Philanthropist Adam Milstein on Jewish Life and Love for the Homeland

 

Israeli-soldierOn October 18, 1973, Israeli General Ariel Sharon led his beleaguered division across the Suez Canal. It was the 12th day of the Yom Kippur War, when Israel began to push the Egyptian army back and bring an end to the simultaneous Egyptian-Syrian invasion. The bloodshed, later described by Sharon in Gamal Hammad’s book “Military Battles on the Egyptian Front,” “was as if a hand-to-hand battle of armor had taken place…No picture could capture the horror of the scene, none could encompass what had happened there.”

 

A 21-year-old Israeli named Adam Milstein marched across the canal with Sharon’s division. He’d joined the Israeli Defense Forces three years previously at age 18, working in several different artillery units before putting his life on the line in the Sinai. His girlfriend Gila, a trained nurse, was attending to wounded Israeli soldiers. They’d agreed that if Adam came home from the Sinai in one piece, they’d get married and settle down. After a hard fought victory in the Yom Kippur War, the two married, and Gila became an officer in the IDF medical corps.

 

Adam enrolled at Technion, the oldest university in Israel, located in Haifa and specializing in technology and public research. There, he earned a Bachelor of Science in business and economics. In 1981, the couple moved to Los Angeles with their daughters, Merav and Lyron. Adam enrolled at the University of Southern California, completing his MBA in 1983. In 1986, the Milsteins became American citizens. Along with business partner David Hager, Adam built a thriving commercial real estate investment firm, Hager Pacific.

 

adam-gila-milsteinToday, Adam and Gila Milstein are two of the Israeli-American community’s most committed and hardworking philanthropists. They’ve also become indispensible advocates for Israel in America within the Israeli-American community, the American Jewish community, and on college campuses across the country. For his part, Adam Milstein has committed his future to defending the nation he nearly gave his life for in 1973. He also works tirelessly to strengthen the “unbroken, unbreakable connection” between the land of Israel and the Jewish people.

 

Both of the Milsteins worry about a world re-familiarizing itself with anti-Semitism, and they believe advocacy for Israel is more important than ever before. Additionally, they want to pass Jewish values and identity onto the next generation of Israeli-Americans. Their journey has taught them five important lessons about life, giving, and finding purpose.

1. Never Be Overconfident

Israel’s success in building a strong military, an innovative economy, and a thriving democracy in a region filled with conflict, repression, and tyranny is a testament to the inventiveness, work ethic, and determination of the people who made it their homeland. Yet it’s a land of unrest, surrounded by neighbors who daily speak of its annihilation. “Gila and I wake up each morning focused on two basic goals,” Adam Milstein says. “Strengthen the Jewish people, and strengthen the Jewish state.”

 

On October 6, 1973, Israel’s leaders had some inkling that an attack was imminent. In fact, according to Milstein, his division was told Egypt’s forces would attack at precisely at 5 p.m. When he and the other soldiers saw planes coming toward them, they assumed the Israeli Air Force was rehearsing for battle. Before he knew it, the planes were dropping bombs, and Milstein and his companions were running for cover.

 

Milstein remembers one central lesson from that fateful day: Never be overconfident. He also learned never to underestimate his enemies or the existential threats facing his people. Adam faced anti-Semitism on the battlefield, but his wife learned the lesson at a much younger age. Her childhood in North Africa taught her about the harsh realities the Jewish people face outside their homeland.

Early Lessons in Anti-Semitism

jewish-womanGila Milstein was born in Morocco in the 1950s, where Jewish people had no freedom and no rights. On her way home from school, she and other Jewish children were chased by Arab children, who often pelted them with glass and rocks.

 

One morning, Gila’s family pretended they were leaving Morocco on vacation. They stuffed as many of their possessions as they could into suitcases and fled to France.

 

When she was six, they emigrated to Israel, a place Gila knew she could finally call home. “We felt it was our place,” she said of Israel. “We had everything kids need growing up.”

 

Anti-Semitism isn’t always about swastikas and skinheads, but it’s a never-ending presence, both surrounding the Jewish homeland and spread throughout the Diaspora. In France, for example, Jews represent less than 1 percent of the population, but they’re targeted in 51 percent of racially motivated attacks.

