Inside the Israeli-American Community
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IAC National Conference Marks Transformative Moment for Israeli-American Community as 2,100 Gather in Washington, D.C.
|Meira Feinman||September 27th 2016|
|IAC Awards Miriam & Sheldon Adelson, Adam Milstein, Shawn Evenhaim, |
and Shoham Nicolet
Over the course of three days at the Israeli-American Council National Conference, more than 220 speakers addressed 2,100 activists and leaders in four plenaries and 39 panels on topics ranging from the hybrid identity of Israeli-Americans and the next generations to the U.S.-Israel alliance and the two-state solution.
Adam Milstein, IAC Chairman, also spoke to this idea during his opening keynote, "We proudly embrace our new identity, and love and cherish our home in America while remaining deeply connected to our Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel." Milstein opened the conference by announcing that California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed into law AB2844, a piece of legislation championed by the IAC that prevents those companies engaging in discriminatory boycotts from doing business with the State of California.
"Our vision at the IAC is to see a strong, resilient, and interconnected Jewish people and State of Israel. But it does not belong to us — it belongs to you," IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet said.
"The Israeli Diaspora is an idea whose time has come," said Gidi Grinstein, President and Founder of the Reut Institute, at the Closing Plenary. He echoed the sentiment of Natan Sharansky, the famous refusnik and head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, who said, "Our feeling of responsibility and fearlessness in Israel, combined with the freedom and choice in the Diaspora, is a new identity that can be very powerful."
Other speakers the first night included U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman, Israel’s Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara, Israeli Ministers Yoav Galant and Ofir Akunis, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said, "You have very few good friends in life. It’s the same with nations. The U.S. has few really good friends, and Israel is among the very best."
Sen. Charles Schumer, speaking at Sunday’s plenary, also voiced strong support for the U.S.-Israel relationship: "The U.S. must always come to the aid of our friend Israel, and never use the U.N. as a forum to put pressure on Israel." He added, "As you know, I voted against the Iran deal, and I have never regretted that vote a single day since."
During the conference, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson were honored with a special award for their visionary leadership of the IAC, which has driven the organization’s rapid expansion over the past three years from a local organization in Los Angeles to a national Movement with 11 regional offices, active in 27 states and reaching 250,000 people worldwide.
The conference also honored former Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren with the IAC’s Fair and Honest Reporting Award. Van Susteren followed her acceptance speech by hosting an Ambassadors Fireside Chat with three of Israel’s most distinguished diplomats: former U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor, former U.N. Ambassador and the current Director General of the Foreign Ministry Dore Gold, and former U.S. Ambassador and the current Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren.
Oren, responding to Van Susteren’s discussion of Israel’s aid work, said: "We enhance life around the world because our message is that we are the same — we represent the same values, the same liberties, the same freedoms."
Monday, the conference’s final plenary included a discussion featuring Congressmen Trent Franks, Tony Cardenas and Ed Royce; a panel of Jewish thought leaders, and a conversation between IAC Chairman Adam Milstein and entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson.
"I feel like I am at the crossroads of Jewish history here," said Barry Shrage, CEO of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and one of the final speakers.