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Ascending Israeli-American group seeks to be the ‘glue,’ not the ‘wedge,’ for US Jewry

As Jewish communal organizations throughout the U.S. struggle to maintain membership levels and hefty annual budgets, a rapidly growing group with the energy of a well-funded Israeli start-up is challenging the Jewish communal world and its relationship to the state of Israel.

Earlier this month, the Israeli-American Council (IAC) hosted its fourth annual national conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center—the D.C. venue known well to many pro-Israel Jewish and Christian advocates for hosting the larger annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conferences. While IAC’s 2,700 participants are dwarfed by the numbers that attend the AIPAC and CUFI gatherings, it is IAC’s rapid growth that has major Jewish organizations and philanthropists, as well as the Israeli government, taking notice.

IAC caters to the nearly 1-million-strong population of Israelis that have emigrated to the U.S.—many of them in the 1990s. It is a population that came to America primarily seeking financial opportunities, but like many immigrant communities, the majority of Israelis living in the U.S. never stopped speaking their native language, Hebrew, and never stopped loving their mother country.

For the Israeli-born co-founder and chairman of IAC, Adam Milstein, the organization seeks to take advantage of the best qualities that Israelis have to offer, and use them to strengthen the Israeli-American relationship.

“The focus of this organization and this convention is about the identity of the Israeli community living in the United States. Most of the lectures are about our identity, what is unique about us, all the benefits we are giving to the American people, to the American economy,” Milstein told JNS.org.

Regarding IAC’s rapid growth, Milstein said, “I think we have two secrets. One is our character, our ‘Israeliness,’ which means that we are very similar to the character of the people in Israel.  We have the same culture, we have the same language. We are proud Jews. We have special values of family and friendship, and we are willing to stand up for each other.”

“The second thing that is unique about us is our love for the state of Israel,” said Milstein. “We are not only accepting Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, but we view Israel as the source of our history, the source of our culture and the source of our strength. And we accept and support Israel without any preconditions.”

During the past several years, members of the American Jewish community have become increasingly critical of Israeli policies. This past year, U.S. Jewry has taken issue with Israeli social and domestic policies as they relate to issues of religious observance.

In particular, the Israeli government’s insistence on only officially recognizing conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis, and the government’s unwillingness to change the access point to an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall plaza, have recently become wedge issues for many Jewish Americans.

The American Jewish community may well be at a crossroads with the state of Israel, and detractors of Israeli policies in America—including Jewish communal leaders and clergy—tend to be vocal with their criticism. The growing rift is an issue that both the state of Israel and the U.S. Jewish communal structure are struggling to solve.

“It is very important to understand. Any organization that is taking Israel, and instead of making Israel the glue is making it the wedge, they are losing everything. Basically, they are making us fight each other, and weakening the Jewish community. By doing that, they are actually increasing anti-Semitism,” Milstein said.

Referring to the open dialogue, where many Jewish organizations suggest that criticizing Israel is actually a form of support, Milstein contends, “Once you allow Israeli detractors into your big tent or into your small tent, it’s over.”

“What we believe as an organization is exactly the antidote,” Milstein counters. “What we believe is that Israel is in our heart. Israel is not perfect, and nobody claims that it is, but we support the state of Israel officially. We encourage, we cherish the state of Israel, and we believe the source of power of the Jewish people is the state of Israel.”

Due to this unflinching support, the IAC has been surprised to see growth also come from Jewish Americans who were not born in Israel.

“We are able now to attract a lot of Jewish Americans,” said Milstein. “We are the pro-Israel family community in the United States. We welcome anyone who is pro-Israel into our home.”

The American Jewish community has seen stagnating growth, and rampant assimilation, while the Israeli Jewish community is growing rapidly due to low intermarriage rates, exceptionally high birthrates and immigration from Jewish communities around the world—which outpaces the emigration that has made the IAC possible.

Now, just 70 years after the creation of the fledgling state of Israel, there are two Jewish strongholds with similar populations. It is a historical moment that neither the Israeli nor American Jewish communities anticipated coming so quickly, and it has arrived with some tension. Israel’s government has had a difficult time of late explaining and bridging the growing gaps between American and Israeli Jewry.

Sam Grundwerg, Israel’s consul general to Los Angeles, told JNS.org that the IAC is “ensuring that the Israel-American alliance will continue to thrive.”