 

As Jeffrey Goldberg explains in his piercing Atlantic Monthly piece entitled, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?”: “Israel is coming to be understood not as a small country in a difficult spot…but as a source of cosmological evil.” Some of the hostility comes from fundamentalist Muslims migrating to Europe who blame the Jewish people for their own lack of progress. Still, Muslim immigrants aren’t to blame for all anti-Jewish sentiment. In Europe, Judenhass is an old and ugly story.

Anti-Semitism in Europe

As memories of the Shoah grow distant, many Europeans are trading post-Holocaust tolerance for their Jewish neighbors for more ancient and insidious ways of thinking. As Goldberg points out, Europe has a history of blaming the Jewish people for its challenges.

 

After all, the terms ghetto, Inquisition, Holocaust, and auto-da-fé all originated in the European Diaspora. The land that brought Kafka, Freud, and Einstein to the world stage also stood silent while 6 million were butchered. “In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners and spreaders of disease,” Goldberg recalls. “Ideologues and demagogues of many permutations have understood the Jews to be a singularly malevolent force standing between the world and its perfection.”

 

belgium-museumOn May 24, 2014, four people were murdered at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. On February 28, 2015, a security guard named Dan Uzan was murdered outside a Copenhagen synagogue. At a Jewish schoolhouse in Toulouse in 2012, a French citizen shot a rabbi and three children. A French rally to protest President Francoise Holland quickly turned anti-Semitic as attendees began chanting, “Juif, la France n’est pas à toi”—“Jew, France is not for you.”

 

British author and Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, a Jewish writer living in London, recently completed a book called “J.” His novel is a fictional account of a future genocide, in an English-seeming country, of an unnamed people who seemed quite similar to the Jewish people. “I felt as if I was writing out of dread,” Jacobsen says of his novel. “Barely 50 years after the Holocaust, the desire for Jewish bloodletting isn’t over. I know this is a dangerous thing to say…but the Holocaust didn’t satisfy.”

 

Last year, 7,000 French Jews left the country and moved to Israel. In 2014, a survey of British Jews revealed roughly half thought they had no future in Great Britain. In Greece, recent surveys reveal that 69 percent of adults have anti-Semitic beliefs. Even though European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and British Prime Minister David Cameron all publicly defend European Jews, it’s both naïve and reckless to assume the Holocaust ended anti-Semitism in Europe.

Changing Sentiments in America

romney-milsteinNo country supports Israel as much as the United States, both militarily and financially. The U.S. sends an average of $3 billion in aid to Israel every year. In the U.S., the Jewish people don’t face the same blatantly anti-Semitic actions seen in Europe. American Jews serve in many political positions—Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan are Jewish—and cities across America are home to thriving Jewish communities.

 

Yet growing support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which encourages people and institutions including American universities not to do business with companies in Israel, has revealed the presence of a subtle, yet sinister anti-Semitism brewing on college campuses. BDS, which bills itself as a non-violent way to protest Israeli government policy toward its Palestinian residents, often affiliates with other progressive on-campus groups, attracting students who want to see themselves as open-minded.

 

Although students have the right to question Israeli government policies, they often know little about the actual political situation in the Jewish homeland. Instead of thinking critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they assume Israelis are the villains. For example, after Israelis responded to Hamas rocket fire from Gaza in 2014, many students gathered and shouted “Free Gaza.” They didn’t understand that Israel no longer occupied Gaza; Israelis ceded Gaza to Hamas in 2005.

 

Misinformation leads to mistrust, and mistrust leads to unfounded suspicion. According to a Trinity College survey given to 1,157 Jewish college students on 55 campuses, over half had experienced or witnessed an anti-Semitic event in the past six months. In February 2015, a nominee for UCLA’s student council judicial board, Rachel Beyda, was asked by council members whether her membership in Jewish organizations made it possible for her to be unbiased toward all students. In other words, some student council members questioned whether Beyda’s participation in Hillel and Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish sorority, would make her unable to be loyal to her judicial board oath.

Speaking Out Against Anti-Semitism

speaking-outAdam Milstein has no reservations about labeling BDS as anti-Semitic. “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,” he wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed.

