AJC Cincinnati Celebrates 80 years and Welcomes New Leadership during Annual Meeting

“We exist to fight hate and advocate for issues that matter to the Jewish people” noted outgoing AJC Cincinnati President Carolyn Gilbert at the 80th annual meeting of American Jewish Committee’s Cincinnati Regional Office.

The passing of the gavel from Gilbert to her successor, Jan Armstrong Cobb, was held May 8 at Isaac M. Wise Temple.  

Gilbert, reflecting on her tenure, noted “Prior to October 7th, the world was indeed a different place. While disconcerting, the uncertainty of today makes us even more resolute in terms of our activism and advocacy. While this is a time of concern, it is also a time of opportunity. Today, I see significant work being done to make AJC a more nimble, inclusive, and active organization, advocating worldwide for human rights, democratic values, and the right of Israel to exist in peace among the nations of the world.”

Carolyn added her enthusiasm for the alliances AJC had formed with other Jewish organizations and the community. “We have enhanced our relationships with elected officials and have honored and continue to celebrate truly honorable leaders of our Jewish and non-Jewish communities. We have expanded our efforts to fight antisemitism, and have facilitated numerous trainings with government, academic and the business communities. Our board members include active and passionate people who work to make our community better every day. Our presence has been felt, and for that I feel very proud.”

Current AJC Cincinnati President Jan Armstrong Cobb is resolved to lead the board, continuing the vital work. “Our way to enhance Jewish well-being is to proudly tell our community the story of the Jewish people, the state of Israel and how the preservation of democracy is paramount to sustaining a way of life without fear of extremist ideologies taking hold. We must tell our story so that people understand how history can repeat itself, and the nature of hate we and others will soon experience if we don’t stop it in its tracks.”

In recognition of AJC Cincinnati at 80, Regional Director Justin Kirschner reflected on the organization and the local office’s history, “Our story traces back to the steadfast determination of a group of German Jewish immigrants who, in the wake of the 1903 Kishinev Pogroms in the Soviet Union, founded the American Jewish Committee in 1906. Rooted in the imperative to not only safeguard the religious and civil right of Jews worldwide, but to strive to attain liberties not yet bestowed as the founders believed that the universal recognition of human rights was achievable. 

The seeds of our local presence were sown in 1945 when the Cincinnati chapter emerged, driven by what a former chapter leader described as the need to represent a middle-of-the-road position in a community divided by Zionist and anti-Zionist feeling. Our original charter set forth committees that engaged in the work of public relations, Jewish culture and education, peace problems, legal investigation, and overseas issues.” Furthermore, our records indicate that one of our first chapter meetings centered on the question of what we should be teaching our children – an important question we’re continuing to ask today. 

Guided by our mantra of advancing democracy, pluralism, and mutual understanding, our local chapter annually hosts prestigious events like 59 years of the Simon Lazarus Awards and 31 years of our Community Intergroup Seder. Moreover, our board leaders embark on community-building efforts and diplomatic missions to countries across the globe, engaging with leaders and government officials to advocate for our shared values.

Keynote speaker Benjy Rogers, AJC Director Middle East and North Africa Initiatives, highlighted AJC’s role in advancing peace prospects in the Middle East region, noting efforts to embolden the Abraham Accords framework and work to mitigate tension between the US, Israel and the Arab world during the war. 

The business portion of the meeting elected and welcomed new board members Amy Berman, Jennifer Clark, Ilan Goldman, Rabbi Zachary Goodman and Sue Waldman as they begin their three-year term on the board. 

Today, AJC stands as a beacon of hope, boasting 25 U.S. Regional Offices, 15 Overseas Posts, and 38 International Partnerships, with a community of over four million passionate advocates worldwide. Our approach is multifaceted, combining diplomacy, political advocacy, and strategic engagement to advance policies that uphold our values. Through building coalitions with interfaith and intergroup partners, we stand united against threats to democracy, while equipping leaders to confront the scourge of antisemitism with resilience and resolve.