us-israel.jpg

Israeli-Americans Can Strengthen the Jewish People in the U.S. and Lead the Fight Against BDS

For decades, those of Israeli descent living in America kept our suitcases packed. Despite U.S. passports, English-speaking families, and American homes and businesses, we always thought that we would return to Israel one day. Since we didn't feel rooted in the United States, we saw little need to cultivate community — and generally remained disconnected from synagogues, Jewish education and Jewish community organizations.

This mindset did not serve our community well. Oftentimes, our children sought to distance themselves from our foreign culture, and quickly began assimilating, in many cases leaving both their Jewish and Israeli identities behind. Our insistence that we were not Americans alienated the Jewish-American community and our neighbors in the U.S. And because we lived outside of Israel, Israelis never fully accepted us as one of their own.

In the last decade, all of this has changed dramatically. More and more, people like me — born in Israel, but residing in the U.S. — along with our children and grandchildren, are proudly embracing an Israeli-American identity. Americans of Israeli descent!

It is centered on the idea that we are Americans and our home is in America, while our Jewish homeland will always be Israel. Eight years ago, I came together with several other Israeli-American leaders in Los Angeles to nurture this new identity. We formed the Israeli-American Council (IAC) to meet the unique needs of our community.

Our organization has grown dramatically over the past three years — from a single office in Los Angeles and a few hundred members into a national movement with regional councils in nine major cities and an active constituency of 250,000. At our second annual national conference last fall in Washington D.C., we hosted the largest gathering of Israeli-Americans in history, with more than 1,300 attendees, up from 650 the year before, during our inaugural convention.

During the conference last fall, Israeli government officials on the left and the right — from Isaac Herzog to Yuval Steinitz to Ayelet Shaked — embraced Israeli-Americans as a strategic asset for the Jewish State and the Jewish people. This would have been unthinkable just a decade ago, when Israelis in the Diaspora were often diminished, called names like Yordim — those who went down (from Israel) — and much worse.

The Israeli-American community has the potential of encompassing close to one million people, when you include those who have at least one Israeli parent and Americans who spent substantial time in Israel and feel that it's part of their identity. Accepting the fact that Israeli-Americans are first and foremost, Americans, has also unified our community like never before — and now we are mobilizing the IAC as movement across our country, with a three-part mission.

First, we transmit "Israeliness" — our Israeli culture, Hebrew language, a familial sense of community, our Jewish heritage and values, and connection to the Land of Israel — to the next generations.

Second, we cultivate Israeli-Americans as Jewish leaders within the U.S., enriching and strengthening Jewish pride and Jewish life across the country.

Third, we are reinforcing the U.S.-Israel alliance. Our fluent understanding of both cultures uniquely positions us to serve as a nexus between the Israeli people and the American people – and to offer a personal perspective on the current debates about national security and the Middle East. It's much easier to explain Israel's security challenges when your brother lives in Sderot, your mother lives in Jerusalem, and you have served in the Israel Defense Forces. And — as you can probably imagine — we are not exactly a shy group.

The Israeli-American community can form an army of activists who can stand up against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which isn't just an issue for Israel or the Jewish community, but a threat to the future of America and all of Western Society.

I'm confident that the IAC is just getting started. Rooted in our emerging Israeli-American identity, we will continue to expand all across the country, engage more and more Israeli-Americans, and build bridges and alliances with other communities across America. We need all members of the pro-Israel community to be part of the process by engaging in our programs, getting involved in their region, and bringing others into our movement.

The IAC is filling a void that many Israelis living in America have long felt. As Israeli-American, we are energized and feel a sense of purpose. The infrastructure is growing. Our collective voice is louder than ever before. The Israeli-Americans are not only a new identity, but an historic game changer!

You can follow Adam Milstein on Twitter @AdamMilstein. To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org

22.jpg

Championing Israel in the 21st Century: A New Tool for the Digital Age

TalkIsrael, a revolutionary new app recently released by the Israeli- Council (IAC), American is the first of its kind to make finding, reading, and sharing pro-Israel content as easy as playing CandyCrush.

Users create customized news feeds on the app, choosing from topics about Israel like “science,” “culture,” “Iran,” “food,” or “sports.” The system then measures each user’s level of engagement with each piece of content so that, over time, the app automatically populates the feed with articles that are most appealing.

