Hosted by the Prime Minister of Albania, in partnership with the Combat Antisemitism Movement and the Center for Jewish Impact, the Second Balkans Forum Against Antisemitism will take place from November 8-9, 2023 in Tirana, Albania. The summit will bring together leaders and experts from across the region to expand an important discussion on how to promote interfaith relations and effectively counter antisemitism. This 2023 event will build on the impact of the first-ever 2020 Balkans Forum Against Antisemitism, which led to the adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism by the Parliament of Albania.
B A C K G R O U N D
The Balkans, a strategically important region in southeastern Europe, is renowned for its diversity of cultures and religions, where interfaith coexistence and cooperation have been a defining characteristic throughout history and continue to be a crucial element today.
Jewish communities have also existed in the region since ancient Roman times, playing an essential role in its cultural, social, and economic development. During the Holocaust, some Balkan states and individuals made significant efforts to save Jews from extermination. Although many Balkan Jews have emigrated to Israel and other countries, there are still significant Jewish populations in several Balkan nations, including Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria, and the Jewish heritage of the Balkans continues to be an integral part of the region's identity.
E V E N T O B J E C T I V E S
- Promoting tolerance and understanding among different communities
- Highlighting the unique history and presence of religious diversity and coexistence in the Balkans
- Creating new opportunities for interfaith dialogue and cooperation among religious communities
- Fostering meaningful dialogue and action on issues related to antisemitism and other forms of hatred and bigotry
- Reinforcing the fight against antisemitism in the Balkans
- Encouraging new countries and entities in the region to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, as a first step to effectively encounter Jew-hatred
- Strengthen and deepen bilateral ties between Israel and Balkan nations
S C H E D U L E
NOVEMBER 8, 2023
7:00 PM — Prime Minister Gala Dinner, hosted by H.E. Edi Rama
The Opening Gala Dinner will feature welcome speeches from Prime Ministers in the Balkan states, a US State department official, an Israeli Minister, European Commission senior official and remarks by Robert Singer, speaking on behalf of CAM and Center for Jewish Impact.
NOVEMBER 9, 2023
9:30 AM - 10:30 AM — Opening Plenary Session
The Opening Plenary Session will open with a keynote speech by Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama and feature EU, US and Israeli dignitaries and high-level officials, as well as Valentina Leskaj, CAM Advisory Board member and Former Albanian Minister (Labor and Social Affairs), and Sacha Roytman, CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement.
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM — Governments United Against Antisemitism: A Panel Discussion on Effective Approaches
The panel will focus on the role of governments in addressing Antisemitism, why the IHRA definition is an important tool for implementation and the ways in which governments can use it effectively. Speakers at this panel will include senior coordinators, advisers and representatives responsible for fighting Antisemitism.
12:00 - 1:30 — Lunch
1:30 PM - 3:30 — Thematic Breakout Session
The participants can choose between three parallel sessions to learn from and discuss.
Option 1: Building Bridges: Interfaith Relations in the Balkans Region
Speakers will explore the interfaith relations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Balkans region, with a focus on both historical and contemporary perspectives and the ways in which these three religious communities have interacted with one another over time.
Option 2: The History of Jews in the Balkans
Speakers will discuss the long and complex history of Jewish communities in the Balkans region from the middle ages to the present day, and the different experiences of Jewish communities across the region.
Option 3: Partners in the Fight Against Antisemitism: Government, Civil Society and Educational Institutions Working Together
Antisemitism continues to be a pervasive problem in the Balkans and around the world, requiring a concerted effort from government, civil society and educational institutions to address and combat it effectively. This panel brings together experts from the sectors to discuss the collaboration to effectively fight against antisemitism.
3:30 - 4:00 — Coffee Break
4:00 - 5:30 — Ceremony in Remembrance of the Reichspogromnacht:
Remembering the Holocaust in the Balkans
The Ceremony will commemorate the 9th of November Reichspogromnacht as a significant event that marked the escalation of violence against Jews and the devastating role it played in the Holocaust, underscoring the importance of remembering and learning from such historical tragedies. The ceremony will be held at the Tirana Park Memorial Cemetery. Both Holocaust Survivors and families that saved Jews will give testimonies. Speakers will focus on the history of the Holocaust in the Balkans region, highlighting Albania's unique story of courage and humanitarianism, as the country that refused to deport its Jewish population and instead offered them sanctuary as "Besa" serves as a profound example of tolerance. The ceremony will also invite represenatives from the Balkan region to share their country’s story during the holocaust.
5:30 PM - 6:30 PM — Final Discussion: Israel, the Balkans, and the United States: Strengthening the Ties
Speakers will examine the ways in which the relationships between Israel, the Balkans region, and the United States can be strengthened and improved. Panelists will discuss the current state of Israel-Balkans-US relations and will consider the potential for increased cooperation and collaboration.
7:00 PM — Closing Dinner in Remembrance of the Reichspogromnacht, hosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM)