Israeli-American group names new leaders ahead of national conference

(JNS.org) The Israeli-American Council (IAC), an organization providing various means of support for the estimated Israeli-American population of 500,000-800,000, has named new top professional and lay leaders in advance of the group’s second annual national conference.

Philanthropist and businessman Adam Milstein—president of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which supports more than 60 Jewish and pro-Israel organizations—will be the new chairman of the IAC’s board of directors. Shoham Nicolet, a social entrepreneur who co-founded the collaborative messaging platform hivve.me, will be the IAC’s new CEO. 

The IAC’s 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.” The organization has regional offices in Los Angeles, Boston, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

“I am honored and excited to assume the IAC chairmanship at this important moment for the Jewish people,” Adam Milstein said. “By educating, engaging, organizing, and mobilizing Israeli-Americans, the IAC will continue to play a vital role in strengthening the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the U.S.-Israel alliance.”

From Oct. 17-19, the IAC will hold its second National Israeli-American Conference in Washington, DC. Last year’s major speakers included former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman.

Nicolet is returning to the IAC staff after previously serving as its founding CEO for four years.

“What began as a conversation amongst a few friends in 2007 has grown into a national movement—and a critical bridge between the U.S. and Israel,” he said.

Adam Milstein to Chair National IAC Board; Shoham Nicolet to become Chief Executive Officer

This week, the Israeli American Council (IAC) announced new appointments to its top lay leadership and professional positions, with Adam Milstein becoming Chairman of the organization’s National Board of Directors and Shoham Nicolet taking over as Chief Executive Officer. Milstein and Nicolet will begin their new roles in October, taking the helm of America’s fastest growing Jewish organization, which now includes seven regional offices, and a significant membership presence across the country. Both appointments will be marked in a ceremony during the National Israeli-American Conference, hosted by the IAC, which will take place in Washington, DC from October 17-19, 2015.

“I am honored and excited to assume the IAC chairmanship at this important moment for the Jewish people,” Adam Milstein said. “By educating, engaging, organizing, and mobilizing Israeli-Americans, the IAC will continue to play a vital role in strengthening the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the U.S.-Israel alliance. I look forward to working with our national and regional leadership, nationwide staff, and partners to advance the IAC’s mission on a range of issues – from promoting Jewish and Israeli identity, to fighting the delegitimization of Israel, to building bridges between our community and others across the United States.”

A native of Israel and a co-founder of the IAC, Milstein is the managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, a private commercial real estate investment firm, and the President of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which focuses on strengthening the State of Israel and the Jewish People. Over the past two years, he has spearheaded the effort to rapidly grow the IAC by setting up local councils across the U.S. He recently formed the organization’s task force dedicated to fighting the delegitimization of Israel. Milstein also co-founded the IAC’s IAC Keshet program, a Hebrew and Jewish family engagement literacy initiative that mails free, high-quality Hebrew Jewish children’s literature and music on a monthly basis to children ages 2-8 throughout the United States.

Milstein serves on the boards of more than a dozen non-profit organizations, including StandWithUs, the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Jewish Funders Network, Hasbara Fellowships, the Los Angeles Board of Birthright Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) National Council. Milstein served in the IDF during the Yom Kippur War and graduated from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in 1978. Upon arriving in the U.S. in 1981, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California.

Shoham Nicolet will take over as the Chief Executive Officer of the IAC. A seasoned social entrepreneur, Nicolet was the founding CEO of the IAC eight years ago, serving in that role for four years, until he transitioned onto the IAC National Board in 2011. A native Israeli, Nicolet was a lieutenant in the IDF. He is an expert in collaborative technologies and online learning. Nicolet is the co-founder of the collaborative messaging platform hivve.me, a board member of the Reut Institute — a strategy group focused on issues related to Israel and the Jewish world — and a board member of ICON, a non-profit connecting Israelis and Americans working in the Silicon Valley. He received his B.A. in Business and MBA from American Jewish University.

“I am thrilled to be returning to the IAC full-time as CEO,” said Shoham Nicolet. “What began as a conversation amongst a few friends in 2007 has grown into a national movement – and a critical bridge between the U.S. and Israel. I have been honored to be a part of this effort – and look forward to joining forces with Adam Milstein, our national and local boards, and our professional staff to help build on the organization’s great success and advance its vital mission in the years to come.”

About the IAC: Headquartered in Los Angeles, the IAC is committed to building an engaged and united Israeli-American community that strengthens our next generations, the American Jewish community, and the State of Israel. The IAC strives to achieve these goals through programs and events for all ages – and by empowering and supporting a wide array of non-profit organizations within the Israeli-American community.

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

For more information about the second National Israeli-American Conference and to register, please visit http://iackenes.org


How to Help: Suggestions for Pro-Israel Advocates (Part II)

At the Adam and Gila Milstein foundation, we often find ourselves doing a million things at once: evaluating grant applications and pitches from organizations seeking our support, linking our partner organizations with one another, responding to media outlets seeking our input, and (my personal favorite) getting new and exciting initiatives off the ground. The list goes on and on.

We try our best to remain connected with every single passionate person looking to become more involved in the fight to defend Israel and safeguard the Jewish homeland.

At the Foundation, we answer every single email looking for the opportunity to get involved with pro-Israel activism or looking for a place to critically engage with Israel.

In the hopes of offering a more comprehensive and efficient platform to have everyone’s questions answered, I’m writing a three-part series of blogs offering advice on how you can get involved to make a big difference today. Below you will find my second blog. _______________________________________________________________________________

Part 2: Campus Battlegrounds

In my first post, I talked about the vital role education plays in developing a community of activists.  The atmosphere on American college campuses today crystallizes the importance of education in our fight to defend the Israel. American college campuses are at the epicenter of a growing movement to delegitimize and destroy the state of Israel. With the effective advocacy strategies, we can harness the power of our community to reverse the growing tide of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on college campuses. Here’s how:

1.On Campus:

For the first time in history, American college campuses no longer have a pro-Israel majority. The movement to delegitimize Israel is gaining traction, and there is a pressing need for our pro-Israel students, academics, and community leaders to fight back.

  • “Know Your Rights” is a new legal handbook for students that was created at the request of students and with the input of constitutional lawyers. The booklet informs students of their rights on campus and apprises them of effective ways to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and BDS.
  • https://www.standwithus.com/legal/or 1.844.END.BDS7 are a website and hotline that connect pro-bono lawyers with pro-Israel students, faculty, community members, and businesses combatting anti-Israel activity in need of legal help. Students and others can complete an online intake form or call the hotline to receive free legal help.
  • University faculty are encouraged to join Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).
  • Students are encouraged to join one or more of the following pro-Israel student organizations:
  • Become a campus fellow for one of the following organizations:
  • Apply for micro-grants for pro-Israel activism*:
    • Hasbara Fellowships – Grant Request Form
    • Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) – ICC Microgrants
    • Milstein Family Foundation (yes, self-promotion) – Milstein Coalition Building Grants

* I am not a student, and I am sure that there are plenty of other wonderful opportunities out there for grants – please write to me to inform me of other resources that are available to students.

  1. In High School:

Engaging students is a critical part of cultivating pro-Israel activism. But we can’t limit our focus to college campuses — we need to engage students at a young age, beginning in high school.

There are numerous organizations and programs specifically for high school students. Some of the best include:

  1. Parents:
  • Send your child to Israel, period. Exposing teenagers and young adults to Israel can be an important step in cultivating a relationship with Israel. Birthright Israel, for example, is both fun and educational.
  • Make sure your son or daughter is familiar with all of the aforementioned organizations, as well as:
  • AIPAC 
  • The Israeli American Council (IAC)
  • Christians United for Israel (CUFI)
  • Get involved yourself. Parents can request to meet with school officials to discuss what the administration is doing to ensure that the campus is a safe, open, and friendly environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students.

4.Engage your alma mater:

For those of us who went to university, our alumni networks are a powerful, yet often untapped, network for pro-Israel advocacy.

  • Connect with Amcha Initiative and CAMERA, who will help you contact college administrators and offer advice on how to engage your alumni network.
  • Read and engage with your college’s newspaper. You may be shocked to learn that your campus has become increasingly hostile to Israel, and it’s important that you have facts to support the concerns you will share with college administrators and other alumni.
  • If you’re a campus donor – leverage that to demand a better environment for Jewish students.

Student organizations need financial support, professional guidance, and resources. As Jewish students face increasingly hostile campus environments, support from their community is more important than ever.

To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org. Also – check out Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation on Facebook!



How To Help: Suggestions for Pro-Israel Advocates (Part I)

Volunteer: “What can I do to help?”

Me: “How do you want to help?”

Volunteer: “Tell me what the options are, and I’ll tell you where I can fit in”

Me: “I don’t think that’s a good idea, it’ll take me a week”.

This is an abbreviation of a real conversation I have often (including my bluntness).

As the Executive Director of the Milstein Family Foundation, I hear the question “What can I do to help?” all the time. Day after day, I meet dedicated people who want to do SOMETHING to advocate for Israel. Many just aren’t sure where to get started. And I don’t have all the answers myself. But by working for a foundation that collaborates with so many great organizations – I have some ideas.

I decided to take note of the conversations I share with our committed volunteers and streamline them into a three-part series of blogs, which offer advice on how to productively get involved in the Pro-Israel community. You’ll find my first post below.


Part 1: Education

Before anything else, education is key for becoming an effective community activist. How can you defend something you may not fully know about? How can your efforts make headway if nobody else knows what you know? How can you use the tools at your disposal to advance your cause? Here are the first few steps I recommend for success:

1. Educate yourself

Get informed. It’s tough to defend Israel without understanding what you’re defending it from, and without being fluent on the facts and talking points.

Take the time to learn the issues.  There’s no one place to learn everything, so here is a bevy of suggestions to read with your morning coffee. Most of these sources send weekly newsletters – sign up to learn what’s happening in the world and in your community! You’ll be a far more effective advocate for it. Many of these sources have Facebook and Twitter accounts worth following, as well.


2. Educate others

We are all ambassadors for the groups we belong to. Every day, people take my words and actions as representative of women, Jews, Israelis, lawyers, and UCLA Anderson alumni. So like it or not, all Jews are ambassadors for the Jewish State—we all have networks of friends, neighbors, and colleagues who we can and should educate about Israel. There are a variety of ways to inform others:


  • Go to http://talkisrael.org/, an app that collects all kinds of pro-Israel news, and sign up to request their beta version.
  • Attend synagogue board meetings to ensure Israel is a topic of discussion and a proud item of support.
  • Bring Israeli products to work, and share! Most coworkers will love Dead Sea lotions and some good pita and hummus.
  • Step Up For Israel is a revolutionary online education platform. It offer courses and other information for all ages.
  • Organize a movie screening for films like Crossing the Line 2 and Beneath the Helmet.
  • If you’re an Israeli-American, check to see if there is an Israeli-American Council chapter nearby and get your family and friends involved in their activities.
  • Organize a speaking event. The Jewish National Fund’s Speaker Bureau is a good starting point for exciting speakers.


3. Social Media

Numerous studies show that people are increasingly turning to social media to get their news. It’s our responsibility to counteract all of the lies spewed about Israel with the truth. Whether you have 1 million or 10 followers, it’s important that you follow, share, tweet and pin pro-Israel content.

Likes and comments on social media are undervalued. The more buzz surrounding a post, the more exposure it will get. It can be difficult for some individuals (including non-Jews) to advertise their pro-Israel stance to the world, but having a constant stream of likes and comments gives novice activists the confidence to stay active. No matter how busy life gets, we all have a few seconds each day to like and share posts online.

Here are a few good groups to follow and share from:



Ultimately, education is the best source of meaningful activism. Learning the issues, teaching them to others, and using the right platforms to do so will work wonders for the effectiveness of your efforts. Stay tuned for the next blog on Campus Involvement for more suggestions!

To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org. Also – check out Adam Milstein and Milstein Family Foundation on Facebook! 



Personal Transformation in the Holy Land

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is proud to support AIPAC’s Campus Allies Mission, which brings non-Jewish, pro-Israel political activists to Israel for the first time. Participants learn about the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s strategic, social, and security issues, right in the heart of the Holy Land.

One of our Campus Allies Alumni, Alex Schriver, has shared how the Campus Allies Mission has impacted his life. You can read his post below.

From 2011 to 2013, I served as the National Chairman of the College Republican National Committee. As a representative of the CRNC, I was selected along with four other young leaders to visit Israel for the first time through the AIPAC Campus Allies trip.

I was not exactly sure what to expect from this 10-day sojourn. I don’t use the term ‘life-changing’ lightly, but no other phrase feels quite right for describing my time in the Jewish State. Seeing the bible come to life before my very eyes is something I wish I could share with everyone from my church back home.

While the historical and political education I received in Israel continues to shape my views working on Capitol Hill, my time there was also an incredibly personal religious experience. I prayed at the Western Wall. I was baptized in the Jordan River— the same waters in which John baptized Jesus. I heard Mathew 5-7 read aloud at the Temple Mount, where Jesus first told his followers to “be perfect, as your Heavenly father is perfect.” And I will never forget reading John 19 at the Garden Tomb; reflecting upon our Lord’s resurrection there still gives me the chills to this day. When my plane departed from Ben Gurion Airport, I held an entirely new appreciation for the nation, people, and many cultures of modern Israel.

Today, I serve as Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama. I could not be more proud to work for a man who has unequivocally defends the State of Israel in both words and actions.

I will always be indebted to AIPAC Campus Allies. In just 10 days they showed me more about Israel— and myself— then I ever would have thought possible.

To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org

Also – check out Adam Milstein and Milstein Family Foundation on Facebook! 


A trip to Israel inspires future leaders

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is proud to support AIPAC’s Campus Allies Mission, which brings non-Jewish, pro-Israel political activists to Israel for the first time. Participants learn about the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s strategic, social, and security issues, right in the heart of the Holy Land.

One of our Campus Allies Alumni, Micah Fielden, has shared how the Campus Allies Mission has impacted his life. You can read his post below.

The Milstein Campus Allies Trip run by AIPAC in 2012 had a profound impact on my life. At the time, I had just finished my term as the Student Body President of the University of Kentucky. My Christian upbringing and political beliefs made me a strong supporter of Israel, but I had not yet had the chance to visit. AIPAC allowed me to see the Jewish State for the first time. It was, in a word, inspirational.

Thanks to the networking opportunities offered my AIPAC trip, I was able to make connections with high-level staffers on the Mitt Romney presidential campaign and later leverage those connections to get a job. In hindsight, its hard to believe that my path from a Romney campaign project manager in the Digital Department, to a Trip Coordinator planning rallies, events, and other logistics around the country all began with a trip to Israel. My AIPAC trip not only taught me about the Jewish State, it catapulted my career to new heights.

While working on the Campaign, I became great friends with a lady that knew of my desires to attend law school. This relationship led me to accept a position at the Georgetown University Law Center, where I am a member of the Class of 2016. I’m about to enter my final year and will be joining a firm in New York City following graduation.