To determine what a user really likes, content is broken down and analyzed into approximately 50 components, including the topic, sentiment, and type of content.

Then, it’s just a two-click process to share the content on Facebook, Twitter, email, or SMS.

The goal is to make advocating for Israel easier, and to get Israel chatter out of the echo chamber of existing supporters and in front of the eyes of a broader public – one of the biggest challenges that pro-Israel advocates face. The system’s algorithms and analyses will help organizations, and the developers, to understand which pieces of content are reaching beyond well-established audiences.

“TalkIsrael is a platform for collaboration designed to bring the entire pro-Israel community together,” said Adam Milstein, President of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, and the National Chairman of the IAC. “To put it simply, this tool will allow the pro-Israel community to advocate on social media faster, smarter, and more effectively.”

The app’s content is aggregated from dozens of sources, using their Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds and social media channels. Partners include the Times of Israel, ISRAEL21c, The Daily Beast, Forbes, and more than a dozen pro-Israel organizations. Many more partners are expected to sign on in the coming months.

The app was created as a non-profit, and it is free and available on Android and iPhone. It was developed by Dr. Amir Give’on, a former NASA-JPL scientist and the brains behind Jewcer, Daphna Wegner, a former DreamWorks Animation programmer, and Gadi Rouache, an award-winning creative director.

“TalkIsrael harnesses the extraordinary power of technology to determine over time what type of pro-Israel content appeals to each individual user, using that understanding to deliver the stories that they are most likely to share,” said Dr. Give’on.

The app already has thousands of users who share content with others and submit both feedback and content tips directly to the developers.

“Our thesis is that everyone advocates for Israel in their own way,” said Gadi Rouache, calling the app “advocacy for the contemporary advocate; there are many lines along which to connect.”

New features and analytical tools are continually being developed for the app to assist partnering organizations and the users themselves – in the community, on campus, and online. New features will include real-time content push, geo-located content, a dynamic ‘talking points’ section, and much more.

“The TalkIsrael app helps me to stay up to date with Israel and be pro-active in spreading positive messages to my friends and networks,” said Ilan Sinelnikov, Co-Founder and President of Students Supporting Israel. “I know this app will reach a critical mass of advocates and it will help to make an impact. I’m excited to be a part of that process.”

“We want to make learning about Israel more easy, fun, and engaging,” Hadas Sella, executive director of the Milstein Family Foundation, who saw the app’s potential early on in the process. “By getting good content at the right time to the right people we can make a real impact.”

According to its founders, the app is hitting the market just in time. “If there was ever an issue to coalesce around, this is it. We are, together, absolutely more than the sum of our parts, and that’s why TalkIsrael was invented,” said Dr. Give’on.

inspired.jpg

Israel Video Network launches ‘Inspired by Israel’ video contest

(JNS.org) The Israel Video Network, in partnership with the Milstein Family Foundation, has launched a new global video contest that seeks to showcase how people are inspired by Israel.

According to the “Inspired by Israel” contest rules, each video can be up to four minutes long and be submitted by anyone. Participants must register no later than Jan. 15th and submit their videos a month later by Feb. 15th.

The winning videos will be selected by a panel of hand-picked judges who will choose the top two videos from the top ten vote totals. The grand prize will be $7,500, with the runner-up receiving $2,500.

“Think up an idea for a video with a great and inspiring pro-Israel message. It’s up to you. Just make it awesome,” the contest instructions said.

“We are very excited to launch this global video contest for Israel together with the Milstein Foundation. No matter who wins the grand prize, Israel will be the true winner, with people around the world watching tons of new user-generated videos showcasing different aspects of our amazing, vibrant and inspiring homeland,” said Avi Abelow, CEO of 12Tribe Films/IsraelVideoNetwork.com.

Formed in 2011, the Israel Video Network is an online platform that distributes videos about Israel and the Jewish people that was founded to “promote videos to help people understand the truth about what is really going on” in Israel.

Israeli businessman and philanthropist Adam Milstein, founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, said that it is “critically important” to share how people are inspired by Israel.