Grundwerg was a participant on a panel at the IAC conference specifically geared toward bridging the gaps between Jews in Israel and the diaspora. A week later, the consulate co-hosted an event with IAC, featuring an address by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Noting that the IAC “provides important programs” and “keeps the community connected with Israel,” Grundwerg said that the organization “is extremely instrumental to the Israeli-American community nationwide.”

Yet IAC is also pushing its members to participate in the existing Jewish communal structure, in the hopes that the “Israeliness” of IAC participants will positively impact their American-born neighbors.

“We encourage our members to get involved in the federations, in the JCCs, in the schools, in national organizations,” Milstein said. “We have people that are on the board of their federations, we have people that are on the board of Birthright. We definitely encourage synergy in Jewish life and Jewish institutions, with us and with everybody else.”

At the annual conference’s opening plenary, IAC co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet told the audience, “I see the power of Israeliness all over the United States of America and in everything the IAC does. We came all the way to DC not to discuss gaps, but to go back to the basics of togetherness. We are here to demonstrate what one family looks like, which transcends religious denomination, political affiliation, and nationality.”

Milstein said of the conference’s growing participation, “You can see the warmth.  Everyone you meet here, they hug you, they say, ‘It’s so great to be here.’ You don’t see this type of excitement and electricity from the Jewish American community.”

Original article in JNS

A Dangerous Deceit

It seems that anti-Semitic views are increasingly being accepted in mainstream American political discourse.

Anti-Semitism can currently be found among three different groups, two of which recently joined forces. The first is the radical Right, which almost everyone recognizes and denounces. Rooted in traditional Christian anti-Semitism, its legacy stretches from the Spanish Inquisition through the Nazis to the Ku Klux Klan.

The second is radical Islam, which has harbored anti-Semitic beliefs as part of its traditional hatred of infidels, in particular, the Jews, for thousands of years. This hatred took on greater significance with Israel’s founding and as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Finally, modern anti-Semitism can be found among members of the radical Left, which sees Israel as a symbol of American and Western imperialism, aggressive military rule and the violation of human rights.

We do not give adequate attention to the developing alliance between the radical Left and radical Islam – two groups that, despite their seemingly incompatible worldviews, collaborate against Israel and the Jews. This strange alliance can be explained by the theory of intersectionality adopted by many in the far Left. According to this theory, groups that consider themselves neglected and discriminated against must come together to fight against each of those groups’ supposed enemies.

Those who represent radical Islam have succeeded in tying their hatred of Israel to the theory of intersectionality and as a result, have brought anti-Semitic ideas into mainstream discourse.  They present this hatred as concern for Palestinian rights as they depict Israel as a scourge of humanity that must be fought by all those who favor progress. These people are succeeding in their efforts to depict Israeli Jews as white despots, despite the fact that the majority of Israeli Jews did not come from Europe. They see Muslims, and Palestinians in particular, as neglected and oppressed.

The alliance between the radical Left and radical Islam is especially destructive in that it presents those on the Left with a clear choice: Support Israel and be excluded from leftist circles and human rights organizations, or join the anti-Semitic anti-Israel campaign. Is it any wonder, then, that a majority of young American Jews are turning against Israel?

Radical Islamists and radical leftists have succeeded in creating an alternative reality, in which Jews have no right to self-determination and Israel is the world’s greatest violator of human rights.

In most cases, behind the hatred of Israel lies an anti-Semitic ideology in disguise. We must remove anti-Semitism from mainstream discourse and push it back into the shadows.  We must also show people that radical Islam is the enemy, not just of Israel, but of the United States, the West and the radical Left that has adopted it.

Adam Milstein is chairman of the board of the Israeli-American Council.

Originally published in Israel Hayom

Understanding the unlikely radical alliances spreading antisemitism today

Radical Muslims are focused on destroying and delegitimizing Israel – the historic homeland of the Jewish People — and they fan the flames of antisemitism wherever they can.

Vicious antisemitism has long been present on the radical Right. It has been growing also on the radical Left. And it’s a cornerstone of radical Muslim movements. Although these three sources of antisemitism in our world today come from very different traditions, they are increasingly sharing ideas and tactics, reinforcing a wave of hate, bigotry, and racism.

In recent years, North America has joined Europe to witness a growing alliance between radical Muslims and radical leftists. Radical Muslims stone women, execute gays, trample on minority and human rights and abhor feminism. On paper, the far Left should be appalled by this ideology, but these unlikely allies happily cast aside their differences because they share a common hatred for Western influence in the world, pluralistic nationalism, freedom of speech, tolerance, and vile antisemitism.

