As national chairman of the Israeli-American Council, an umbrella group of Americans of Israeli descent living in the US, the Los Angeles-based Adam Milstein sees himself as the "connector" between Israel and the US, and at the forefront of fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement.
"We are the nexus between the Israeli and American people,” the affable Milstein says in an interview withJerusalem Post editors during a recent visit to Jerusalem. "We feel that the Israeli American community is equipped and has the information necessary to lead the fight against BDS." Under Milstein's leadership, the IAC has emerged as a powerhouse. Last June, he helped to organize a summit that brought together philanthropists such as Sheldon Adelson, a Republican, and Haim Saban, a Democrat, as well as some 60 American Jewish organizations at the Campus Maccabees summit in Las Vegas, to "harness the full might of the pro-Israel community to defeat the hate groups now spreading anti-Semitism and lies about the Jewish state on America’s college campuses." "We know that BDS is not just an anti-Semitic movement, but a movement to eradicate the State of Israel," Milstein says, sternly. "I don't think the people of Israel understand that. We live in the US and we see what the leaders of this movement are saying. They're saying that Israel should not exist, and that from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, there should be a free Palestine.”
Milstein, who will be participating in a panel discussion on countering BDS at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on May 22, strongly believes that the IAC should be leading the battle against the delegitimization of Israel.
"We got a big problem in explaining ourselves when people are not interested in listening. We need to fight back. What Israeli Americans bring to the table is that we are willing to be offensive. We should be at the forefront of the fight against BDS in the United States," he says.
Milstein believes there are some one million Israeli Americans in the US, noting that the IAC reaches about half of them via its 10 nationwide offices.
"We are the fastest growing Jewish organization in the United States," he says. "Our Kenes [conference] started a year and a half ago with 650 people, last year doubled to 1300, and this year we are expecting 2,500 people. AIPAC is an important partner of the IAC – and recognizes that we are the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the US.
The IAC considers itself non-partisan when it comes to both Israel and the US, Milstein says.
"We don't have any political affiliation, not in Israel and not in the United States. We believe that the people of Israel spoke freely and democratically, and we support the people of Israel and the government of Israel, whoever that is. We don't get involved in politics. The same thing in the United States. We don't take sides. So when we have our conferences in DC, we invite people from across the political rainbow." The Haifa-born Milstein, 64, moved with his wife, Gila, from Israel to Los Angeles in 1981, initially to get his masters' degree in business administration at the University of South California. But they kept postponing their return, he became a successful real-estate investor, and so they stayed. Fifteen years ago, they established the philanthropic Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, and today they have three daughters, the last one of whom was born in the US, and three grandchildren.
"We set out to do whatever we can to strengthen the State of Israel, the Jewish people and obviously the strong connection between them, which makes each one of them stronger," he says. "Everything that we do in the foundation, in our personal lives and in the IAC is really to accomplish those two goals." One such project is Sifriyat Pijama B'America (or the Hebrew PJ Library, as it is affectionately called), which delivers free books in Hebrew every month to the children of Israeli families living in the US.
"We started in 2011 with a thousand families, and today we're reaching 18,000 families nationwide on a monthly basis," Milstein says. "The aim was to strengthen Hebrew, Jewish values, and the Israeli American community and today we have expanded the idea through partnering with 200 different Jewish organizations, from schools, JCCs and federations. Sifriyat Pijama B’America is a great story. It paved the way for the IAC. Wherever I go, people tell me, 'You changed my life!'" The idea to establish the IAC (first called the Israel Leadership Council) began after a pro-Israel rally organized by then-Israeli consul-general Ehud Danoch during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. When he noticed the lack of Israelis, Danoch approached a group of businessmen, including Milstein, with a mission to begin a philanthropic organization to engage Israelis living in the US.
"We developed the concept to reach the Israeli community in Los Angeles to become more connected to Israel, to come to the rallies, to help Israel in the case of emergency, but over time, it developed into something much, much bigger than we envisioned," Milstein says. "Our mission today is to reach Israeli-Americans wherever they may be in the US, and unite them into one organization that is very big, very influential and very philanthropic. We understand the challenges that the Israeli people face and we live in America. There's nobody better than us to make the connection between the two people. In this respect, we want to reach out to Latinos, and Christians and Evangelicals and African Americans, and connect with them on mutual interests, in order to make a strong connection between the American people and the Israeli people." Milstein says he is fortunate enough to devote about 80 percent of his time today to philanthropic projects.