Our foundation is “proud to sponsor the “Inspired by Israel” global video contest, which will bring to life the many ways that our Jewish homeland is an example of extraordinary innovation, a dynamic and diverse culture, and a hub for democratic values and human rights,” Milstein said.

campusallies2.jpg

The Israeli American Council – Building Bridges; Strengthening Jewish Identity

For Israelis living in America for an extended period of time, locating an embracing community and creating a national identity can be a conundrum for many. Am I an Israeli? Am I an American? How does Judaism play a role in my life? How can I support Israel while living here?  These are just a smattering of questions that ruminate in the minds of Israeli-Americans as they grapple with themselves and their contemporaries for cogent answers.

Enter Adam Milstein, a native born Israeli who arrived in the United States in 1981. Today, this man of boundless energy, passion and commitment to his people, his country and his identity as a Jew and an Israeli-American is at the helm of a nascent organization called the Israeli-American Council.

In a voice reverberating with a palpable enthusiasm, Mr. Milstein told the Jewish Voice in an exclusive interview of his role as co-founder and National Chairman of the Board of the IAC, of the inception of the organization and the widespread impact it has had it galvanizing the Israeli-American community.

"As Israeli-Americans, we can be legitimated, we can have a sense of purpose; we can rise from our slumber and be active," declared Mr. Milstein.

"Today, the IAC is active in 9 different regions across America and that is a far cry from when we began," he recalled.

As a real estate investor, community leader, and active philanthropist, Mr. Milstein has not only given of his time to the IAC but is linked to over 100 organizations. As the President of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, his philanthropic work is centered on strengthening the State of Israel and the Jewish People.  Having served in active duty with the Israel Defense Forces during the Yom Kippur War, Mr. Milstein married Gila in 1974 and graduated from the internationally renowned Technion Institute in Haifa in 1978. He earned an MBA from USC in 1981 and embarked on a career in commercial real estate in Southern California.

Mr. Milstein, his wife, their three children and grandchildren reside in Encino and it is in LA that he is a managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, a private commercial real estate investment firm that owns and manages several million square feet of commercial and industrial real estate throughout the United States. He sits on the boards of the AIPAC National Council, StandWithUs, the Jewish Funders Network, and the Los Angeles Board of Birthright Israel.

"After getting into the real estate business in southern California, my plan was to make enough money to pay back my tuition loans, but it soon became clear that the possibility of a permanent return to Israel was non-reversible," said Mr. Milstein.

Being cognizant of the fact that his future was on these shores, Mr. Milstein wanted to use his newfound success and status as a successful businessman to support Israel and help others.  Today, he spends 80% of his time engaged in his ubiquitous philanthropic endeavors. "To me, philanthropy is like a business. I want to build a special plan and program, become actively involved and work to expand it as much as possible."

About eight years ago, Mr. Milstein and other Israeli philanthropists residing in Los Angeles were approached by the Israel Consul General of the city to see what could be done to unite the 250,000 plus Israelis living there.

"Before we even thought of creating the IAC, we really had to devise ways in which we could reach out to Israelis as none of us knew how to talk to them about ensuring their Jewish and Israeli identity," said Mr. Milstein.

At its infancy, Mr. Milstein was one of six people who agreed to take on this project. "We looked at the IAC as a start up business and lay leaders were there from the beginning. We established a very clear mission. We wanted Israeli-Americans with an array of cultural, social and political events that would really be a catalyst for them to seriously explore both their Jewish and Israeli identities," he said.

He added that, "We really wanted to support Israel from here and we wanted our community to merge into Jewish life."

Mr. Milstein explains the genesis of the Israeli-American label. "We are Americans of Israeli descent so we adopted this identity and everyone felt very good about it."

"Israeliness if you will,” says Mr. Milstein is common to the people of Israel. He adds that it is a love of Israel, its culture, its heritage and the special set of values that each Israeli shares.

Because the IAC's main objective is to find common ground among Israelis living in the United States, Mr. Milstein declared most emphatically, "We don't discriminate. One can be an Orthodox Jew or completely secular and it doesn't matter to us. We are here to export Israeliness to the Jewish community."

The nascent IAC now includes 18,000 families nationwide and as a vital component of American society, they play a major role in social activism, academia, culture and innovation. The IAC’s effectiveness and success as the largest Israeli-American organization is the direct result of its ability to activate, and engage this unique community nationwide. The IAC strives to achieve these goals through programs and events for all ages, as well as by empowering and sponsoring a wide array of non-profit organizations within the Israeli-American community.

