A conference aimed at the Christian community “brought in a whole different membership,” she says.
And when she scheduled a speaker from an Iraqi Christian relief council to appear at a synagogue on Shabbat morning, “we couldn’t pack the people in enough,” she reports. “There was such compassion and empathy for her story, it was an amazing thing. People really responded to the Christian story in the Middle East. We really started that – the churches in America didn’t really know what was going on with the churches in the Middle East. We wanted to help them, to expose the issue and educate people here.”
Education, she says, is a key word. “We get into the issues. A lot of people digress into feel-good touchy-feely lectures or Torah-based, intellectual lectures. When I bring in a speaker it’s for a reason, addressing a situation that needs to be addressed. We want to expose a particular situation.”
With Ettinger, the speaker at the Feb. 16 program, “he’ll speak on the demographic myth: Will Arabs outnumber Jews? It’s a myth that’s been going on since the beginning of modern-day Zionism, that Jews will be overrun if we don’t give up this land or that land.”
CAMERA’s newest confirmed speaker, on March 21 at Anshe Emet, is Yoram Hazony, Israeli scholar and author and co-founder of the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem think tank.
Of her efforts, Baker says there is “one thing I want to get across: We are a great purveyor of Israel education. We take very seriously the media attitudes toward Israel. Our job is to rectify the stories that are untrue.”
One she cites: “In many places, Arab and Jewish communities get along very well. You read the press and you’d never know it. It’s not true that Arabs and Jews don’t get along. Many do and have always gotten along until the outside world tells them they don’t.”
Not all of the programming she does, she says, takes place in synagogues. “I’m going to hit the golf clubs, the country clubs, bring in people who would never think of hearing these speakers, to expose people to as wide a range of folks as possible. Most people aren’t really into Israel. They support it, they’ll write their check but they’re not into it. I would like to make it exciting, so they go home and say, that’s amazing!”
Going into her second year on the job, Baker is bursting with ideas and plans.
“We’re a powerful organization but we have a very tight budget, so we try and do as much as we can with what we have,” she says. “It’s a big job and I’ve just started. I hope to reach out to new members, to really make a difference in the next year. I’m so happy to be associated with and work for an organization like this. Everyone takes my call. People like CAMERA.”
Reprinted with permission from The Chicago Jewish News.