 

“Jewish undergraduates seeking student government positions at UCLA and Stanford [have been questioned about] ‘dual loyalties,’ claiming that their strong Jewish identities should disqualify them from representing other students,” he pointed out. “AEPi— America’s largest Jewish fraternity—has seen an unprecedented rise in attacks on its members and vandalism on its houses.”

 

On one hand, Adam Milstein speaks confidently about Israelis and the Jewish people as a whole. At one gala, Milstein reminded his audience that “when Rome was just a small fishing village and London was a swamp, Jerusalem was the thriving capitol of the Jewish people.” He also points out that although the Jewish people make up just 0.2 percent of the world’s population, Jews have won 30 percent of all Nobel prizes.

 

On the other hand, Milstein knows the cost of overconfidence, which is why he speaks boldly against anti-Semitism and in defense of Israel. It’s a lesson he learned in the Sinai desert, many years ago.

2. Keep an Open Mind

adam_milstein-200x300As a businessman, Adam Milstein maintains an open-door policy toward his employees. Quoting the Talmud, he says, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.”

 

“You never stop learning, no matter how old you are and how successful you are,” he continues. “Life is a never-ending learning experience, and the inquisitive mind is never bored.”

 

The Milsteins don’t reject sincere disagreement on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, but they worry something much darker lurks beneath the surfaces of many of these conversations. For this reason, they’re working harder than ever before to unite the Jewish people in support of the Jewish homeland. Success means uniting many organizations with separate and sometimes competing agendas.

From Assimilated to Activist

The genesis of Milstein’s philanthropy occurred in 2002, when he realized how much his daughters had assimilated into American life. They had no desire to marry Jewish men, and when he asked him why, they reminded him that he’d lived a completely secular life in America.

 

“At that point, I realized the only way maybe to correct my ignorance and mistake as an Israeli father was to get closer to Jewish life,” Milstein told an AIPAC audience in 2013, “and to demonstrate to my daughters that I was proud of my Jewish heritage and that our future as a Jewish family was of extreme importance to me.”

 

He started by attending Aish LA events and studying with Aish HaTorah Rabbi Dov Heller. As he studied, he realized he wasn’t the only Israeli living in America who’d drifted from his heritage. “It would be more appropriate to call us Israeli-Americans,” Milstein said. “We grew up in Israel, most of us served in the army, and our character was galvanized by the time we served in Israel.”

 

The problem, he says, is that most Israeli-Americans won’t admit they’re living in the Diaspora. “Expatriate Israelis keep thinking they are going back to Israel someday,” Milstein explained. “They have to realize that they are here for good.”

 

In Israel, Jewish life happens on autopilot. Children go to Jewish day schools, where they learn about the Bible and Jewish history. Israeli life runs according to the Jewish calendar, and everyone celebrates Jewish holidays in school, with their families, and in public.

 

In America, Jewish people have to pay for private Jewish day schools and synagogue membership, and it becomes expensive to integrate into the American Jewish community. Speaking about maintaining Jewish identity in America, Gila Milstein is emphatic: “In America, if you don’t make it happen, it doesn’t happen.”

Israeli-Americans: a Unique Psychology

Israelis living in America, as the saying goes, are “sitting on their suitcases.” They come to America for educational or business opportunities, and they assume they’ll return home. After completing his MBA, Adam Milstein thought he’d keep his family in America just for a little while, to recoup the money he’d spent funding his education. Like many Israeli-Americans, Milstein assumed his stay in America was a temporary arrangement.

 

israel-americaAs a result, he didn’t actively seek relationships with the American Jewish community. His daughters attended private Jewish day schools when they were young, but they attended public high schools. “American Jews already have an infrastructure to pass Judaism on to their children. Israelis have nothing,” he explains. “The parents feel they’re Jewish even though they are completely disconnected from Jewish observance and community simply because they are Israeli. Their kids, on the other hand, don’t want to be Israelis or immigrants. They want to assimilate into American culture.”

 

Israeli-Americans aren’t sitting on suitcases, Milstein argues. They’re actually sitting on time bombs. “We are trying to reach out to Israelis and embrace them and bring them back to Jewish life, Jewish education and the Jewish people. Otherwise they might be lost completely.”