For the toddlers and very young children, the IAC has established the Sifriyat Pijama B’America program where Hebrew and Jewish family engagement takes place on a literacy level. The passing on of Jewish values is conducted by mailing free, high-quality Hebrew children's literature and music to families on a monthly basis to children ages 2-8 throughout the United States.

Says Mr. Milstein, "These books are a gift for each family to keep and re-read to their kids. We want the children of Israeli-Americans to understand the heritage of their parents and grandparents, By reading them books in Hebrew and conveying Jewish values, we keep the Hebrew language relevant for them and educate them about their specialness as Jews." IAC Mishelanu is a college campus leadership program that allows Israeli-American students on campus to meet, explore their Israeli-Jewish identity and their connection to the State of Israel. It is a national campus program that provides a “Home” to Israeli-American students in order to strengthen and maintain the identity of the next generation: Culture, Language Heritage and strong connections to Israel.

Today Mishelanu is offered in more than 35 campuses across the US.

Mr. Milstein also speaks of the relevance and impact of the Dor Chadash program. "This is probably one of our most important programs because it is designed for young Israeli-American professionals. It is they who are talking to the community, teaching them about the alarming escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world, and the protracted battle that we are confronting in the BDS movement."

Because the IAC now has fully functioning programs in Boston, Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, group members are in a much better position to connect and unite.

Besides mobilizing the community to respond to strategic causes that support US-Israel related initiatives and Zionist education for the second- and third-generation of Israeli-Americans, Mr. Milstein says that one of the gravest dangers that we face today is radical Islam. "I lecture regularly on the nefarious agenda of the BDS movement and I can tell you that radical Islamists are the driving force behind it. We have to come to terms with the fact that radical Islamist leaders have publically stated their intent to eradicate both the United States and Israel."

Issuing a clarion call to front line Jewish activism, Mr. Milstein intoned, "What starts with the Jews does not end with the Jews."

For more information on the Israel-American Council, please visit http://www.israeliamerican.org/.

adam_headshot.jpg

Why BDS threatens Israel, America and Western Society

I share the conviction held by many that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement poses a strategic threat to the State of Israel. Simply put, BDS seeks to destroy the world’s one and only Jewish State – and we must take them at their word.

However, those that believe this is just an issue for Israel or the Jewish people are sorely mistaken. BDS endangers the future of America – and all of Western society. Like a wildfire spreading out of control, BDS is a menace that must be contained today, before it threatens the values and freedoms at the heart of our very way of life.

This week, I published an opinion piece the Huffington Post, which explains why BDS threatens each and every person that shares the values at the heart of our civilization. You can read my piece here.

Adam Milstein is an Israeli-American philanthropist, activist, and real estate entrepreneur. To learn more about Adam’s work in pro-Israel advocacy, visit the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation.

campus_allies.jpg

2015 Adam & Gila Milstein Campus Allies Sizzle Reel

 

The Milstein Foundation Campus Allies Mission to Israel is designed for pro-Israel political activists and student leaders who are non-Jewish. Participants experienced the land of the Bible, gained a deeper understanding of the strategic and social issues facing Israel today, and examined the challenges and opportunities associated with the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Check out Milstein Family Foundation on Facebook, Adam’s twitter, and Instagram.

adam_headshot.jpg

It’s not just about Israel. BDS threatens us all.

A campaign of hate is sweeping across our country. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement – advancing an agenda to demonize the Jewish people and destroy the State of Israel – is moving from the fringes of our society and into the mainstream. Churches, labor unions, and associations have voted to divest from Israeli companies. In the past year alone, more than 30 student governments at American universities have considered resolutions calling for divestment from the State of Israel. More than a dozen academic trade associations have followed suit, voting to prevent their members from making any contact with Israeli institutions of higher education, preventing the free exchange of information and infringing on academic freedom. 

Those that believe this is just an issue for Israel or the Jewish community are sorely mistaken. These developments endanger the future of America. Like a wildfire spreading out of control, BDS is a menace that must be contained today, before it alters our society's moral compass and threatens the values and freedoms at the heart of our very way of life. 

What's the big deal about BDS? In short, what it teaches and what it seeks. 