"Gila and I wanted to be active philanthropists, and not just write out checks," he said. "It's really everything from A to Z. You have an idea, you want to build a plan, you want to see it come to fruition. You put money in it and you put time into it, and you use all your resources to make ideas happen." Among other things, they bring Jewish and non-Jewish campus leaders to the annual AIPAC conference, and send 40 non-Jewish students annually to Israel on a program similar to Birthright.
Milstein makes a point of maintaining contact with the students after the programs, and he believes some of them will be the leaders of the future.
He says he is motivated by the belief conveyed to him by his modern Orthodox business partner that "whatever we give, God gives us back ten times more," and his desire to keep his own daughters and their families connected to Judaism and Israel.
"I have created my own kind of philanthropy over the years, and I have gotten the reputation that I am some kind of Jewish connector, because I'm funding some 100 organizations and I know who operates in every field," he says, with a knowing smile. "If there is a mission, I know who can help me, and who is irrelevant.”
Milstein sits on the board of several organizations, including what he calls one of the best Israel advocacy groups, StandWithUs, and is always on the lookout for new projects.
"People with ideas come to me, and if I like the ideas, I fund them, often with huge success," he says, taking out his cellular phone. "For example, there is this new phone application called Talk Israel. You download it, it asks you what subject you are interested in, and it sends you articles and videos about the things that you like, which you can share on your social media channel by a push of a button."
Posted by Hadas Sella, the Milstein Family Foundation's Executive Director.
The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is a proud supporter of TAMID Group, a nonprofit organization that develops the professional skills of undergraduate students through hands-on interaction with the Israeli economy. A participant in TAMID’s recent Consult LA competition, Daniel Newman, shares how the program has influenced his life. You can read his post below.
By Pastor Carlos Ortiz and Adam Milstein
For the first time in 1,600 years, there are no Christians left in Mosul. This once-thriving Christian community in Iraq has been completely decimated by radical Islamists – like so many others across the Middle East – with thousands fleeing their families’ ancient homes when faced with death or brutal persecution at the hands of ISIS.
The emergence of ISIS has been a particularly grave turn of events for Christians. Just last month, Secretary of State John Kerry and the House of Representativessaid that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, after receiving evidence that the terrorist group has systematically slaughtered Christians “solely for their faith.” However, this represents just another sad chapter in a story of many decades of persecution, violence, and exile, which has left the population of Christians in the Middle East a small fraction of its former size, including in the Palestinian territorieswhere the numbers of Christians are dwindling rapidly.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community is thriving and growing. It is the one place in the region where Christians can practice their religion freely and openly.
Why do Christians find a welcoming home in Israel? First and foremost, Israel is the one place in the Middle East where democracy is enshrined, where human rights are respected, and where all minorities are protected, including Christians, Druze, Baha’is, and Samaritans. Yet, beyond this, Jews and Christians share a common history, heritage, and set of values.
Indeed, Judeo-Christian principles form the basis for all of Western Civilization – and define the way that we live in America. Today these values are under assault, not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe and America.
The same hateful ideology that causes radical Islamists to massacre Christians in Iraq, to bar Christians from citizenship in Saudi Arabia, to burn Coptic churches Egypt and Christian churches in Syria, comes from a tradition that is now driving the demonization of the world’s one and only Jewish State.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement (BDS) purports to levy economic and political pressure against Israel in order to seek alleged justice for the Palestinian people. In reality, BDS is a global crusade seeded in anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatred that not only blindly attacks Israel, but also attacks our country’s commitment to our core liberal values of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.
One of the most insidious features of the BDS movement is its smokescreen as a progressive, social justice movement. For that very reason, it has had great success steadily advancing its poisonous rhetoric of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate across our college campuses, labor unions, corporations, and academic institutions, and even our churches. But we must not be fooled: BDS was born from a radical Islamic ideology in the Middle East that not only hates Judaism, but also Christianity and America. In the same breath, those behind this wave of hate frequently chant Death to Israel and Death to America. For them, Israel is the small Satan. America is the great Satan.
The top-listed signatory on the foundational document for today’s BDS Movement -a declaration issued in 2005 – is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes representatives of terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Many of the leaders of the BDS movement are linked to international terrorist groups that oppress Christians in the Middle East. Hatem Bazian – one of the chief architects of BDS and the founder of “Students for Justice in Palestine,” the largest on-campus BDS organization – has been connected to a range of groups shut down by the Justice Department for raising money on behalf of the Hamas terrorist organization and other radical Islamist groups. Bazian has called for a violent uprising, in his words “an Intifada,” not only in Israel but also in the United States, and vocalized support for attacks on American troops in Iraq.
Like Bazian, Purdue University professor Bill Mullen, one of the BDS leaders who lobbied the American Studies Association to adopt a boycott of Israel, also advocates for attacking American ‘imperialism,’ saying, “We can build a still-stronger BDS movement beginning in the name of Palestinian freedom and ending in a permanent blow against American empire.”
Bazian and others not only seek to destroy the Jewish State, but also the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is founded. We have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against this wave of hate, whether it erupts in the Middle East or in the middle of America. Christians and Jews must unite to battle against BDS for the sake of our values, our future, and our very way of life.
Adam and Dennis discuss the alliance between the U.S. and Israel. Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, and public speaker.
In honor of The Algemeiner’s 3rd annual JEWISH 100 Gala, we are delighted to unveil the third Algemeiner Jewish 100 list of the top one hundred individuals who have positively influenced Jewish life this past year. Before you work your way through this exciting list, we wanted to first share some of the thoughts that we discussed as we developed this endeavor. If we could group these ideas together, the first would be about creating lists, in general; then, what’s unique about lists and Judaism; some finer points differentiating our honorees from the organizations they lead; and some important reflections on all those every day and anonymous-to-us heroes we also want to celebrate without ever knowing their names. And, of course, to thank everyone involved with the creating of the list and who worked hard to put together our gala this year.
There are lists, and there are lists. From the Forbes 400 to the TIME 100, we are witness today to a proliferation of many lists in various magazines and newspapers. The New Yorker even made a list of The Hundred Best Lists of All Time! Lists have begun spreading in the Jewish media as well. It seems that in the feeding frenzy of our information overloaded society, categorizations and listings get our attention by presumably helping us make sense of the data flooding our psyches. Lists also carry an element of sensationalism — who made the list, who didn’t — feeding the hunger for competition — yet another staple of our superficial times. No wonder we don’t find such popularity contests waged in earlier centuries; living as desert nomads or inside of a shtetl, where everyone knew virtually no one else but their neighbors by name (for good or for bad), did not exactly lend itself to creating a top ten list of favorites. This is an exclusive product of the communication revolution and the global village it created.
Jewish sages, in particular, did not create such lists. Indeed, some actually dismissed the categorization of lists (even of the 13 Principles of Faith of Maimonides, let alone of a list of the “best” one thing or another…) It begs the uneasy question of how one can even attempt to measure the value of a person? Isn’t everyone a hero in some way? On what grounds can we presume to judge who is more valuable then the next? With the J100 list we tried to create something more meaningful, a list aligned with our core mission: the 100 people who have the most positive impact on Jewish life and Israel, men and women, Jew or non- Jew, who have lifted the quality of Jewish life in the past year. Think of it this way: Without these J100 – either the individuals or the organizations they represent – Jewish life would not be at the caliber it is today. Despite the artificial, superficial and sensational nature of any list, we sought to transform the information deluge of our times by using the list to shine a spotlight on those gems in our midst, those people who are making a real difference in other’s lives.
We also seek to inspire and motivate our young and the next generation, our future emerging leaders, in rising to the occasion and perpetuating the highest standards of our proud tradition and legacy – in serving and championing the cause of Jews and Israel. Because, as we know, when the quality of Jewish life is raised, the quality of all lives is raised. However, the most exciting part of our work in choosing the J100, frankly, was sifting through hundreds of candidates and nominees to discover some surprising finalists. It was a joy to see the breadth of all those who merited a mention, to understand some of the great work being performed around the world on behalf of the Jewish people, and to celebrate their victories by bringing this great work to renewed public attention via this endeavor.
Individual vs. Organization
Inevitably, any list recognizing those that have positively influenced Jewish life, will include the “usual suspects,” well known leaders and officials of governments, organizations and institutions. Like it or not, bureaucracy is part of the fabric of our society, feeding and supporting Jewish life around the globe, and it is that fabric that provides strength and cohesion to our disparate Jewish population.
Not all the names on the J100 were included for the same reason. Some are being honored for their personal contributions, other for their work at the organizations or nations they head. Some on the J100 are long established stars, others newcomers, whom are up and coming, people to watch.
Like in any dynamic entity and living organism, we included both stalwart leaders with deep roots holding the foundation, while also introducing new branches that will lead us into the future. This type of list — “The top 100 people who have positively influenced Jewish life” — has its inherent challenges. Firstly, what defines “positive”? What some consider positive, others consider destructive. Jews notoriously disagree on what positive impact means. Fully cognizant of the inherent controversy such a list could stir, we approached the creation of this list with a particular strategy, infused with a sense of humility and respect, to be as all-inclusive as possible. This list should not be seen as an endorsement of anyone or any entity and way of thinking; rather the people on this list are a reflection of the rich and broad spectrum of Jewish life – those who have positively contributed and helped shape the Jewish future.
We want this list to not be a definitive one, but as a type of snapshot and perspective of the Jewish world today. The J100 is far from perfect — but which list of this type would not be? Rather, we want it to serve as a provocateur, challenging us all to think about what we value and consider precious; what we honor as being a positive influence on Jewish life and on Israel.
Jewish life, now and throughout history, is fraught with innumerable heroes – mostly unsung. A mother unceremoniously bringing up a beautiful family. A quiet nurse attending to the ill. An anonymous philanthropist sending food packages to the needy. The unobtrusive kindergarten teacher lovingly attending to and shaping young lives. Positive influences abound, yet few are called out.
Moreover, the Jewish community is decentralized. A leader in one city or town having major impact on his community may be completely irrelevant in another city. No list – not of 100, not of 1,000 – could capture and do justice to the countless daily acts of heroism and nobility impacting Jews and Israel. There are hundreds of Jewish communities with Rabbis, lay leaders, educators and administrators that are beloved and are transforming their communities. As important as these individuals may be – and they certainly deserve their own list – the J100 does not list these heroes. Instead it focuses on individuals that have global and international impact, and that come from diverse groups – writers, teachers, government officials, organizations. In some ways the J100 should be looked at not as a bunch of disjointed individuals, but as a mosaic – a confluence of many different colors and hues, that create a diverse painting.
In the spirit of The Algemeiner, we want this list to lift the quality of our discourse and our standards in seeking out the best within and amongst us. We hope you enjoy reviewing and studying this list, and we welcome all your feedback, critique and suggestions to be included next year, in what has become our annual tradition at our gala event. Thank you for supporting this great institution and, ultimately, our readers, the Jewish people and friends of the Jewish people whom we serve.
Disclosure: Algemeiner staff and their immediate families were disqualified for inclusion on the list. Some of the Jewish 100 finalists are friends and associates of the Algemeiner and some are members of the GJCF Tribute Committee. As a media entity with many relationships, the Algemeiner inevitably has many friends and supporters; yet we didn’t feel it fair to disqualify highly qualified candidates simply due to their connection with us. Instead, fully cognizant of that reality, we placed special emphasis on impartiality and objectivity to choose only those that fit the criteria.
Chair of Israeli-American Council
Philanthropist Adam Milstein is chair of theIsraeli-American Council, which encourages cooperation between the United States and Israel, and whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community.”
Some 750,000 people count themselves as Israeli-Americans.
In early 2016, the group announced theformation of a new partner organization — the Israeli-American Nexus (IANexus) — that will focus on advocating to legislative policymakers on behalf of Israelis living in the United States.
For its first major effort, the IANexus plans to muster communal support for the Combating BDS Act of 2016, which was recently introduced in Congress and supports states’ rights to cut ties with companies that boycott Israel.
In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has steadily advanced a poisonous culture of hate and anti-Semitism in our country. Across college campuses and in churches, in labor unions, academic institutions and in shareholder meetings of American Corporations, they have sought to demonize the State of Israel, with the eventual goal of destroying it.
Yet, what many do not realize is that the BDS agenda threatens not only the Middle East’s one democratic state; it threatens the entire democratic world, and the U.S. is in the eye of its storm. The tie that binds together the radical leftists and radical Islamists driving forward the BDS Movement is a common hatred for the U.S. and for the Western values and freedoms that America, Europe and Israel share. Indeed, BDS leaders publically call for the destruction of the very society that protects their right to free speech.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at exactly what the most senior BDS leaders have to say about the United States.
BDS leaders hate America’s leadership role around the world. In an op-ed for the International Socialist Review titled “Palestine, BDS, and the battle against US imperialism,” Purdue University professor Bill Mullen, one of the BDS leaders who lobbied the American Studies Association to adopt a boycott of Israel, writes, “We can build a still-stronger BDS movement beginning in the name of Palestinian freedom and ending in a permanent blow against American empire.”
BDS leaders hate America’s democracy – and have even called for violent attacks to overturn our democratic system. During a rally against the Iraq War in San Francisco, Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian – one of the primary BDS leaders in the U.S. and the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine – issued a call to action that was nothing short of inciting violence against the American people, saying: “Are you angry? Well, we’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don’t have an intifada [armed struggle] in this country? …and it’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here…They’re going to say [that] some Palestinian are being too radical; well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”
BDS leaders despise our military, and support attacks on our troops. At that same rally, Bazian explicitly stated his support for attacks on American troops in Iraq saying, “The occupation is a source of tremendous violence against Iraqis. I think we’ve got to support the resistance; we’ve got to say that we support attacks against the occupying forces.” Bazian went on to call for an all-out assault on America: “[W]e in this movement [should] support the resistance against American imperialism by any means necessary.”
