Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By: Adam Milstein

In the last few years, our Israeli-American community has grown dramatically in size and impact. The IAC has a wide range of programs reaching hundreds of thousands of people in tens of states, an annual conference with thousands of attendees, and a sister advocacy organization that is successfully bringing bipartisan support for the US-Israel Alliance in D.C. and across the country. It’s safe to say that we’ve succeeded in achieving our original goal of organizing, activating, and engaging the Israeli-American community in Los Angeles when we were founded more than ten years ago.

So where do we grow from here?

We are the premiere organization when it comes to revitalizing the Jewish community with Israeliness—our vibrant and diverse culture, our native language of Hebrew, our willingness to take risks in pursuit of innovation, our deep and inspired pride in our Jewish heritage, our unconditional love for Israel, and our courage to stand up against the enemies of the Jewish people. This unwavering love for Israel is key not just for the Israeli-American community, but for the broader Jewish community. Now that we are a major Jewish organization, our ability to lead and promote this key issue is vital.

We know that for Israel to be strong we need a strong and supportive Jewish community worldwide. It’s up to us—those who live in the Diaspora—to unconditionally support the State of Israel by building bridges between the people of Israel and the people of America. We don’t just speak Hebrew and English; we speak Israeli and we speak American.

We have a unique ability to communicate why Americans must support a strong Israel because of our personal experiences—the years we’ve spent living, learning and working in our Jewish homeland, our understanding of sacrifice from our army service, and our connections with family and friends who live in our Jewish homeland. Our community uniquely possesses knowledge and experience of Israel’s history, politics, accomplishments, culture, and character.

Because of this, the onus is on us, as Israeli-Americans, to serve as the living bridge between the United States and Israel. We have made great progress on this front, with unprecedented activism from the Israeli-American community to garner support for a strong U.S-Israel relationship. Yet, we still have only activated a fraction of our community’s capacity — and have a long way to go to realizing our full potential.

Thousands of years ago, Rabbi Hillel said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But, If I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?"

These simple words drive me every single day, reminding me that our responsibility to make our communities strong cannot be left for others and cannot wait until tomorrow. By fully embracing the joy and responsibility of working to strengthen the Jewish people and the pro-Israel American community, my life has been enriched in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

Now, our strong, activated, and engaged Israeli-American community is more focused than ever. From the teenagers participating in IAC Eitanim to the community leaders in IAC Gvanim, to the children in IAC Keshet to the college students of IAC Mishelanu, to the thousands of families attending IAC Shishi Israeli shabbat dinners. Our next step is to harness our collective strength and collectively embrace our roles as communicators who are strengthening the relationship between our two countries.

I know that—just as we have succeeded in building our organization, and as we continue to succeed in growing our organization—we will succeed in strengthening the relationship between the people of Israel and the people of the United States, and we will succeed in bringing our love, passion and unwavering support for Israel to the broader Jewish American community.

Adam Milstein is an Israeli-American philanthropist, entrepreneur and the chairman of the IsraeliAmerican Council.