I can hardly believe all the remarkable things that have come from my trip to Israel, professionally and personally. It helped refine my understanding of the US-Israel friendship, helped me find a job out of college, and ultimately gain admission to the law school of my dreams. I will be forever thankful for the generosity of the Milstein family as well as AIPAC. If my own experience is any indication of the future, I am confident Campus Allies will continue to inspire future generations of young, pro-Israel leaders.

To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org


A life-changing experience: Seeing Israel’s values up close

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is proud to support AIPAC’s Campus Allies Mission, which brings non-Jewish, pro-Israel political activists to Israel for the first time. Participants learn about the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s strategic, social, and security issues. What’s best, the AIPAC Campus Allies trip takes place in the heart of the Holy Land.

One of our Campus Allies alumni, Myles Colton Laroux, has shared how the Campus Allies Mission has impacted his life. You can read his post below.

When you grow up Christian in Louisiana, it’s hard not to imagine visiting the lands of the Bible, modern day Israel That being said, as an undergraduate, I pursued a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, which familiarized me with the region. But not even a degree in Middle Eastern Studies could have prepared me for what we experienced in those two short weeks in Israel.

I remember initially receiving the itinerary and thinking, “There’s no way all of this will fit into two weeks!”. The schedule was packed with a seemingly impossible number of adventures, meetings, tours, meals, and Shabbat dinners (not that I really knew what Shabbat was at the time!) Somehow, we managed to finish everything and even today, that myriad of experiences continues to resonate with me.

I have always politically supported Israel, but actually spending time in the Middle East’s only true democracy put faces to the values that bind together America and Israel, as I met Jewish soldiers, Arab taxi drivers, Druze restaurateurs, yeshiva students, and kibbutzniks.

My time in Israel was in fact so meaningful that when I returned home from the AIPAC trip, I applied and was accepted for an internship with the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem. I was the only non-Jew in the program and, of course, the only Christian, but those 6 months really flew by. I still maintain some of the friendships I made in Jerusalem and even today, I find myself longing to be back in Israel.

Today, I work as an entrepreneur based out of Baton Rouge, where I run a small mobile device repair business. Prior to that, I worked at a consultancy, raising funds for conservatives clients, like Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Governor Bobby Jindal, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. These men, like any true conservatives, are staunch defenders of Israel and I am proud to have gotten to work on their behalf.

I am so grateful to AIPAC and the Milsteins for the opportunity they extended to me as a new college graduate on the Campus Allies trip. Thank you for making my first trip to Israel possible. It is because of philanthropists like y’all that I am who I am today. I have a heart for the people of Louisiana as well as the people of Israel. I am excited to see what the future holds.

To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org

To defeat BDS, enlist Israeli Americans

by Adam Milstein

Posted on Jul. 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm

American Jewry has witnessed a tsunami of hate on college campuses and across our communities. In the past year, resolutions calling for a divestment and boycott of Israel have been considered or passed by 30 student governments across the U.S. Israel haters have charged Jewish undergraduates seeking student government positions at UCLA and Stanford with “dual loyalties,” claiming that their strong Jewish identities should disqualify them from representing other students. AEPi — America’s largest Jewish fraternity — has seen an unprecedented rise in attacks on its members and vandalism on its houses. On and off campus, pro-Israel and Jewish students have been targeted, harassed and even physically assaulted.

These developments have spurred serious concern and significant conversation within the American Jewish community. Many debate the causes for these incidents. Others question the seriousness of the threat. As philanthropists and pro-Israel activists, my wife and I have engaged for many years on the front lines of the fight, working with a range of organizations that seek to defend Israel and the Jewish people. We’ve observed three basic facts about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — and its affiliated hate groups — that must inform the way we move forward.

First, this movement seeks to eradicate Israel, plain and simple. After failing to destroy the Jewish state with bullets and bombs, Israel’s enemies have turned to tweets, memes and YouTube videos. In recent years, these hate groups have learned that they are much more effective when posing as social justice activists who simply oppose Israel’s policies. Too many in our community have bought the lie that this is a response to actions taken by the Israeli government. They believe BDS will go away if Israel withdraws from the land acquired from Jordan during the Six-Day War — or finds another way to engage a Palestinian leadership that has rejected numerous peace deals offering 97 percent of this territory. The reality is that these hate groups don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist within any borders. The maps they publish of the region tell the whole story about their true goals, depicting a single Palestinian state that extends “from the river to the sea” with no trace of Israel.

Second, BDS is anti-Semitic. While tyrannical regimes trample on human rights throughout the Middle East, BDS chooses to single out only the Jewish state, the region’s only democracy, for criticism and boycott. By trafficking in vile lies about Israel and launching accusations of genocide and apartheid, these hate groups seek to demonize the Jewish state and boycott it in the same way anti-Semites have long demonized the Jewish people and boycotted Jewish businesses. If their movement is really about Palestinian welfare, why hasn’t there been a single BDS resolution targeting Lebanon, where Palestinians are kept as second-class citizens, denied the right to own property, and prevented from entering professions such as law and medicine? If they are really concerned about human rights, why hasn’t there been a single BDS resolution about Iran, where women are subjugated, homosexuals are hanged and journalists are jailed?

