AEN held its fourth National Conference May 21-23, in San Diego, CA. Over sixty people attended the conference, including AEN members, representatives of partner organizations, and community leaders.
The program began the evening of May 21 with a welcome address by Miriam F. Elman, AEN’s new executive director. Elman spoke about the changing landscape on many US campuses, where new, more aggressive forms of Israel delegitimization have led to attempts to isolate Jewish and Zionist students and to redefine Jewish identity in a way that decouples it from Zionism. Emphasizing that the “impact on Jewish faculty, students, and the broader community is palpable,” Elman highlighted the need for a concerted effort to combat these “reactionary, illiberal tendencies.”
Following Elman’s remarks, Shmuel Rosner – a prominent Israeli journalist, author, researcher, and publisher – gave a keynote talk, “Him! Again! Who Israelis Elected in 2019 and Why,” about the recent Israeli election and its impacts, emphasizing the social, political, and demographic reasons behind Israel’s rightward shift. The next day, Rosner participated in a lunch Q and A with David Suissa, editor and publisher of LA’s Jewish Journal, in which they discussed divergences between American and Israeli Jews which may impact the fight against Israel delegitimization on campus.
May 22’s program featured multiple panels and roundtables focused on describing the current realities on campus and strategizing solutions. The opening panel, featuring several representatives of organizational partners, detailed the more aggressive nature of recent campaigns to delegitimize Israel on campus. This was followed by panels on BDS on California campuses, strategies for effective coalition-building with diverse groups, highlighting positive examples of student and faculty exchange with Israeli institutions, and conducting outreach to Christian allies, and the intersection of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and BDS. The evening ended with a roundtable discussion on the BDS movement’s assault on scholarship, featuring “Word Crimes” editors Donna Divine, Miriam Elman, and Asaf Romirowsky, and Israel Denial author Cary Nelson.
The conference ended on May 23 with a video compilation of AEN members’ talks from the “Contending with Antisemitism in a Rapidly Changing Political Climate” conference at Indiana University, and with a farewell address by Miriam Elman, who discussed the results of a recent survey of AEN members and outlined AEN’s strategies for the year ahead.
Based on post-conference evaluations, AEN members found the conference to be deeply rewarding, in particular Rosner’s keynote, the panel presentations with personal insights from faculty, students, and professionals, and the opportunities for networking and discussion with other AEN faculty.