By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
A background in student advocacy gives the new executive director of the American Jewish Committee Chicago, Laurence Bolotin, the experience to help combat the increasing anti-Semitism on college campuses.
Bolotin, three months on the job, said many students haven’t faced anti-Semitism before. This is one of the reasons for AJC’s Leaders for Tomorrow program which helps high school students develop a strong Jewish identity. “We’re training them to be advocates for Israel and voices against anti-Semitism,” he said.
AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.
For 14 years, Bolotin was the chief executive officer for Zeta Beta Tau, the world’s oldest and largest college Jewish fraternity with headquarters in Indianapolis. During his time there, the organization worked to combat anti-Semitism and advocate for hate prevention. He oversaw efforts to counteract the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The mission of AJC is truly global, Bolotin said. “We’re working together as one organization that has 22 regional offices in the United States and 12 international offices. We’re all working together to build a safer, more secure future for the Jewish people, Israel and all of humanity.”
To foster positive relations and effectively address the important issues facing the Jewish community, Bolotin said it is necessary to educate the next generation of Jews and “connect them to those who have important stories to tell, maybe an older generation, so we don’t forget where we came from.”
Globally and nationally, he said anti-Semitism is a huge threat. “We are focusing on ensuring that we’re combatting anti-Semitism from the political left, from the political right and from extremist ideologies. We’re continuing to advocate for Israel at home and abroad by ushering widespread bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S through outreach to key constituencies in Chicago as well as beyond like our elected officials, intergroup and interfaith organizations, our lay leaders and in diplomatic engagement.
“At AJC, we believe that if we’re going to move the needle on combatting anti-Semitism in the U.S, we must also be an ally to other communities whether it be the Muslim community, Latinos or LGBTQ, to name a few, “because we’re all facing disconcerting behavior. As a community of Jews, we really have to be there for others just as we need others to be there for us.”
up in Miami Beach and attended college at the University of Florida where he
received his B.A. in public relations. In these populous Jewish communities, he
took his Jewish identity for granted. “I never experienced any kind of
anti-Semitism or hate of any kind,” he said.
Attending grad school in higher education administration at University of Texas Austin marked a turning point in his Jewish identity. Bolotin is also a graduate of the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
Bolotin said he has “truly fallen in love with AJC over the past few months. I believe we are changing the world for the better, not just as it relates to Jews, but as it relates to any community that isn’t being treated fairly that needs support.”
For more information about American Jewish Committee Chicago, call (312) 251-8800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.