Third, this movement is well funded, nationally organized, and connected to a range of radical, anti-American, anti-Western and, in some cases, terrorist organizations. Hatem Bazian — the co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine — publicly called for an intifada inside of the United States against the American government. Many former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation — a front group convicted of raising millions for Hamas that was shut down by the U.S. government in 2008 — now lead American Muslims for Palestine, the largest umbrella organization supporting BDS activities on and off campus by raising money, developing anti-Israel materials, organizing conferences and arranging speakers for events. Masquerading as social justice activists, this small group of dangerous radicals has been able to brainwash large numbers of students on campus after campus, forming alliances with groups working to promote rights of minorities, women and LGBT members.

In the face of an anti-Semitic enemy committed to the destruction of Israel — and willing to play dirty — what is the best way to respond? Many pro-Israel organizations are doing important work in education, public diplomacy and training, which must continue. Yet, in the face of this onslaught of hate and intimidation, we need a new infusion of resources, a new framework for fostering collaboration and new advocacy tools to beat back the bad guys.

Last month, I was honored to help organize a summit in Las Vegas hosted by Miriam and Sheldon Adelson to bring together more than 50 organizations in the battle against these hate groups. We’ve formed a task force called the Campus Maccabees, which will organize a nationwide movement to fight anti-Semitism and the hate groups that attack the Jewish people and Israel on American universities and beyond.

We believe that this new task force will be a game changer in this fight, coordinating the work of the very best pro-Israel organizations in unprecedented ways. We will go on the offense against Israel’s enemies. We will reveal the baseline anti-Semitism of this movement, expose its desire to eradicate the State of Israel and give our students the tools to defeat it.

As part of this campaign, we must tap into a unique strategic asset that has not yet been fully leveraged: the Israeli-American community. For too long, most Israelis living in America have remained separate from the traditional Jewish community and disengaged from Israel advocacy efforts. Eight years ago, I joined with several other Israeli-American leaders in Los Angeles to found the Israeli-American Council and change this reality. Israeli Americans are knowledgeable and passionate about this subject. They can speak from personal experience — it’s much easier to explain Israel’s security challenges when your family lives in Sderot or you have served in the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli Americans — instilled with our culture’s characteristic boldness — can form an army of activists who are unafraid to stand up and speak out against the lies about the Jewish state and the Israeli people.

We’ve reached a critical tipping point. We need everyone in the pro-Israel community to lend their skills to this fight as we realign our strategic focus from reactive to proactive. With strength, determination and unity, we can show the anti-Semites taking over America’s universities that tsunamis travel in more than one direction.

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


Jewish community reacts to the Iran nuclear deal

Assembled by Jewish Journal Staff

Posted on Jul. 14, 2015 at 7:49 am

Rabbi David Wolpe

The Jewish community in Los Angeles and nationwide reacted to the news the Iranian nuclear deal had been reached:


This agreement liberates resources to a regime whose core anti-Semitic and declaredly genocidal ideology is manifest. I fear that its safeguards are insufficient, it’s assurances too amorphous and its end result will be to empower our enemies and imperil our friends.


Theology is where we strive for perfection; politics is by definition the realm of the imperfect. I have no doubt that this is not a perfect deal. But this imperfect deal needs to be assessed against real alternatives and not some idealized, perfect outcome that could never come to pass. There are two likely alternatives in the absence of an agreement: 1) a continuation of the status quo, in which case Iran’s breakout time is projected by intelligence reports to be a few months, or 2) a preventive attack on Iran by Israel or the U.S., which would likely set back nuclear development by 1-3 years but also risk escalation into regional conflagration. Given the choice between drowning in the Sea and being crushed by the Egyptian army, I commend the Administration for searching for a reasoned third way. Those who are cautiously optimistic about this deal are also clear-eyed about Iran’s dangerous and reckless behavior, including its sponsorship of Hamas, Hezbollah and the bloodstained Assad regime, in addition to its horrible human rights record at home. Even still, we should not let the imperfections of the deal blind us to the huge risks of the status quo or lull us into armchair talk of military action. I hope that this agreement, the best of bad alternatives, will create the possibility of the avoidance of catastrophe.


I’m not optimistic about anything quite frankly from it, but I certainly hope I’m wrong, and I hope what I learn over the next 60 days is wrong, but I just have a hard time with an agreement that seems to have as much latitude as this one does, with a party that just last week was holding rallies in the streets, screaming, ‘Death to America.’ It’s kind of hard to be optimistic.


The much anticipated deal between Iran and the P5+1 is a calculated risk—as virtually every negotiated agreement is in international relations.  One must weigh the risks inherent in lifting sanctions against Iran against the risks attending a collapse of the talks, in which case Russia and China would likely depart the international coalition that has imposed the sanctions. I find the former option—that is, the new deal—less bad than the prospect of Iran charging ahead with its nuclear program without international inspections and with the support of the Russians and Chinese.  I don’t think we can kid ourselves about the Iranian regime’s imperial aspirations in the region; it echoes deeply with the country’s sense of itself in history.  But neither do I think we need to accept the rhetoric of Bibi Netanyanu comparing them to the Nazis. That serves no useful purpose.  So how should one feel about today’s news from Vienna?  A measure of relief, a sense of cautious optimism, and a healthy dose of vigilance.


