As president of the Long Island region of the American Jewish Committee, Port Washington resident and lawyer Arnie Herz plans to further the mission of the organization through forming relationships.
He said he brings to the table a true commitment to his own personal growth and vows to look beyond his own biases and remain open-minded.
Herz said he is “constantly challenging [his] assumptions and rethinking things,” which he cites as one of the reasons that the organization is a good fit for him.
The American Jewish Committee does not only advocate for Jewish people but also Jewish values which recognize an infringement of human rights against one person as an infringement on the rights of all people, Herz said.
“We do this by building coalitions … meaningful and long-term relationships that endure for years and many cases decades,” he said. “We work with another group to show that their interests are our interests and then our interests become their interests.”
Herz said members of the group marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement and the organization was at the front line of improving Christian and Jewish relations with the “Nostra aetate,” a doctrine adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s.
Most recently, the committee formed a Muslim-Jewish coalition led by Farooq Kathari, the CEO and president of Ethan Allen, and Stanley Bergman, the head of Henry Shein Inc.
This coalition comes at a time of Islamophobia and growing anti-Semitism, Herz said. “We get together to jointly fight such hatred that is counterproductive to the advancement of human rights,” he said.
He billed the initiative as “classic AJC.”
When meeting people, Herz said, it is important to keep in mind that those who hold different beliefs are human beings “who may just see the world in fundamentally different ways.”
Overcoming that barrier is key to opening up communication, he said.
Herz said his experience handling complex conflicts as a lawyer and court-appointed mediator has nurtured his ability to reach people despite their differences because he often has to work with people who are “very, very dug into their perspective and their vantage point.”
That is not the only experience he brings to the position. His experience in interfaith relations began shortly after he finished college when he studied at an ashram in rural India.
After studying there for two years, he traveled and taught meditation where he, “a Jewish kid from Long Island,” was accompanied by a group of four men: a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu and a Sikh.
“I see everything in my life as building blocks,” he said. “And that experience in India has really dictated my whole approach to people and relationship.”
While he serves as president, Herz said he will work to garner more visibility for the American Jewish Committee on Long Island and engage more people in the organization’s work.
Herz has been involved with the American Jewish Committee for about 10 years and served on its board for the last five years.
He began as president on Jan 1.