|ACCESS was launched as an AJC national initiative in 2005 and is now in 13 cities worldwide. Almost two decades earlier, AJC Atlanta had pioneered the organization’s young leadership program and named it ACCESS. The name struck a chord and a number of regional offices including Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington DC, maintained active ACCESS programs for many years.
The national initiative was catalyzed by AJC’s 100th anniversary in 2006 and its desire to not only mark its past but also to invest seriously in current young activists and the future. ACCESS strives to bring together younger leaders from around the country to create a national, and now international network of committed, educated, and informed individuals to lead AJC into the next generation and beyond.ACCESS has 12 offices in the United States and one in Israel with more on their way!
AJC has a host of outreach programs for students at the high school and college level. The goals of student-oriented programming at AJC are to educate about Israel, American Jewish affairs, Jewish cultural life, and to provide resources to help students respond to intimidation on college and university campuses.
AJC’s New Generation Program empowers young Jewish professionals to engage with today’s critical domestic and international issues. At the nexus between the Jewish community and the world, ACCESS reaches out to diplomats, opinion makers and young leaders of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.
ACCESS has chapters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In addition, the first international ACCESS group formed in Israel in 2009. ACCESS reaches over 10,000 people around the world.
Three fundamental initiatives guide the ACCESS agenda:
1.The Global Diplomacy campaign (Sept-Dec) provides opportunities to reach out to younger members of the international community (diplomats, journalists, and academics who play a role in shaping opinion in their countries) and engage them on issues of importance to the Jewish community, from Israel’s bilateral relations to incidents of anti-Semitism to broader human rights concerns.
Programming in this area ranges from small dinners with diplomats to larger, social-oriented events meant to facilitate informal contacts that can be cultivated over time.
In order for ACCESS members to attain a more profound understanding of the complex history and contemporary challenges facing Jewish communities worldwide, ACCESS also offers intensive study visits. Delegations have traveled to Argentina, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Israel, Rwanda, South Africa, and Switzerland – sometimes in conjunction with major international or national conferences.
2.Domestic Advocacy is accomplished through the Building Bridges campaign, running from MLK Jr weekend through Passover, which creates meaningful associations with younger members of key ethnic and religious groups (with a focus thus far on African-American, Muslim, and several Asian groups) in order to advance policies of joint interest.
ACCESS programming in this area includes traditional dialogue, as well as collaborative political advocacy and community service. For example, ACCESS groups across the country are hosting meetings with Indian Americans on new energy alternatives – advancing AJC’s agenda in pressing the U.S. to become independent of foreign oil and to be environmentally responsible, and supporting the Indian American agenda of promoting entrepreneurs in its own community.
ACCESS has piloted “community service engagement” – participating in community service alongside other ethnic groups as a way of “doing good,” strengthening intergroup relations, and sending a strong sign of cooperation to the broader society. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ACCESS started a multi-year series of projects in New Orleans. During the course of this work, ACCESS developed a strong relationship with Xavier University, the only black Catholic university in the U.S., and with the Office of Black Ministry in N.Y., culminating in a Black Christian-Jewish conference in New Orleans.
3.Building Community is a fundamental cornerstone of ACCESS work, the goal of which is to assure a relevant Jewish voice in the public arena for years to come.
ACCESS has hosted several learning series around key historical, political and cultural moments in Jewish life. These sessions are open to Jews and non-Jews alike, and are more academic than religious in nature. ACCESS has also hosted intergenerational networking events that introduce accomplished members of the Jewish community to interested ACCESS members.
On the global level, AJC has for almost a decade invited international student leaders to meet young U.S. participants at AJC’s annual meeting, strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. This year, ACCESS will host a weekend retreat following AJC’s Global Forum for young people from around the world.
ACCESS Global Network- www.ajc.org/globalnetwork
AJC continued the global expansion of ACCESS with the launch of the Global ACCESS Network, a select group of young professionals in key international cities involved in the political, diplomatic, journalistic, business and academic worlds. On the ACCESS: Global Voices blog (ajc.org/access, members of this network post news and opinions on issues relevant to the global Jewish community (including Israel, anti-Semitism, terrorism, transatlantic relations, immigration, integration, human rights, etc).
Together, these postings along with readers responses help create a space that encourages dialogue, allows geographically distant people to share ideas and exchange information, and enables participants to collectively address urgent issues from a distinctly Jewish perspective.
One of the goals of ACCESS: Global Voices is to use contemporary hot-topics to catalyze debates among our contributors and readers, thereby reflecting larger trends within the global Jewish community. Starting in September 2011, ACCESS will initiate a three-way partnership with U.S. and international Jewish student groups, and international student blog, that will feed into ACCESS: Global Voices.
AJC and ACCESS background
AJC inaugurated ACCESS as a new national initiative on the eve of its 100th anniversary in December 2005. Importantly, the goal of ACCESS is not primarily to fundraise for AJC, nor is it to ensure that there are young people ready to follow AJC’s current leadership in lockstep. Instead, this program was created explicitly to cultivate and prepare the next generation of Jewish political thinkers and leaders.
Underpinned by Jewish values – such as tikkun olam and tzedakah u’mishpat– ACCESS inspires and empowers young Jewish professionals to learn about and tackle current political issues, particularly those that are most critical to global Jewry. ACCESS complements AJC’s high-level interactions, effectively utilizing the organization’s political connections and expertise to strategically link the Jewish community’s upcoming generation to the larger world.
By providing young activists with the opportunity, resources, and the access to a cross-section of the world’s leaders, AJC is helping to mobilize a new generation of Jews to most effectively participate in global affairs. Members of ACCESS emerge from its programs empowered with the skills and confidence to assume leadership positions not only at AJC, but across the full spectrum of the Jewish world.