“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is deeply worried by today’s announced deal with Iran that confirms Iran as a threshold nuclear power that will end economic sanctions against the Mullahocracy”, said rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, Dean and Founder and Associate Dean of the leading Jewish Human Rights NGO.

“It is not the first time in history that Western leaders would be fooled by tyrants. Seventy-five years ago, British Prime Minster Chamberlain thought he understood Hitler and declared ‘peace in our time.’ Shortly thereafter, Hitler plunged the world into the catastrophic World War II.”

“Since 1979, no Iranian leader has changed his mind or actions about Israel, about the US, or about human rights. It is the height of folly and naiveté to believe that the Iranian regime will change its stripes in the next decade. No one denies that this agreement will allow Iran in ten years, to produce nuclear weapons in a matter of weeks.”

“We note that Israelis across the full political spectrum—from Prime Minister Netanyahu to opposition leader Isaac Herzog– are united in denouncing an agreement that confers legitimacy on the world’s greatest terrorist state that has declared the destruction of the Jewish State as “non-negotiable”. In addition, the end of sanctions will free up billions of dollars to a regime already deeply funding terrorist and military proxies that threaten not only Israel, but also Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the entire region. We fear that this agreement will also spur a new nuclear arms race in that unstable and volatile region. “

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center will rely on a tenacious Congressional review of this unsigned 159-page document and, if the fears that this is a dangerous deal are confirmed, that our elected Senators and Representatives, will vote against it.”



The deal is a historic mistake. The bottom line is that it removes the sanctions, but it keeps the nuclear program intact. It’s a deal with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. They are not required to change their behavior. Last week, they called ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ in the climax of the negotiations. There’s no dismantling of the program. What this means is, in a decade or so — or even less — the outcome will be a far more powerful, belligerent, wealthy Iran with a nuclear arsenal and a missile program that can deliver it anywhere.


While StandWithUs welcomes international efforts to end Iran`s nuclear program through diplomacy, the details emerging about the agreement reached yesterday, July 14, 2015, between the P5+1 and Iran raise serious concerns. It appears the deal will not prevent Iran`s regime from developing nuclear weapons, moderate its aggressive policies, or persuade it to stop sponsoring terrorism. Rather it only delays its pursuit of nuclear weapons and allows it to continue promoting violence and instability around the world. We hope that Congress, which has 60 days to review the agreement after it is submitted by the administration, will ensure that the deal protects the U.S. and our allies, and prevents nuclear proliferation in the region.

“This should not be a partisan issue. The stakes are too high and this will impact too many people in the international community.  Here we have the world`s main sponsor of international terrorism, a fundamentalist regime that believes in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, that calls for the elimination of neighboring states, abuses its own people, and leads chants of `death to America.` All Americans should work together to prevent this regime from gaining more destructive ability. The choice is not between this agreement or war. It is between an agreement that will prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and one that will not. We hope that both parties in Congress work together to ensure that the only deal America agrees to is one that will rein in Iran and keep it from getting nuclear weapons not just in the short term, but in the long term” stressed Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs.

StandWithUs will continue its mission of educating the public about the threat Iran`s regime poses to Israel and other American allies in the region and beyond. We will inform the public about issues of concern: prematurely ending sanctions, weakening  inspections protocol, leaving intact Iran`s weapons program and enrichment facilities, allowing Iran to legally develop nuclear weapons in 15 years, maintaining Iran`s ballistic missile program. In addition the agreement contains no stipulations to free  American hostages, no curbs on racist incitement or sponsorship of terror, and the removal of restrictions on Iranian nuclear development after 15 years.

“In the not too distant past, liberal democracies failed to stop a fascist, racist, anti-Semitic regime. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake. We will do all we can to alert the public and encourage Congress to hold fast to the terms the United States and the world needs to prevent a nuclear-armed regime in Iran” concluded Rothstein.


This deal will legitimize a regime that is known to be deeply corrupt, is a world-leading state sponsor of terrorism, has been suppressing its own people and destabilizing its neighbors.


The agreement is a far cry from what the White House originally intended to accomplish through negotiations, which was to end the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program. And with a lack of reliable compliance mechanisms — the agreement at best temporarily pauses the nuclear program — the international community is basing this risky gamble on ‘hope’ that the Regime will change.  But hope isn’t enough on issues that threaten the security of the U.S. for generations to come.  Our community knows this perhaps better than any other, and we are confident that Congress will fulfill its responsibility of keeping our nation strong and secure.


Like everyone else, I’m ambivalent and doubtful. We’d all like to see a diplomatic way of keeping Iran from nuclear weapons. But we’re deeply concerned that this agreements falls short of enduring that goal. I understand the President’s eagerness to secure a deal, but like many others, I fear he and Mr Kerry have conceded too much.

I’m in Scotland right now. This story isn’t the first or second or even third story on the evening news. The Greek crisis in the Eurozone is much more prominent. In Israel this summer, there was little visible concern about the Iran negotiations. Domestic issues in Israel take center stage in the Israel national conversation.


