Conference examines the modern Jewish community here and abroad

Why is anti-Semitism on the rise? What is the future of Jewish life in Europe? How can we keep our local community safe?

These are just a few of the questions to be addressed at “Hope Against Hate,” a unique one-day conference, screening and talk that examine the existential challenges — and potential solutions — facing Jewish communities today.

Co-hosted by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Monday, May 8, event will explore the complexities of Jewish life in communities ranging from Serbia, Paris and Berlin to Metro Detroit and beyond.

The day begins with “Fight or Flight: A Conference on the Modern Jewish Community” from noon-5 p.m., offering in-depth sessions on the challenges and opportunities facing Jewish communities today.

Speakers include on-the-ground professionals from the JDC and the national Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as well as local and national law enforcement figures, including Daniel L. Lemish, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The conference includes a keynote address as well as a complimentary kosher lunch.

Actress Rachel Weisz with Dr. Deborah Lipstadt; Weisz plays Lipstadt in the film Denial

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Jewish historian and author of the acclaimed book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, which was the basis for the film Denial, will serve as the keynote speaker, along with Alan H. Gill, the JDC’s executive vice president emeritus.

Break-out sessions include “From Risk to Resilience: The Journey of a European Jew,” “Confronting Anti-Semitism: A Local Perspective on Hate-Speech and Threats,” “The Upside of Crisis: Defining European Communities in the Face of Challenge,” “Addressing BDS and Anti-Semitism on Campus” and “The Rise of Neo-Fascism.”

Gideon Herscher, JDC director of international partnerships, is one of the conference organizers as well as a moderator.

Gideon Herscher

“At a moment of such uncertainty in the world, especially for the Jewish people, we’re fortunate to have an incredible lineup of speakers from around the world,” he said. “We’re thrilled to share this day of learning and dialogue with one of the most engaged Jewish communities in North America.”

Co-chairing the event are Penny Blumenstein and Matthew Lester, both longtime Federation leaders who have worked closely with the JDC on behalf of the international Jewish community.

“The concept of this event — that we all have a role in each other’s future — is more important now than ever before,” Blumenstein said. “This is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in the future of our Jewish communities.”

Exploring Denial

Following the conference, Federation and the JDC will host a screening of the film Denial from 5-7:30 p.m. The film stars Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz, Academy Award-nominee Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.

Denial recounts Dr. Deborah Lipstadt’s legal battle for historical truth against David Irving, who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier.

Written by acclaimed playwright David Hare, the film is a suspenseful courtroom drama as well as a window into the dark world of modern Holocaust deniers. A kosher boxed meal and snacks will be available during the movie.

Following the film, from 7:30-9 p.m., Lipstadt will share her spellbinding account of the experiences that led to her book, as well as her insights into the legacy of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere today.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have Deborah Lipstadt joining us for this event,” Lester said.

“Dr. Lipstadt is a renowned Jewish historian with an incredible story to tell, as well as a powerful and fascinating speaker. She is also a JDC board member who is personally committed to improving the lives of Jews throughout the world.”

Attendees may register separately for the afternoon conference, the screening and the talk. An $18 minimum donation to the Jewish Federation is required to attend any of the events, plus an $18 couvert for those attending the conference.

For details about the sessions and speakers, and to register, visit jewishdetroit.org/hope.

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