Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff (left) AJC CEO Ted Deutch

AJC CEO Ted Deutch, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff Call for Unity Among American Jews at Heartland Antisemitism Summit

Despite feelings of vulnerability in the wake of the Hamas massacre in Israel on Oct. 7, American Jews must remain united and never stop being proud of who they are, American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO Ted Deutch said.

“Especially in a post-10/7 world, being silent is not an option. Hoping others will stand up for the Jewish community is not enough,” Deutch said. “If we speak up and speak out, it makes it easier for our allies to be there with us.”

Deutch spoke recently during a fireside chat with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Gavriela Geller, Executive Director of JCRB|AJC at Driving Out Darkness in the Heartland, a summit on countering antisemitism co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. The first-of-its-kind meeting of 400 Jewish leaders, educators, local officials, and community activists from various faiths featured sessions on best practices for addressing antisemitism in the Midwest, including rural areas.

The symposium was held three days after the 10th anniversary of the hate-driven murders of three individuals outside of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom in Overland Park, KS. The gunman was a white supremacist intent on killing Jews, though none of the victims were Jewish.

“This is not a Jewish issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue,” said Geller, executive director of JCRB|AJC Kansas City, which organized and hosted the full-day summit.

“We have all seen the impacts to a society when antisemitism is allowed to grow, and it threatens our American values of pluralism, of democracy, of the things that make us proud to be American.”

Holly Huffnagle, AJC’s U.S. Director of Combating Antisemitism, emphasized how knowledge is power when it comes to fighting antisemitism. On that account, she said the Midwest has done well, citing statistics from AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, which found that nearly 70% of adults in the Midwest knew a Jewish person.

“We know that if you know someone who is Jewish, you are more likely to recognize antisemitism, to know it’s a problem, to know it has increased, and what it looks like,” Huffnagle said.

Geller said the fear in the Jewish community is real, especially since the Hamas massacre of 1,200 men, women, children, and babies in Israel on Oct. 7. Since then, she has heard questions she never thought would need to be asked, let alone answered.

“When will we know it’s time to leave? Should we have a bag packed? Should we buy property abroad?” asked Geller. “I was at Shabbat dinner just two weeks ago, and a young couple with a new baby was talking about building a house. And our host asked them, ‘Are you building a safe room?’”

Two of the victims of the Overland Park shootings were the older son and father of Mindy Corporon, who delivered opening remarks at the symposium.

“I feel like it’s been my responsibility since losing my dad and son at the Jewish Community Center to let everyone know, everywhere I speak, that hate does not discriminate, but neither does kindness,” said Corporon, co-founder of SevenDays, whose mission is to overcome hate by promoting kindness and understanding through education and dialogue.

Along those lines, Deutch said in times of tragedy, be it Overland Park or the Hamas massacre, the strength and resilience of the Jewish community come to the fore. He cautioned that Jews–in the Midwest and beyond–need to stand firm in the face of that adversity.

“Since October 7, there has been a sense of unity that exists, largely stemming from the realization that the community – as it felt on October 7 and was reminded over the weekend (following Iran’s attack on Israel) – faces real vulnerability. To confront that vulnerability, we must stand together,” Deutch said. “And we must be proud to be Jewish.”

 AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York, 25 offices across the United States, 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, 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 more, visit