(January 24, 2023 / JNS) After decades of Israeli immigrants to the United States sitting on the sidelines, a new generation of Israeli Americans are taking a more proactive role in the Jewish communal establishment.
“You have managed to bring together over 3,000 people for the biggest Jewish event of the year!” said Israeli American Council chairman of the board Naty Saidoff while thanking the organizers of the 8th annual IAC National Summit in Austin, Texas last week. And “the year is still young,” he added, eliciting laughter from the audience.
The IAC chairman also noted that more than 200 teenagers from 100 communities and campuses across the United States were also in attendance, calling them an inspiration.
Bridging the gap between American and Israeli Jews
“Jews are literally adding their own chapter of the Torah here,” said Doron Almog, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in reference to Austin’s growing Jewish community.
The Texas state capital of Texas is home to an estimated 30,000 Jews and is the fastest growing Israeli American community in the country.
Bringing together American Jews, along with first and second-generation Israelis living in the United States, the major theme of this year’s summit was unconditional support for the State of Israel, setting aside any political, religious or ethnic differences. The goal among organizers was to present a united front against growing antisemitism around the world, fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and use political advocacy to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability.
A proactive approach in combating antisemitism
“The mission of IAC is at the heart of our collective future,” said Elan Carr, former Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism under President Donald Trump. “The understanding of what it means to be a Jew in Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and what it means to be a Jew in the Diaspora has to be merged.”
Carr noted with pride his work under former President Trump in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. Carr also praised President Biden for continuing Trump’s work in this regard, as well as expanding the definition to recognize antisemitism taking place on college campuses.
Supporting anti-BDS legislation
“Thirty-three states now have anti-BDS laws, while Texas has among the strongest anti-BDS laws on the books,” said Carr in praise of proactive state legislation against BDS. When coupled with the Biden administration’s creation of an inter-agency group to combat antisemitism, Carr expressed his optimism to attendees that “the future could not be brighter.”
Strengthening and expanding the Abraham Accords
Towards the closing of the summit, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) addressed IAC attendees via a pre-recorded video message.
“It is my honor to represent Nevada in the United States Senate,” said Rosen. “I’m proud to serve as the third Jewish woman, and the first former synagogue president in the Senate. It is my pleasure to join you this year to celebrate Israel at 75.”
While thanking the organizers at IAC, Rosen expressed her regret that she could not attend the summit in person. The junior senator from Nevada explained that she was currently leading a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers touring signatory countries of the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and three Arab countries in addition to Sudan.
“While I wish I could be there to celebrate with you in person, at this very moment I am leading a group of my fellow senators on a delegation to Israel and its Abraham Accord partners,” said Rosen. “This week we’re visiting Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and of course, Israel.” Rosen also praised the invaluable contributions of Israeli Americans in the fields of U.S. agriculture, medicine, technology, and astrophysics.
Rosen’s delegation is being led alongside Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and includes Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.).
“You are part of the diversity that makes up the rich culture of this country,” Rosen said in reference to Israeli Americans. Rosen highlighted how as a co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, she introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize the culture, heritage and impact of Israeli Americans, while addressing the challenges of antisemitism.
“We will not stop until antisemitism is rooted out,” said Rosen. “So I wish to thank and applaud the IAC for everything you are all doing on these issues, including strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
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