An unprecedented experience at 2nd Annual National Israeli-American Council Conference

November 20, 2015

Other News

Danielle Leibovici and Samantha Golden.

Danielle Leibovici and Samantha Golden.

Washington DC.—For a vibrant 48 hours, 1,300 Israeli-Americans and Americans who are passionate for the State of Israel, gathered for the Second Annual National Israeli American Council Conference at the Washington DC Hilton in October.

At this conference, participants heard from top Israeli leaders in politics, business, media, religion, and Hollywood, and received a Skype call from Prime Minster Bibi Netanyahu.

Although Tidewater does not have its own IAC (Israeli American Council) chapter, I eagerly attended this incredible and timely event along with Samantha Golden, a fellow active member of the Tidewater Jewish community. We brought back inspiration, ideas, and momentum, which we are now sharing with our own thriving Jewish community. Both of us are grateful for the enthusiasm and sponsorship of Scott Kaplan and the Tidewater Jewish Foundation for their support in our registration and representation. At the conference, we were also pleased to see that some of the speakers, such as Gidi Grinstein, have already been to Tidewater.

IAC’s purpose is to engage and unify the Israeli-American community to support future generations of Israeli-American Jewry and the State of Israel. Through empowering programs, events and nonprofit outreach, the IAC is one of the largest networks of Israeli-Americans in the United States and has effectively strengthened the Israeli-American community.

The national conference and the eight newly formed IAC chapters in cities across the U.S. could not have been possible without the donations and support of businessman and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife, physician and philanthropist Miriam Adelson. Throughout the weekend, these two individuals were honored and recognized as “the Montefiores and Rothchilds of our generation.” I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Adelson and she encouraged me to consider starting a chapter of IAC in Tidewater.

During the conference, attendees enjoyed three-course kosher meals and exceptional plenary sessions, which were filled with spirited personal accounts, lively interviews and intense mediations from the likes of Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer, chairman of the Labor Party, Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Proser, and a number of well-spoken news anchors, Knesset-members and Congressmen. A wide array of breakout sessions on many relevant subjects, making it difficult to choose, also took place. Topics included: Israeli Americans and Opportunity in the US, Social Media Strategy, Building Coalitions, Israeli American Male and Female Entrepreneurs, Engaging Non Profits, Lobbying, Leadership, Israel on Campus, Education, and Securing our Future.

One of the incredible individuals whom we met was Amir Give’on, one of the creators of a new phone application called TALK ISRAEL. This free app for phones provides all Israel-related news, as well as interesting updates, search capability and sharing features.

A brief and meaningful encounter with a woman named Emily (name changed for identity protection), a 20-something-yearold Israeli who spends her time mostly in South Africa, made one of the strongest impressions on me. The co-founder of an Israeli company, she is almost single- handily ending the threat of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in South Africa (where it originally began). She explains that she takes “groups of anti-Israel influential leaders and anyone who affects their policy on mandated personalized exposure tours of Israel.” This is not your typical Birthright trip. These strongly biased participants begin to see and learn for themselves that Israel is clearly not an apartheid state. She shares that there is a 100% turnaround rate from previous misconceptions.

I learned at this conference that, if you want to be a leader, you have to build bridges and meet people where they are so that it becomes relevant for them. According to George Deek, an Arab Christian and Israeli diplomat, “We don’t need to win an argument; we need to win a war against the delegitimization of Israel.”

Finally, I will share one of my favorite lingering memories from the weekend. In the early hours of our last morning, a growing number of Israelis began gathering in the hotel’s Irish pub. The music outlet was suddenly taken over by an Israeli diplomate with his iPhone and USB cable. Loud and proud Israeli music of solidarity and momentum began to blast from its speakers. Within moments, at least 200 dancing, fist-pumping Israeli Americans packed themselves into this tiny bar in union and proud support of Eretz Israel. Being around these inspiring, innovative, and visionary Israelis from all walks of life gives me hope that Israel will continue to stay strong. The power of its citizens will make more and more contributes to the world in the name of Tikun Olam. Am Israel Chai!

by Danielle Leibovici

Letter to the Editor