AJC President Harold Tanner

Remarks by Harold Tanner

Thank, you, David, for your very gracious comments.

In turn, may I thank you for having been a wonderful partner. It has been a privilege to stand alongside a man who, in my view, is the most effective leader in the Jewish community today. Your energy, your ability to speak and write with compelling force, strong principles and deep conviction, has made my job not only easier, but a significant learning experience. As the most visible spokesperson for this agency, you make me and everyone associated with AJC, proud.

I have been involved with the American Jewish Committee for nearly 40 years. I joined the committee because I believed then, and no less now, that what's good for the Jews is good for the world. I believe that the core values that are the bedrock of western civilization - democracy, liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of religion - are the oxygen of our people.

I knew this to be an agency that, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, kept its eyes on the stars and its feet on the ground.

Nonetheless, while it was no surprise that the world of the 21st century is very different from what it was 40 years ago, I didn't bargain for the challenges of the last three years.

Nor did I completely understand, three years ago, the extent to which this organization---with its seemingly limitless talent pool of' dedicated volunteers and able professionals, its unbending commitment to reason and moderation, and its finely-tuned balance of the universal and particular, was exactly the right vehicle to address the challenges both at home and abroad.

I couldn't fully appreciate the vast array of programs that this agency sponsors to advance our core goals of a more harmonious world for all, and a more secure world for the Jewish people.

From my privileged perch, I have had a close up view of the AJC as we:

  • Stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel in its continuous quest for peace and security;

  • Circled the globe again and again to meet with world leaders and other decision-makers;

  • Stood up unflinchingly to the enemies of freedom in support of those values that define democratic nations.

  • Shined the spotlight on the purveyors of anti-Semitism, whatever their source, and joined together with nations and organizations of goodwill to fight the spread of bigotry and hatred;

  • Put into place new initiatives to respond to changing times - from the transatlantic institute in Brussels, to a multilingual web site; from dynamic new programming to enhance ties between Latinos and Jews, to leadership institutes for Russian-speaking Jews in America;

  • From advocacy programs for high school and college students to on-the-ground visits to Israel for European politicians and journalists;

  • Responded, in the face of those who would seek to divide us along religious or other lines, by reaffirming the bonds of our common humanity.

We have spared no effort to ensure that the blessings we have been afforded will be available to our children and grandchildren, as Americans and as Jews; and launched AJC's centennial campaign, to protect the strength of this organization for generations to come.

The American Jewish Committee, today, is an outstanding organization by any measure. The prophet Jeremiah had it right when he said "you will find your own strength in the strength of the whole community."

Indeed, the secret of our strength is the unique partnership between outstanding professionals and equally outstanding lay leaders.

A president of the AJC can count on a brilliant executive and a world-class staff and 125,000 members and supporters - not to mention 33 chapters and offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, Geneva, Warsaw and now Brussels.

This president would like to offer particular and personal thanks to Shula Bahat, Jaime Kelstein, and Jason Isaacson, with whom I've worked so closely, and to the entire staff who, through their continuous efforts make AJC the organization it is.

As for the lay leadership, you are imbued with the spirit of Tikkun Olam, "healing the world" and do everything asked of you -- and more. A personal thank you to my colleagues on the executive committee and board of governors for your commitment, encouragement and wise counsel. To the friends and supporters here this evening, too many to mention by name, know that I'm grateful to each of you.

To Bob Goodkind, who officially assumes office as my successor tomorrow, I offer my full support. I am confident the organization is in excellent hands.

To my children, everyone familiar with me knows how proud I am of you and your children - my eight grandsons.

And to Nicki, my trophy wife of almost 47 years, thank you for your support, without which I could not have fulfilled my responsibilities as president.

Never once in the past 3 years did I hear from her a single complaint of time or trips for the AJC. While this was a comfort to me, what it really was, was testimony to her shared belief in the importance of the work of the AJC.

In closing - it has been a privilege to serve as President of this unique and vitally important organization. Thank you for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.

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