Azerbaijan was hailed as a 'beacon of religious tolerance' following a visit by a group of children from the Atlanta Jewish Academy in the United States to Azerbaijan.
The trip was facilitated on the ground by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), which arranged logistics as well as the sightseeing itinerary, which led the Jewish group from the Old City in the capital of Baku to the ancient rock paintings in Gobustan and the home of the Mountain Jews in Guba.
Five children, aged 10 to 17, from the Atlanta Jewish Academy traveled to Azerbaijan, accompanied by Rabbi Reuven Travis and Jewish community leader George Birnbaum. This was the second trip of Atlanta Jewish Academy students to Azerbaijan.
The news release, titled “Azerbaijan Praised as 'Beacon of Religious Tolerance' Following Visit by Children From Atlanta Jewish Academy”, was published by 158 media outlets. Among the media outlets are Yahoo! Finance with 76 million daily viewers, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Yahoo Singapore, New York Business Journal and Atlanta Business Chronicle, dozens of television channels and news websites operating in the US and Europe. Merrill Edge, an influential investment publication of Bank of America, and online publication Silicon Valley Globe.
The news release, titled “Aserbaidschan wird nach Besuch von Kindern der Atlanta Jewish Academy als ’strahlendes Beispiel religiöser Toleranz’ gelobt” was published by the Berlin-based newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Wall Street: Online journal, Finanznachrichten, as well as Austrian agency APA-OTS and several news websites operating in Switzerland.
The news release also includes the visitors’ impressions of Azerbaijan.
17-year-old Devorah Chasen said she felt welcomed and safe in Azerbaijan, stressing the country's open culture and warm society. "Much of the religious division in the world today comes from stereotyping, but in Azerbaijan you experience the hospitality and friendliness and realise that the reality is very different," Chasen said. "It's been eye-opening."
"Given the increasing religious tensions around the world, it is important for Jewish kids from America to experience a modern, pluralistic and tolerant Muslim country like Azerbaijan," George Birnbaum said. "There is an actual friendship between the Jewish and Muslim communities, between the government and the Jewish community."
"This country [Azerbaijan] breaks stereotypes," Rabbi Travis said, adding that the group felt completely at ease in Azerbaijan. "In France, I wore a baseball cap. I thought it was more dangerous to walk the streets of Paris with my kippah on than the streets of Baku."
"It's important to spread the word of religious tolerance," said 17-year-old Esther Benchetrit. "I will tell my friends and family to go and visit, because it's beautiful and people are so sweet."
This was the second trip by the Atlanta Jewish Academy to Azerbaijan and a similar program is being developed to bring Azerbaijani students to the U.S.
"We hope this project will yield long-term results, as the children grow into adults and create opportunities for business, politics, education and more between the two countries," Birnbaum concluded.