provoking discussions, they explored the challenges and opportunities in strengthening the bond between Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. With 20 countries being represented, the Fellows highlighted the issues that are seen globally, while also receiving help from each other on their more unique issues.
Isaac Choua, WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Operations Manager, gave an overview of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps. The discussion equipped the Fellows with essential information and guidance about WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps mission.
The closing session marked the end of a successful and enriching program. Fellows gathered for a reflective and inspiring event, celebrating the five-day opening seminar they were about to conclude together.
WJC NextGen Lauder Fellows embark on a year-long journey where they work together to ignite social change. Using the guidance and resources that the WJC provides, the Fellows brainstorm and devise ways to improve Jewish life in their local communities or college campuses. Their projects vary in focus from seeking to improve Jewish unity, to calling out university administrations for their silence of rising antisemitism. At the end of the academic year, the Fellowship concludes with the Diplomacy Summit, an immersive mission to two European countries where Fellows are able to implement on the international diplomatic stage the skills and knowledge they acquired during the year.
The Fellowship is part of the World Jewish Congress NextGen program, which supports and empowers the young leaders who are making a difference in their communities today and trains them to be the changemakers of tomorrow.
NextGen works with these young Jewish leaders to ensure that the Jewish people around the globe are strong, protected, and united in creating a better world. Individuals between the age of 15 and 26 can get involved in WJC NextGen projects and gain valuable insights, learn new skills, and make impactful changes for the Jewish world.