Los Angeles, The Israeli American Council (IAC) announced this past Sunday September 8th, its nationwide expansion plan to unite the nearly 800,000 Israeli-Americans who reside in communities across the United States. The announcement was made at the organization’s Rosh Hashana reception in Los Angeles at the home of IAC Chairman Shawn Evenhaim, attended by hundreds of members, donors and guests, including members of Congress, the Mayor of Los Angeles and the Consul General of Israel.
The IAC’s expansion plan includes opening a national headquarters and local chapters across the country to provide community and national level structure for Israeli-Americans. Programs will include cultural, educational, advocacy and social activities across age groups. Starting immediately, the IAC will work together with other organizations and also offer guidance and funding to Israeli-American and pro-Israel initiatives throughout the U.S. IAC grant application guidelines can be found on the IAC website at www.israeliamerican.org.
The number of Israeli-Americans and their children residing in the U.S. may range anywhere from 500,000-1,000,000. According to recent studies by researchers at the Tel-Aviv based Reut Institute, Dr. Marianne Sanua of Florida Atlantic University, and others, Israeli-Americans and their children living in the U.S. total approximately 500,000 people while IAC estimates are closer to 800,000 nationwide. According to these reports, Israeli-Americans reside in three main geographical areas: Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, and Florida. Additional communities are spread across numerous cities, including Chicago, San Francisco and the Bay area, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore and others.
The IAC was founded in 2007 by a group of businesspeople from the Israeli-American community in Los Angeles. It’s the largest Israeli-American organization in the country. The IAC works to create an active, influential and bi-partisan political voice for Israeli-American and pro-Israel communities to strengthen the relationship between the State of Israel and the U.S. and to preserve the Jewish way of life and Israeli culture of second and third generation Israeli-Americans. The IAC aims to achieve this through joining Israeli-American, Jewish-American and pro-Israel communities together into one united active community.
According to Dr. Sanua, “probably the best example of Israeli-American organization and programming for children and youth can be found in the Los Angeles area...The ILC, [now renamed the “Israeli American Council” of IAC]...has become a sort of unofficial “Federation” for Israelis. They have founded a number of new cultural, educational and Israel advocacy programs in the Los Angeles area and have generously funded and revitalized others that already existed.”
Shawn Evenhaim, the IAC Chairman, said at Sunday’s event that in the first five years of the expansion plan, eight local IAC chapters will be founded in the eight largest communities of Israeli-Americans. “All chapters will follow the same vision and mission statement, will be steered by local boards and will be supported by the national headquarters. We plan to create a variety of programs and activities for all age groups as well as the community at large, so each chapter will be able to select which programs and activities will best fit its community,” said Evenhaim. “We are starting to identify leadership in Israeli-American communities across the country to assist us in the establishment of the national and local IAC boards of directors.”
Evenhaim also noted that since its establishment, the IAC has had a unique structure with a strong and active board of directors who give not only their time and money, but their knowledge and connections to implement the IAC’s goals and objectives for the benefit of the entire community. “Our current board members, Adam Milstein, Naty Saidoff, Miri Shepher, Danny Alpert and Yossi Rabinovitz are not a typical board. They deserve much of the credit for the success of the IAC and its ability to now expand. It is a model that works and we are excited see it in use across the country.”
Adam Milstein, the chair of the IAC’s Expansion Committee said that “a primary reason for the IAC’s expansion effort is the critical need to embark on a major campaign within Israeli-American communities to ensure that Israeli-Americans and their children: 1) continue their best efforts to strengthen the relationship between the State of Israel and the U.S.; 2) remain connected to the Israeli people and their culture; and 3) maintain their Jewish identity and stay committed to their Jewish values and their heritage.” According to Milstein, many Israeli-Americans like other Jewish Americans are very concerned about their children losing the bond with Israel and Judaism, and are thus interested in a community structure based on the Jewish way of life, culture, and a strong affiliation with the State of Israel. "It is important to realize that many Israelis are not used to living in the diaspora and as a result, are disconnected from the Jewish American community and its institutions. Many of their kids assimilate at an astounding rate,” Milstein explained. The expansion plan aims to provide creative solutions to overcome these challenges.
"It’s our duty and obligation as Israeli-Americans to support the State of Israel,” said Danny Alpert, former IAC co-chairman. “The IAC recognizes the challenges but its love and commitment to the State of Israel and its people is unequivocal. It is our responsibility to preserve this for our children and we are willing to stand up to the task”.
The IAC, based in Los Angeles, has grown rapidly in recent years. According to CEO Sagi Balasha, the organization this year reached over 50,000 people through its events and programs, including large-scale festivals and programming for all ages. In addition, the IAC supports twenty-one organizations affiliated with its goals and objectives.
Current IAC programs include: Tzav 8 (recruiting thousands for pro-Israel rallies); Financing the Israeli "Shlichim" at all major campuses in Southern California; Organizing and funding the Los Angeles Independence Day Festival – the largest Jewish festival in North America, as well as dozens of ceremonies, holidays and mass events for the community; Sifriyat Pijama B'America, through which 10,000 families nationwide enjoy Hebrew bedtime books sent to their kids by mail, free of charge on a monthly basis; IAC-BINA club, consisting of approximately 1,500 Israeli and American Jewish young adults who convene discussions and activities relating to Jewish identity and support for Israel; establishing and funding the IAC-Care project in which thousands of the community members volunteer and organize large scale drives; and Mishelanu (the leadership program for Israeli-Americans students).
IAC activities are funded by its board of directors, its members, and donors within the Israeli-American and the Pro-Israel American communities, including Sheldon and Miri Adelson, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Beny and Adele Alagem, Leo and Ruth David and David Wiener. In addition, the organization receives support from several Jewish-American foundations in the U.S.
IAC representatives will participate in a special panel at the upcoming Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly (GA), scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this November, where they will conduct meetings with senior Israeli government officials as well as members of the Jewish American leadership.
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