BDS leaders hate our justice system and disparage the work of our police officers. During the racially charged Ferguson, Missouri, riots, BDS leaders eagerly breached their alleged Israel-focused mandate and reveled in the opportunity to attack the US justice system and police security forces. Brazenly exploiting the tragedy, the BDS Movement released an official statement accusing the US justice system of “racism, racial discrimination and disenfranchisement.” They also condemned police forces for “unbridled violence,” “militarized attack[s],” and “dehumanization” of the Ferguson community.
They hate our capitalist system and seek to dismantle the global economy. Among BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti’s most egregious edicts, is a call to overthrow the American economic system. “Opposing the imperial militarization and savage capitalism in this country,” Barghouti said, “directly benefits the peoples of the world, including the Palestinians.”
How do we respond? We must no longer limit our perspective and debate on BDS to its repercussions for Israel alone. BDS is not Israel’s problem, or a Jewish problem; it is a problem for every American who values democratic freedoms.
History shows that what starts with the Jewish people never ends with the Jewish people. Radical Islam and the radical left are targeting Israel now, but —evidenced by their own statements — their bigger target is the Europe and the United States.
Today, this hate movement is after Israel. But tomorrow, they’re coming for the entire Western world and our way of life. Today, Brussels, Paris and Europe may have reached a point of no return, but in America we must stop them before it is too late.
Follow Adam Milstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AdamMilstein
On Sunday, the Israeli-American Council will host the IAC Los Angeles Gala 2016, marking a moment of new public prominence for our organization – and its rapid growth across the US.
In the past three years, we have expanded from a single office and a few hundred members in Los Angeles, into a national movement with 10 regional offices – 250,000 members and growing – and a range of groundbreaking national programs.
Yet, we are not just building America’s fastest-growing Jewish organization, we are creating a new identity.
Before we founded the IAC, no one used the term “Israeli-American.”
For years, Israelis lived in America with their suitcases packed, claiming that they were only in the US temporarily and were ready to go back at any moment.
You were forced to label yourself as either American, or as an Israeli who was living in the US. Today we can proudly embrace an Israeli- American identity – centered on that the idea that while our home is in America, our Jewish homeland will always be Israel.
We are engaged as a community as never before in American life, but our thoughts, prayers and conversations are often focused on Israel. In recent months, watching our Israeli brothers and sisters live under constant danger of terrorism and existential dangers, we have felt a deep sense of responsibility to make it clear that they do not face these threats alone.
Through constant text messages, WhatsApp group communications, and phone calls to relatives, we check in with our friends and family back in Israel to ensure that all are safe and sound. With each attack, we feel a deep sense of pain. At IAC events and in conversations with our friends, neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances, we work persistently to explain to the American people what it means to live – day after day – under the specter of terrorism.
We look out at Israel’s difficult neighborhood and recognize the grave dangers facing our Jewish homeland – the potential of a nuclear Iran on the horizon; Hamas tunnels and Hezbollah rockets, ISIS on our southern and eastern borders, and radical Islamist groups in Gaza.
We watch the presidential election closely, paying keen attention as to how the next administration will continue to build the US-Israel partnership. Our organization believes Israeli-Americans’ fluent understanding of both cultures uniquely positions us to serve as a bridge between the Israeli people and the American people.
In particular, the IAC is now engaging Israeli-Americans as a strategic asset for our brothers and sisters in Israel in the fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, whose mission is to eradicate the State of Israel by nonmilitary means.
We recently hosted the first-ever meeting at the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv to tap into Israel’s most brilliant tech minds for the fight against BDS. This month, IAC members launched a partner advocacy organization called the Israeli-American Nexus, which will advocate with policy-makers on behalf of the Israeli-American community and work to advance legislation to ensure that US state and local governments boycott Israel’s boycotters.
With all of these exciting developments, I’m confident that the IAC is just getting started. Rooted in our emerging Israeli-American identity, we will continue to expand across America to strengthen the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the US-Israel alliance.
Adam Milstein is an Israeli-American philanthropist, national chairman of the Israeli-American Council, real estate entrepreneur and president of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation.
Follow him on Twitter @AdamMilstein and @AdamMilsteinIAC.
The mission of The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation (“MFF”) is to strengthen American values, support the U.S.-Israel alliance, and combat bigotry and hatred in all forms.
MFF also works to strengthen the Jewish people and their affinity to the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, by instilling pride in their Jewish identity and fostering the courage to stand up and combat their detractors… Read More
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