The people of Iran are the greatest victims of this deal — the regime that has been stifling them for more than three decades and persecuting them has just received a lifeline and a credit line in order for it to survive indefinitely. The messages from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which are designed to share Israelis’ opposition to this deal, have nothing to do with Israel’s opposition to Iran, but really [criticize] the regime only. It is a regime that must be held accountable when it comes to enforcing this deal.


Throughout the long standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, I have expressed my preference for a diplomatic solution that would prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. To accomplish this, I have supported a series of ever tightening American sanctions and efforts to rally the international community to isolate Iran, raising the costs of Iran’s enrichment program and helping to dry up a portion of the funding Iran has used to carry out its nefarious conduct in the region and beyond.


In the coming days I will be examining the terms of the agreement hammered out by Secretary Of State John Kerry and his team, with particular attention to the verification regime that is central to ensuring that Iran cannot cheat. Whether I can support the agreement will hinge on our ability to verify that Iran is complying, and whether we have timely access to any site of Iran’s potential nuclear development activities, including venues controlled by the Iranian military. It will also be necessary for the United States and our partners to get an accurate accounting of Tehran’s nuclear program from its inception. Additionally, I will be looking at the sequencing of Iranian actions and any loosening of sanctions and the mechanism for re-imposing them — the so-called ‘snap back’ provisions — should Tehran fail to meet its commitments.

The nuclear program has always been the greatest threat from Iran, but not the only one, and I also remain deeply concerned about Tehran’s actions in the region — from its efforts to dominate Iraq and Lebanon, to prop up the Assad regime in Syria, to back the Houthi rebels in Yemen, to its unrelenting hostility to Israel and its support of terror around the world. I will also be examining any relaxation of UN sanctions on Iran’s acquisition of weapons or missile technology.

Given Iran’s long record of duplicity and the consequence of Iran’s getting a bomb or having a greater economic power to project its destructive influence, we cannot be too careful, nor can we afford to take Tehran at its word.

As the terms and consequences of this agreement become clear during the period of Congressional review, I would urge my colleagues to give the measure the serious thought it deserves.  If the agreement is flawed it should be rejected; at the same time, we must not compare the proposal to an ideal, but rather to any credible alternative. Will rejection of the deal lead to additional sanctions and an Iran willing to concede more, or to renewed enrichment and a path to war?  These are the stakes and our decision should be made with sober thought and a minimum of partisan demagoguery.



This deal rewards Iran for decades of terrorism and many years of deceiving the international community with an undeniable path to nuclear weapons, gravely endangering America, Israel, and the world. It’s time for those in Congress who are aware how bad this deal is to make their voices heard loud and clear. The lessons of our agreements with Nazi Germany and North Korea hang over this moment. I implore our elected officials: don’t let Iran go nuclear on your watch. The consequences for America could be catastrophic.


This morning, after extensive negotiations conducted under intense international scrutiny, P5+1 negotiators, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, announced that they have reached an agreement with Iran over that country’s nuclear program. We in the Reform Jewish Movement remain committed to our belief that the United States and its allies must do all that is possible to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, as well as to protect and enhance U.S. security and the security of our allies—particularly Israel—and promote stability in the entire Middle East.

We deeply appreciate the intense efforts of the multinational negotiators, especially the U.S. administration, for having worked so hard to try to come to a diplomatic resolution with Iran on containment of its nuclear program. As the U.S. Congress, other world leaders, and the American public, including the Jewish community, evaluate the details of the proposed agreement, we recognize that thoughtful people can and do hold strongly different opinions as to whether this agreement is the best obtainable result in securing our shared goals and upholding the ideal that solutions should be found through the negotiating process rather than a military confrontation.

During the last several months, leaders of our Reform Movement have consulted with experts and heard from advocates who both oppose and favor the framework outlined in March by the P5 +1 and Iran. We have conferred with our fellow Jewish organizations and met privately with the White House, the Secretary of State, and representatives of the State of Israel. Right now, we are continuing our ongoing dialogue with the U.S. administration, key members of Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and other prominent Israeli leaders including leaders of the opposition. One helpful touchstone for our analysis of this agreement is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations, which was endorsed by a panel of bipartisan diplomats and calls for a five-point program ensuring that Iran will not become a nuclear threshold state.

In the coming days and weeks, we will go back to our trusted experts and continue to consult with our constituencies to better understand the consequences of this proposed agreement. We urge all committed parties to take similar, carefully considered approaches before rushing to conclusions.

As the Congress moves forward, we will share our opinion on the viability of this agreement to achieve our goals: that the final agreement will put the optimal standard for restraints on Iran, preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, protecting the security of the United States, Israel and our allies around the world.

CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN RABBIS: Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President, and Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO

RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM: Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director, and Jennifer Kaufman, Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, and Steve Sacks, Chair of the Board


I look forward to robust hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, if this agreement is what the Administration says it is, it is a major, historic diplomatic breakthrough.


Congressman Brad Sherman told the Journal in a phone interview on Tuesday morning that he is disappointed with the deal and his concern is determining what Congress’ next move will be.