Integration, Unity, and Open-mindedness

The Israeli-American Council, which Milstein helped to found in 2007, serves as an umbrella organization for many pro-Israel and Jewish groups. This year, Milstein became Chairman of the National IAC Board. It has a twofold mission: to build a thriving Israeli-American community and to merge with an American Jewish community focused on Jewish life and a connection to Israel.

 

Part of uniting the Jewish community around Israel means working with multiple organizations that have never coordinated activities before. “Adam is strategic and he has become a tremendous role model for other philanthropists to follow,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. “He is not only generous and makes good work possible, he is a good listener who recognizes the strengths of each organization and helps bring organizations together for the greater good of Israel and the Jewish people.”

 

The IAC started in Los Angeles, which has an Israeli-American community consisting of an estimated 250,000 people. Through its popular Celebrate Israel festivals, on-campus activism, and networking events for young professionals, the IAC has branched out into several cities across the United States.

 

Milstein explains IAC’s success by crediting its willingness to work with many different pro-Israel organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish. “We don’t care whether it’s the American Jewish community or whether it’s AIPAC or whether it’s Zionists of America,” he says. “Just get active in the political circle. Get active in charity. Make your voice heard.”

From Yordim to Ambassadors

adam-milstein-speakingMilstein’s inclusive approach has deeper psychological roots. For many years, Jewish people who moved to Israel were praised as members of the aliyah, or the ascent. Jewish people leaving America, like the Milsteins and other Israeli-American community members, were said to be the yerida, or the descent. Some Israelis have used the pejorative term yordim to describe their countrymen who went into the Diaspora.

 

Sentiment has changed, however, as Israelis in the Homeland realize the vital role their counterparts play in galvanizing international support for Israel. Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has publicly called Israelis living in the Diaspora “ambassadors,” a title that Milstein gladly embraces. “We have always told everyone around that we are a strategic asset for the state of Israel,” Adam Milstein says of his fellow Israeli-Americans. “Now, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that we indeed are ambassadors for the state of Israel in the United States.”

 

Milstein understands that his mission has a limited time to succeed.

 

He hopes that by building connections between many pro-Israel organizations, Israeli-Americans will shape the future of Jewishness in America. “We will not exist as Israeli-Americans 20 or 30 years from now,” Milstein admits. “But the Jewish people of America will be by us, and will not be the Jewish-Americans that you have today.”

3. Take the Long-Term Approach

When it comes to protecting the future of Israel and strengthening the Jewish people, Adam Milstein knows it’s foolish to rely on miracles.

 

Again, he turns to the Talmud for instruction. “Who is wise?” he quotes. “The person who sees the future outcome of his present decisions.”

 

Whereas Israeli-Americans and American Jews don’t always unite within the synagogue, the Milsteins believe they can unite around Jewish day schools and around the Hebrew language. Long before they funded the IAC, the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation launched the Sifriyat Pijama B’America program, which puts Hebrew bedtime stories in the hands of Jewish children.

 

Sifriyat is the embodiment of Adam and Gila’s long-term approach. They hope that igniting a passion for Jewish thinking and Jewish stories in Israeli-American children will stir similar longings in their parents. “We hope that once they read the books to their children, it will create an appetite for more Jewish life,” Adam Milstein says. “What we are truly seeking to do is to build communities with Jewish day schools as their focal point and help Israeli-Americans—especially those who are unaffiliated with Jewish institutions—to connect with Jewish life and Jewish education.”

Sending Students to Israel

Continuing his methodical approach to business and life, Adam Milstein builds support for Israel one person—and one trip—at a time. He works for this cause with the same tenacity he used to build his real estate career.

 

He knows many Israeli-American children visit Israel to spend time with families, but they rarely learn much about the country itself. ““They don’t know the land of Israel,” says Milstein. “They know the house of their grandma; they know the beach in Netanya.”

 

One of the most effective ways to teach Israeli-American young adults about Israel is to give them an in-depth, full-fledged journey to the Homeland. Taglit-Birthright Israel, an organization supported by the Milstein Family Foundation, sends 18 to 26-year-olds with at least one Israeli parent on a 10-day all-expenses-paid journey to Israel.

