Young diplomats come together in D.C.

Audience members at the AJC ACCESS DC 13th annual Young Diplomats Reception panel on transnational migration.  Karen Sayre of Eikon Photography
Audience members at the AJC ACCESS DC 13th annual Young Diplomats Reception panel on transnational migration. (Karen Sayre of Eikon Photography)

Local Jewish young professionals with an interest in global politics braved the storms last Thursday evening for a chance to mingle with an international crowd of diplomats and other politicians from around the world. They listened to a small panel of experts talk about important issues of the day at the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS DC Young Diplomats Reception.

“It’s one of the most important programs ACCESS does on an annual basis,” said AJC Washington regional director Alan Ronkin. “It builds bridges between the diplomatic community and the Jewish community.”

ACCESS is the AJC’s program aimed at younger Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s. It is designed to give them a chance to learn and exercise their own ideas through the long-established connections between the AJC and political organizations around the world. This was the 13th Young Diplomats Reception, and its popularity has grown in part because of the kind of connections it makes possible, Ronkin said.

“An event called Young Diplomats Reception directly appealed to me,” said Jake Velleman, assistant director for Birthright Israel at Hillel International.

He explained how he was intrigued when he first heard about the event because of his interest and previous studies in international politics and diplomacy.

Around 75 diplomats from 45 countries were joined by close to 100 ACCESS members for the evening.

“You can meet quite a few interesting people at an event like this,” Velleman said.

The panel featured Michael Werz of the Center for American Progress in conversation with Manuel Orozco of Inter-American Dialogue. Carol Castiel, who hosts Press Conference USA, Encounter and works at Voice of America, moderated the panel. Werz and Orozco discussed the impact of global migration and transnationalism, of growing importance for many nations, which are attempting to navigate the difficulties while encouraging some of the positive impacts they present.

“There are some very substantial discussions,” Ronkin said. “It’s more than just a cocktail party.”

For some of the people attending, the reception beforehand still represented a major attraction for attending.

“I’m sure the panel will be interesting,” said one woman who, as a federal employee, asked to be anonymous. “But I came mainly hoping to make some connections with all kinds of people who work on international issues, especially related to Israel.”

Although the reception is the biggest event for ACCESS in the region, on a national scale ACCESS officials coordinate a weekend of events at the annual AJC meeting, specifically for students and young professionals to engage on the issues and meet influential activists, the same kind of goals as the reception promotes, Ronkin said.

“It offers not only a short-term benefit but a long-term investment,” Ronkin said.

“It’s called access after all,” Velleman said. “It lives up to its name in a nice way.”

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