How does the radical Left turn a blind eye to radical Islam’s very bigoted ideas, such as its treatment of women and minorities? How can it ignore radical Muslims’ conviction as to the superiority of Islamic morals and culture? It infantilizes Muslims and portrays Islam as a monolithic block. In doing so, it fails to distinguish between mainstream Muslims and radicals, and tokenizes them as a “people oppressed by the West.”

In the radical Left’s warped and ahistorical worldview, Israel is a colonialist oppressor targeting Muslims and – straight from the Elders of Zion itself – Jews are an all-powerful group who are at fault for every problem in the Middle East and in the world.

This alliance is typified by political activist Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, who is now hailed on the Left as a feminist leader, despite her admiration for the vile misogyny of Sharia law. She called a Jewish journalist a member of the antisemitic alt-right. She opened her “jihad against Trump” speech by thanking Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She has praised Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. Yet, she is held up as a role model for women on the Left.

And this alliance is growing. Last month, leftist students at Tufts University published a “Disorientation Guide,” which attacked the university’s Hillel and called Israel a “white supremacist” state. It exposed the depth of antisemitism among leftists on college campuses and demonstrated how these groups use the same rhetoric as radical Muslim groups that call Israel a colonial occupier. One of the guide’s writers claimed this was not antisemitic because she was Jewish.

A similar guide at New York University myopically condemns Israel, referencing the country 55 times – more than the number of references to “Trump,” “alt-right,” “racism,” “fascism,” “white supremacy” and “socialism” combined.

Two recent rally events in Chicago further illustrate this trend: one, the Chicago Dyke March earlier this year – an event created to celebrate the LGBT community – expelled three people for having Stars of David on their pride flags, combining two symbols central to their identity. A few months later, at the Chicago SlutWalk – an event intended to oppose sexual assault – Zionists who marched were derided for trying to participate and condemned by organizers. The organizers then encouraged the walkers to attend a speech by Rasmea Odeh – a Palestinian terrorist convicted of killing two Jewish students, still believes her actions were justified and who was recently deported from the US.

This strange allegiance between Islamic radicals and radical leftists was famously on display during the Iranian revolution of the late Seventies – where the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the moderate shah with the support of leftists and Islamists, and in turn was quick to empower the radical Muslims and decimate the radical Left.

The 3,000-old Jewish population of Iran, some 100,000 Jews, could sense the inherent antisemitism of the radical leftists and their hatred of the West, before and during the Iranian revolution and emigrated in large numbers as fast as they could – mostly to the US and Israel.

Just as the far Left has a history of vilifying the nation-state of the Jewish People (and the Jews who support it), the Right has colluded with radical Muslims to spread its pure hatred of Jews and the desire to brutally subjugate – or murder – the Jewish People.

Radical Islamic nationalists also have a history of collaborating with the Right when they can – the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem told Adolf Hitler that Germans and Arabs have the same enemies – “the English, the Jews, and the Communists” – and the prime minister of Iraq initiated the Farhud, a horrific pogrom, under Nazi influence and allegiance. Today, the rhetoric of neo-Nazis is rife with conspiracy theories and centuries-old stereotypes about blood libel, and echoes the rhetoric of radical Islamist terrorists – and even radical Muslims.

What’s most concerning about the rise of antisemitism is how the ideology has entered the mainstream.

For instance, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently campaigned for UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has worked closely with antisemitic conspiracy theorist Paul Eisen, author of a blog titled “My Life as a Holocaust Denier.” Sanders wouldn’t campaign for a socialist who was a sexist, a racist, a homophobe, or Islamophobe, but he was willing to campaign for an antisemite because leftist organizations encourage antisemitism.

Radical Muslims are focused on destroying and delegitimizing Israel – the historic homeland of the Jewish People — and they fan the flames of antisemitism wherever they can to reach that goal – whether among those working to stop racism in present-day America or working to grab power in 1940s Iraq, or boycotting Israel through the BDS movement. By allying with the radical Left, they are building a coalition that seeks to destroy Western values of freedom, democracy, and tolerance – the foundational principles of America and of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

The growth of this alliance and the mainstreaming of antisemitic leftism – especially on college campuses – threatens not only our way of life in America but the future of the Jewish People around the world.

The author 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.

Originally published to the Jerusalem Post.

Here’s how to fix the Jewish community

Today, the collective strength of the Jewish people may be greater than at any other time in our history. We have an independent Jewish state with a booming economy and one of the world’s most powerful militaries. The American Jewish community has reached the heights of success in politics, business, arts and culture, and science, becoming perhaps the most influential Jewish diaspora community in history.