 

birthright-participantsSo far, Taglit Birthright-Israel has sent over 500,000 Jewish young adults to the Homeland. It also provides niche trips for medical students, Israeli-Americans identifying as LGBT, and young adults with special needs. According to research from Brandeis University, students who participate in a Taglit journey are more likely to donate money to pro-Jewish causes. They’re also more likely to become involved in Jewish groups on campus and to report stronger connections to Israel and to the Jewish community.

 

Adam and Gila know that sending Israeli-Americans and American Jewish students to Israel isn’t enough. They also support AIPAC’s Campus Allies program, which sends non-Jewish student leaders to Israel. Many students who participate in Campus Allies go on to study in prestigious graduate schools, like Georgetown University. They also build important political connections that shape their careers.

 

One Campus Allies alumnus, Caroline Wren, leveraged the knowledge she gained about Israel to land a job on Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign. She later became a staffer for Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal Israel supporter.

 

“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,” Wren shared in a blog post. “Seeing Israel firsthand made it clear to me that without peace in Israel, we can never have peace here at home.”

 

Milstein equates the long-term approach to shaping the future of American Jewish identity with the long-term thinking that helped him succeed in business. “The mistake that many people, young and old, make is that they calculate their achievements, money-making, and net worth on a daily basis,” he said in a speech to the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. “We are forbidden from relying on miracles. God gave us a brain and the ability to think, plan, and execute. We are obligated to use our natural abilities to succeed in life.”

 

In addition to donating a large portion of their income to charity, he and Gila devote 80 percent of their time to philanthropy. “We feel that our involvement is effective because we dedicate both time and money to our success.”

 

Nothing increases the probability of success more, Milstein says, than the determination to work hard. “Act first; talk later,” he says when asked about his approach to philanthropy. “We are always looking for bold new ideas. We test the concept with initial seed funding, and if it proves successful, work with the organization to help them scale it up.”

4. Understand the Value of Partnership

The Talmud teaches that a person should acquire two things in life: a teacher and a friend. Adam Milstein is fortunate to have found true partnership, both in business and in his personal life.

 

When he’d just graduated from the University of Southern California, Milstein started work as a commercial real estate agent. He approached Israeli investor David Hager about selling real estate for him, and the two purchased their first property together a year-and-a-half later.

 

David was the visionary, Milstein told Alpha Epsilon Pi. He made big picture plans, and he was an excellent negotiator. Adam handled the details and executed the plans, making sure everything happened without a hitch. The two of them continued purchasing commercial real estate, eventually accumulating a portfolio valued at over $1 billion. The greatest value Milstein received from David Hager’s business partnership wasn’t monetary; Hager taught him about the importance of philanthropy.

 

Hager, a modern Orthodox Jew, taught Milstein about the concept of ma’aser, or tithing, which involves giving 10 percent of one’s income to charity. In a sense, Hager was both teacher and friend, for it was in charitable giving and philanthropy that Adam Milstein found his life’s purpose. “We are placed here for a limited amount of time,” Milstein says. “I believe we are put here to improve and to leave the world in a better condition than we have found it.”

 

Hager taught him that whatever he gave to charity, God gave back 10 times more. “Whatever you give, you get more,” he says. “Not necessarily 10 times more, but you just get more.”

 

The key to partnership in any undertaking, Milstein says, is to be willing to give more than you ever get back. You should also acquire a friend who complements your strengths and balances your weaknesses.

 

No one is more of a complement to Adam Milstein than his wife Gila, who has been with him since his IDF days. “Gila is the spiritual leader of our family,” he says, “while I’m the analytical and business mind.”

5. Put Money in Its Place

“Who is rich?” Ben Zoma asks in the Talmud. “The one who is happy with what he has.” For the Milsteins, building a prosperous investment portfolio was only the beginning of fulfilling their purpose.

 

“To accumulate wealth just for the purpose of having more and more and more of it is meaningless,” Adam says bluntly. “We accumulate wealth in order to reach financial independence. Once we are there, and the rat race is behind us, it’s time for us to do the thing we feel it’s right to do.”

 

The right thing to do, in Adam Milstein’s mind, is to use his means, his knowledge, his experience, and his conduct for the betterment of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Instead of sitting on his suitcase, like so many of his generation, he’s chosen to be proactive in defending his homeland.

