Los Angeles dignitaries and members of the press gathered last Sunday at the Israeli American Council’s Shepher Community Center for a first look at the ambitious plans to turn the center into a hub for the Israeli-American and Jewish communities.

An existing 11,000-square-foot structure in Woodland Hills will provide space for Israeli cultural programming for the time being. The IAC plans to build a 30,000-square-foot office building on the property to house the organization’s local and national offices, a gymnasium and space for collaboration with non-profits that promote Israeli and Jewish values.

“Creating a physical gathering space will advance the IAC’s mission to engage and unite Israeli-Americans — and contribute to the broader Jewish community,” Miri Shepher, IAC Los Angeles Council chairwoman and benefactor of the center said in a statement. “We are hopeful that it will be the first center of many around the country.”

Here in Washington, Ronit Gudes Totah, the local IAC regional director, said that her young chapter — IAC expanded to Washington in September ahead of the IAC conference at the Washington Hilton one month later — was not looking to build its own space like on the West Coast.

“In the D.C.-area, the collaboration is very strong with the JCCs in the area, so we’re trying to utilize existing space within the Jewish community,” said Gudes Totah, emphasizing that the organization is focused on its partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. “If the need occurs in the future we can expand, but it would be within the JCC.”

Creating bridges between the local Israeli-American community and the wider Jewish community is “the overarching mission,” added Gudes Totah, who said that Federation CEO Steven Rakitt “has welcomed us with open arms.”

“Right now, it’s more in the development stage, so we still need to connect with Israeli Americans and connect them to the broader community,” said Gudes Totah. “I see [us] as one community. We are creating one community.”