Yet, despite our strength, the challenges facing global Jewry are growing and multifaceted—in some cases posing an existential danger to our future as a people. Anti-Semitism is rapidly rising on the right and the left. Assimilation and intermarriage threaten to dramatically shrink the global Jewish population in the diaspora. The now infamous Pew Study, titled “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” found that approximately two-thirds of American Jewish millennials do not feel a strong connection to Israel, and a recent Brandeis University found that fewer than half of Jewish college students could correctly answer even the most basic questions about Israel. The American Jewish community and Israel—the two great centers of global Jewish life—face an increasingly complex and in some cases, strained relationship.

In the last decade, a new force has come roaring into the Jewish world that has shown the potential to be a game-changer in advancing solutions to each of these challenges: the Israeli-American community. As an American organization rooted in a profound and rich connection to Israel, the Israeli-American Council (IAC) is able to unlock many of the doors that separate Jewish Americans from their connection to Israel, through a multifaceted and rich concept we call “Israeliness.”

Israeliness incorporates many elements. It’s Israeli culture, Jewish values, and Hebrew, the language of our religion for thousands of years. It’s tremendous pride in Jewish tradition, our history, and Israel’s ability to overcome overwhelming odds—from wars and political conflicts, to a lack of wealth and natural resources. It’s the courage to take risks, learn from failures, and move on to success. It’s a deep belief in Zionism. And it’s a commitment to the idea “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh,” “All the people of Israel are responsible for one another.” Sharing our rich tradition with the next generation will further help them connect to Israel.

How can Israeli-Americans and the broader idea of Israeliness be leveraged to advance solutions for the Jewish people? This is the question that Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Jewish Journal/Tribe Media President David Suissa, and I will discuss at an upcoming panel on Sept. 6.

There are at least three ways that Israeli-Americans and Israeliness can be—and already are—game-changers.

First, Israeli-Americans can be leveraged as a bridge—both within the American Jewish community and between Israel and the American Jewish Community. The fact that we speak both “Israeli” and “American” has positioned us as a translator and facilitator of dialogue between the two communities. A prime example of this is the IAC National conference in Washington, D.C., an event where top civic, political, and business leaders from both countries come together every year.

Too many within the Jewish community take news media about Israel at face value— internalizing the negative stereotypes about our homeland and the Israeli people—which often leads to an inability to see the necessity of a Jewish state. Israelis then react to Jewish Americans’ disregard in a typically Israeli way: declaring that they do not need Jewish Americans and stubbornly refusing to engage in a gentler, American-style discourse. Israeli-Americans can bridge the gap.

Second, Israeliness can be used as a tool for the crucial task of engaging the next generation. Israeliness opens up a whole new world for young American Jews, many of whom have been conditioned to believe that Jewish identity must be centered on attending Jewish schools and synagogues. In discovering the people and culture of their homeland, young Jews are able to discover a piece of themselves.

The great success of many programs, such as Masa Israel, Gap Year, and in particular, Birthright—with its half a million alumni—illustrate how visiting, exploring and experiencing the people Israel makes a transformative difference in their lives. The best possible follow-up for these programs is to help their alumni reconnect with Israeliness through integration with the Israeli-American community.

Furthermore, Israel’s success is rooted in the young country’s willingness to take risks—in an understanding that failure is nothing shameful, but merely an opportunity to learn and move on to your next success. Being able to bounce back after failures is a crucial skill for young people to develop to handle life’s many challenges. The next generation can learn much from Israeliness.

Third, Israeli-Americans and Israeliness can be a powerful tool in fighting anti-Semitism and the BDS Movement. Israeli-Americans defend Israel by drawing on personal experience. Moreover, Israeliness means being proud to be who we are—and having the courage to stand up for what we believe in. We must communicate to the next generation that tremendous pride and willingness to stand up, speak out, and when necessary, fight back to protect ourselves when our faith, our values, and our homeland are under attack.

The challenges facing the Jewish community are complex. Israeliness is a secret sauce that can help ensure that our people will not only survive but continue to thrive.

Adam Milstein is the Chairman of the Israeli-American Council, a real estate entrepreneur, and the president of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation. 

On Sept. 6, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, David Suissa, and Adam Milstein will discuss the untapped potential of Israeliness on September 6, 2017 at 7:00pm at the IAC. This event is free for IAC Supporters and those registered to attend the IAC National Conference. The general public can buy pre-sale tickets for $10 at israeliamerican.org/israeliness, or pay $15 at the door.