 

“They come to America to make a good living,” Milstein said of those who came to America in the yerida. “They’re living well, but they’re not involved in politics, not involved in charity.” Most of all, they’re isolated from Jewish life in America. “They’re not part of a community.”

 

One way the Milsteins work to bind young Israeli-American professionals into a cohesive community is by supporting Dor Chadash, a professional networking group for Jewish professionals ages 18 to 40. IAC also hosts salons in Los Angeles for young professionals, introducing them to Israeli business and tech pioneers, such as those from the IDF’s 8200 Alumni Association.

 

They also support pro-Israel student groups on university campuses, including Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Hasbara Fellowships, and the IAC’s student leadership group, Mishelanu. For even younger students, the Milsteins support the Friends of Israel Scouts and Hebrew sleepaway camps for kids.

 

The IAC is also building a social networking platform for Israelis in America and a hotline dedicated to Israelis in need. “Making money should not be our ultimate goal, but just a vehicle enabling us to do the things we aspire to do,” he says.

Securing the Future

Despite his humble perspective on wealth, no one is more practical about fundraising than Adam Milstein. He understands that many Jewish organizations worry about cannibalizing one another’s donations, which keeps many of them from working together on common causes.

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To keep Jewish organizations from facing any shortage of funds, Milstein has quietly built partnerships with both American Jewish and Israeli-American billionaires and philanthropists, including Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and Haim Saban. The Adelsons and Saban had made significant contributions to the IAC, enabling it to expand its footprint and influence far beyond Los Angeles. Last winter, the IAC held its first big conference in Washington, D.C., hosting speakers like Sen. Graham and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.).

 

Sen. Lieberman told the told the crowd that Israel was living in both the best of times and the worst of times, just like the French in “A Tale of Two Cities. “Best of times? We have Israel and we have America, and we have our freedom. The worst of times? Iran’s nuclear program, violent Islamic extremism,” Lieberman explained. He continued: “Unfair media coverage…most evident during the Gaza war in the summer. The reemergence of anti-Semitism…and anti-Zionism, and an unacceptable deterioration in the relations between the U.S. and Israeli governments.

 

“As Israeli-Americans, a relatively new organized community, you must not be shy about petitioning your government, and taking advantage of your full rights as American citizens,” Lieberman encouraged them. He concluded by extolling the Israeli crowd with a little Yiddish, challenging them to “show some chutzpah.”

 

The conference also welcomed speakers from Israel, including Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor. “We are dealing with sustained effort at de-legitimization and incitement against Israel. The constant repetition of lies upon lies, take on a life of their own and eventually become conventional wisdom for the uninformed,” Prosor told the crowd.

 

“That is their strategy. We need to combat that with a strategy of our own. We need to go on offense to offensive, and ultimately defeat this phenomenon.”

 

Adam Milstein concurs. “We care, and we are willing to go on the offense,” he says of his community. “Not too many Jews are willing to do so.”

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Unbreakable and Unbroken

In Israel, former IDF active members continue working as reservists, participating in what the soldiers call miluim. They assist during natural disasters or in significant military operations even after completing their mandatory service. Every year, reservists trade their civilian clothes for combat boots, attending 20 to 30 days worth of training. Israel has more reservists waiting for a call to service than active military completing compulsory service.

 

Milstein argues that Israeli-Americans skipping their miluim in Israel can still complete it in America—by advocating for the Homeland, giving time and money to charity, and getting politically involved on behalf of Israel. He encourages them to follow the American Jewish model of building voluntary, self-funded communities. “This is your miluim service,” he told a group at AIPAC, dismissing the notion that Israeli-Americans paid their dues in the IDF. Advocating for the Homeland in America, he told them, was as important as serving in the reserves.

 

For their part, the Milsteins have mobilized an entire generation of Israeli-Americans, American Jews, and their allies to become active and vocal supporters of Israel.

 

In the Milsteins’ minds, financial success and philanthropy don’t make them superior or different from other people. In their minds, their work is just part of “doing Jewish.”

 

“It’s not about feeling Jewish, being born Jewish, or being Jewish,” Milstein concludes. “It’s about doing Jewish.” It’s also about championing the state of Israel, both in America and half a world away.