“I’ve been through the seven stages of grief on the Iran nuclear program. I declared in my first few months in Congress that the Iran nuclear program was the number-one threat to American security, no one was saying that then, so, I’ve been through the grief, I’ve been through the denial, I’ve been through the anger,” he said. “For me the question is what do we do now, not to return to July 13 and to a president who might’ve wanted to get tougher on Iran but what do you do today when you have a president who has agreed to a deal…we have to keep working on this and we cannot accept the ugly 10th year of this agreement.”


From Congressman Brad Sherman’s office:

“The question before us is not is it a good deal or is it a bad deal or what should the executive branch of government do. The question before us is what should Congress do if we have a President who has signed the deal.

“We don’t know precisely what is in the deal. But we do know that it has advantages and disadvantages in the first year because it causes the vast majority of Iranian stockpile of enriched uranium and the majority of their centrifuges to be taken off the table. The disadvantage is it provides the Iranian Government with access to $120 billion plus of its own money…It is this kind of analysis, not partisans screaming about is it a good deal, is it a bad deal, that should guide us in the future.”


Iran has in the past failed over and over again to live up to its treaty obligations. It has maintained secret military sites. I fear we may have entered into an agreement that revives the Iranian economy but won’t stop this regime from developing nuclear arms in the long term, which would have disastrous consequences for the entire region and the world. As the famous proverb goes, ‘The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.’


Agreeing to such a deal is a serious failure in U.S. diplomacy, with potentially grave consequences for our security, our allies, and the future of the Middle East.

It fails to put in place real safeguards that allow us to monitor the nuclear activities of a regime that has perfected the art of lying to the international community – or to re-impose sanctions if they cheat. It offers the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism hundreds of billions of dollars to fund its activities around the world. It provides one of the Middle East’s greatest destabilizers and worst human rights violators with new international legitimacy and sanctions relief. And in a little over a decade, Iran will have the internationally recognized right to a nuclear program with no restrictions, a stone’s throw away from a bomb.

This deal is much worse than no deal. We should have walked away.


A Campus Allies alumna shares her story

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is proud to support AIPAC’s Campus Allies Mission, which brings non-Jewish, pro-Israel political activists to Israel for the first time. Participants learn about the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s strategic, social, and security issues, right in the heart of the Holy Land. 

An alumnus of our Campus Allies — Caroline Wren — has shared how the Campus Allies Mission has impacted her life. You can read her post below. 

When I graduated from college, I found myself at an important crossroads. I was deeply interested in politics, but unsure about the direction that this interest would take me. As a recent grad, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. But then a friend invited me on the trip of a lifetime — the 2012 AIPAC Campus Allies trip. At the time, I knew close to nothing about Israel aside from that it was a small country far away from home. Little did I know, after the AIPAC Campus Allies trip, that small country would change my heart and mind forever.

The ten days I spent in Israel with AIPAC were the most incredible of my life. I prayed at the Western Wall. I was baptized in the Jordan River. My visit to the Holy Land exceeded all of my expectations. On the AIPAC Campus Allies trip, I made some of my closest friends, I was exposed to all of the wonder that Israel has to offer, and came to understand just how critical an ally Israel is to the United States. Seeing Israel firsthand made it clear to me that without peace in Israel, we can never have peace here at home. The United States’ future, I realized, is directly linked to Israel’s future. I am confident that the United States has no better friend or ally in the Middle East, or the world, than Israel.

Since the 2012 Campus Allies trip, I have found how to turn my interest in politics into a career: I have dedicated my life to working for politicians who understand the important and strategic relationship between the United States and Israel. After the Campus Allies trip, I began working on Jon Huntsman’s Presidential campaign because I felt he was a candidate with a unique worldview, a deep understanding of foreign policy, and a firm commitment to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel. In 2012, I worked as a national fundraiser on five Senate races. Every candidate campaigned on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.

In 2014, I made the most important career decision of my life and moved to South Carolina to work for Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as the Finance Director on his re-election campaign. When it comes to supporting our ally Israel, there is nobody in Washington as enthusiastic or dedicated than Lindsey Graham. His love for Israel is contagious and spreads to everyone that works for him.

Working for Senator Graham has been the greatest honor of my life. He has taught me that being a champion for Israel doesn’t mean just talking about our support, but acting on it. Senator Graham wakes up every day and fights for Israel and expects his staff to do the same. In fact, during a recent trip to Israel in December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Senator Graham, “I know that in the American Senate, you have Israel’s back, and no one has it better.” Prime Minister Netanyahu was right: there is no Senator more committed to strengthening relations with Israel, halting Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and putting the Senate on record when it comes to having Israel’s back than Senator Graham. I am honored to play a small role in that. Truth be told, I never would have gone to work for Senator Graham if it weren’t for the Campus Allies trip.

Today I live in Washington where I have my own consulting firm that works exclusively with clients working to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel. 

The 2012 Campus Allies trip shaped me into the person that I am today. It has influenced every career decision I have made. I am eternally grateful to AIPAC and the Milstein family for giving me the opportunity to see Israel and learn about how crucial the relationship between the United States and Israel truly is.


To learn more about the philanthropic work of Adam Milstein and the Milstein Family Foundation, visit http://milsteinff.org