Original article posted in the Jewish Journal

The Fight Against the New Anti-Semitism

The 20th century began with a series of pogroms targeting Jews that swept across Eastern Europe and Latin America, the most infamous of which was in Kishinev, Russia. A poisonous anti-Jewish campaign culminated on Easter 1903, as gangs of men, 10 to 20 apiece, stormed through the Jewish areas of the city armed with hatchets and knives. They went block to block and house to house, slaughtering every Jew and raping every woman in sight. Over the next two days they wrought a path of destruction that would be heard around the world, with 49 Jews murdered, thousands wounded and untold number of rapes, and more than 1,500 homes damaged.

For some outside observers, the event was made even more disturbing by the passivity of thousands of Jewish men in the face of a relatively small group of peasants.

After traveling to Kishinev in the wake of the pogrom, the famous Hayim Nahman Bialik penned a poem, “The Slaughter,” lamenting the fact that the “Sons of Maccabees” were “concealed and cowering,” as their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and other family members were raped and killed.

What was the lesson that Bialik and others took from Kishinev? The Jewish People can’t rely on others to protect us. We must fight antisemitism head-on. This became a guiding philosophy of the Zionist Movement, which sought to fashion a “new Jew” that would be able to defend themselves in a self-governed Jewish homeland.

In the wake of the pogroms and the Holocaust, the majority of Jewish People settled in the United States and Israel. In Israel, Jews learned how to defend themselves and fight back with courage and determination. In 1948, against all odds, the Israeli people defeated six fully equipped Arab armies, and today the Jewish People have a state that can defend itself, and provide a shield of defense for Jews throughout the Diaspora.

During the same period, the Jews that immigrated to America became one of the country’s most affluent, influential and accomplished communities. Yet, with all the strength of the Jewish American community and the benefits of a strong and independent Jewish state, we have not been able to stop the growth of antisemitism in our time.

Today antisemites work to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish People and the State of Israel in the media, political institutions, academia, on college campuses and elsewhere, often bleeding from the court of public opinion to physical assaults on Jewish communities.

How can we apply the lessons of the past century for the fight against antisemitism today? Clearly, we must fight the disease head-on, and we must start by understanding who is behind it.

Antisemitism now has three distinct sources: We face antisemitism on the radical Right. This is the heir of traditional Christian antisemitism, rooted in our alleged killing of Jesus, with a legacy extends from the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

We face antisemitism from radical Islam – which draws on a tradition of hatred against the infidel, led by the Jews, stretching back centuries. Since the 19th century with Jews started immigrating to Israel, radical Islam has been determined to eradicate the State of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants, as they occupy a land that the Islamists believe belongs to the Islamic caliphate.

We face antisemitism on the radical Left – which sees Jews and Israel as emblematic of America and Western imperialism and despises us for it.

Too many in the Jewish community don’t recognize this reality. In particular, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the growing alliance between the radical Left and radical Islamists – two groups with seemingly incompatible worldviews.

This strange alliance is encompassed by a new theory called intersectionality – embraced by many on the Left – which calls for the unification of all groups facing discrimination, whether they are Native American, Latino, African-American, LGBT, Arab or Muslim.

Radical Islamists have been able to link their hatred toward Israel, presented as their genuine concern for the Palestinian cause, to the idea of intersectionality, painting Israel as an oppressor that all progressives must fight. In doing so, they work to spread the vilest antisemitic ideas into mainstream discourse.

College students and young professionals in many circles now face a clear choice: exclusion, or joining anti-Israel and antisemitic campaigns.

Working together, radical Islamists and radical leftists have successfully created an alternate reality in which Jews have no rights to self-determination, in which Israel is the greatest violator of human rights in the world, and in which people with extreme regressive views, like Linda Sarsour, are championed as progressive heroes.

Sarsour has a long running association with Muslim Brotherhood, publicly expressed her admiration for the Sharia of Saudi Arabia and for terrorists like Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and recently said that she wants to “take the vagina away” from female genital mutilation victim and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Despite these regressive views and statements, Sarsour is a darling among many who claim to hold progressive ideas.

History shows that antisemites gain power not only by creating more antisemites, but also by getting others to tolerate their ideology.

As extremists like Sarsour build a platform and gain broad acceptance in our communities, we have no choice but to fight them tooth and nail. We must expose the fundamental incongruence between radical Islamic ideas and the progressive movements that they are trying to hijack.