What does it teach? Growing legions of Americans are now being brainwashed by BDS to join an attack on the Middle East's only oasis of democracy and human rights, while turning a blind eye to the brutal dictators and terrorists that dominate the rest of the region. Iran hangs gays and tortures political dissidents. ISIS enslaves young girls and murders minorities. The Assad regime is responsible for the slaughter of 500,000 civilians. Lebanon brutally oppresses Palestinians, denying them the right to own land or become lawyers and doctors. Yet, in the warped moral universe of BDS, none of these of abuses merit mention, while Israel's vibrant democracy – which shares our values, advances our interests, and safeguards the rights of women, gays, minorities – is public enemy number one. 

What does BDS seek? This Movement wants to do much more than boycott Israel. It seeks to destroy it. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, has said publicly that he's working for Israel's "euthanasia". The maps that BDS groups publish of the region make this clear, depicting a single Palestinian state that extends from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea, with no trace of Israel. 

Yet, many fail to recognize that those driving the BDS agenda have ambitions that extend well beyond Israel. For them, Israel is the small Satan. America is the big Satan. They hate America's belief in individual liberties and democracy, our capitalist system, and our influence around the world. 

In the wake of BDS, we have seen other resolutions to remove the American Flag at UC Irvine and to cancel the 9/11 commemoration at the University of Minnesota. 

Hatem Bazian, the founder of the largest on-campus BDS organization – Students for Justice in Palestine – has called for a violent uprising – in his words "an Intifada", here in America against the United States. Like many other BDS leaders, Bazian 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. 

It should be no surprise that the leading BDS activists are fundraisers and cheerleaders for terrorists. 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 and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The acceptance of these groups as legitimate voices in public discourse is dangerous. Those who justify suicide bombings in Tel Aviv or stabbings in Jerusalem, also find reasons to endorse the brutal murder of American civilians in the World Trade Center, the stabbing of students at UC Merced and innocents in London, and bombing of commuters on trains in Spain and tourists on a Russian airliner in Egypt. Indeed, the same radical Islamist groups that staged violent anti-Israel protests on the streets of Europe in the summer of 2014 have provided fertile ground for ISIS and others to recruit the terrorists that have committed recent wave of attacks in Brussels, Paris, London, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and San Bernardino, California, which have claimed hundreds of lives. 

The Jewish people have come to learn that when we are targeted with economic sanctions, much more dangerous things are often on the horizon – and the consequences often extend well beyond our community. 

Germany staged economic boycotts of all Jewish businesses before Hitler and the Nazis sent the Jews of Europe to death camps. More than 60 million people died in the war that followed. 

The Tsarist Government in Russia issued the "May Laws" – which imposed severe economic sanctions on the Russian Jewish population – in the years before Jews were mass murdered in pogroms across the country. Nine million died in the Russian civil war that followed. 

The Arab League had an official boycott on Jewish-owned businesses many years before the vast majority of Jews in Arab Lands were systematically expelled or murdered in the wake of Israel's independence. Since the mass exodus of Jews across the Middle East, the region has erupted in flames, with Christians, B'hai's, Yazidis and other minorities next in line for persecution.

History's lessons hang over our moment. What begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. Now is the time for Americans to take action. For the sake Israel and America, for the sake of our shared values and our common future, we must stop BDS dead in its tracks. Nothing less than our very way of life is at stake.

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 Adam on Twitter @AdamMilstein and @AdamMilsteinIAC.

img_8490.jpg

Adam Milstein’s Acceptance Speech at Magen David Adom Red Star Ball October 2015

October 2015: Gila and Adam Milstein accept the Humanitarian of the Year Award at the Magen David Adom Red Star Ball

endbds.jpg

End BDS: Reach out for legal help on campus and beyond

Our Mission

As a community-wide initiative, EndBDS brings together partner organizations and pro bono lawyers throughout the pro-Israel community in an unprecedented way, working to fight anti-Israel activity through united action. EndBDS is meant as a one-stop destination for those fighting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and the extremism and anti-Semitism that often accompanies BDS, particularly on college campuses. Pro-Israel students and faculty are on the frontlines of some of the most virulent anti-Israel activity in North America. Businesses are increasingly targeted by the anti-Israel movement. If you have questions about anti-Israel or anti-Semitic activity and would like advice about your rights or how to respond, we can offer guidance. When in doubt, reach out, and we will strive to help you.

 

adam_milstein_usa_today.jpg

Adam Milstein on Active Philanthropy

Adam Milstein — an Israeli-American entrepreneur and community leader — speaks about the principles of active philanthropy and his work to strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people.