We must make clear that antisemitic ideology is now often masquerading in a more politically correct form of anti-Israel hatred. We must push antisemitism out of the mainstream and into the shadows where it belongs.

The lessons of Kishinev hang over our time. When given the choice to fight back or sit back, I pray that the Jews around the world will take heed of history – and have the courage and determination to act before it is too late.

The author 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.

Article originally featured in The Jerusalem Post

Three Secrets to Being an Effective Philanthropist

After decades of involvement with more than 100 non-profit organizations, I have learned that philanthropy is about much more than writing checks. In fact, I found that it is actually much harder to give away money as a philanthropist and obtain a high return on your investment than it was to make money as a real estate investor.

There are a range of practices that you must employ to ensure that your philanthropic investments are making an impact. Here are three principles I have learned over the years about being an effective philanthropist.

1. Philanthropic work is a lifetime labor of love

I am often asked what motivates me to work so hard at philanthropy. I always answer, “I don’t work at all.” Philanthropy should not feel like “work.” If you do what you love and love what you do, you’ll get satisfaction out of your charitable endeavors and feel motivated to do even more. Philanthropic work is a blessing, and the more involved you get, the more satisfied you feel.

Once you’ve decided where to focus your energy, stick with it. By developing a lifelong relationship as a donor, you grow with organizations and allow them to focus on the work they do best, instead of having to dedicate all their time and energy to fundraising.

2. Stay focused, but find synergies

With so many organizations doing great work all around the world, it’s easy to spread yourself thin. Instead of dedicating partial attention to many different causes, it’s important to identify the issues that you feel most passionate about and focus your attention there. Whether it is strengthening the State of Israel and/or cultivating your own local community, by picking few primary causes, successful philanthropists are able to develop an expertise that allows us to have an even greater impact on the organizations that we support.

Philanthropists shouldn’t feel as if they need to choose any one single organization to support and treat it like an exclusive “social club.” Effective nonprofits don’t compete with each other. You should look to help them develop synergies to amplify the impact and effect of their joint efforts beyond what any one organization could achieve on its own. By working with multiple like-minded organizations, such as the Israeli-American Council (IAC), AIPAC, StandWithUs, ACT.il and Taglit-Birthright, I have been able to see my time and money make an outsized impact as a result of cooperation between the organizations that I support.

3. Put your mouth where your money is

The best philanthropists do more than write a check and move on. They roll up their sleeves and contribute their time, talent, connections, and expertise to actively advance the non-profit’s mission.

This is called “active philanthropy”—and it is a philosophy that I embrace fully. At the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, this means our entire team lends time, energy, vision, and connections to each of our partner organizations. This also ties into finding synergies—bringing like-minded organizations together to create a force multiplier effect.

Philanthropy isn’t an exact science. Every organization is different; every cause is unique. By finding something you love, staying focused, and getting involved, you can make a bigger impact than you could ever imagine.

To view a moderated conversation with Adam Milstein on his philanthropic philosophy, watch the above video or click here.

Original article posted in The Huffington Post

Boots on America’s Campuses

Over the past several years, the harassment and intimidation that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) groups have brought to America’s college campuses have grown by leaps and bounds. For years, many worthy Jewish and pro-Israel organizations worked to counter this hate, but the problem has only seemed to grow worse.

At UCLA, a Jewish student was almost prevented from joining the student government’s Judicial Board following accusations that her Jewish identity meant she had dual loyalties. At Stanford, a young Jewish woman running for the Student Senate was subjected to a barrage of hostility due to her open support for Israel. At Harvard, Israel’s former foreign minister was derided as “smelly” by a student in a public lecture.

Incidents of physical assaults on AEPI Houses and Jewish students across campuses continue to increase.

On campus and off, we would hear about massive, nationally coordinated, well-funded and professionally organized anti-Israel hate groups staging events and demonstrations, which easily outmatched the small counter-protests organized by local pro-Israel activists.

While many praise the few activists who bravely stood up for Israel, no one seemed to ask why more courageous students didn’t show up to counter BDS.

The fact is that our pro-Israel students are often David against Goliath. The BDS groups are organized by professional agitators on campus – most often doctoral students who are paid to stay on campus for decades for the sole purpose of running anti-Israel campaigns and local Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters. They are supported by a national SJP organization with close to 200 chapters, and support organizations flooded with outside and international funds, such as Palestine Legal.

The problem has not been a lack of support for Israel in America. Pro-Israel conferences and events draw tens of thousands of attendees from all over the country, and millions of Americans are supportive of the State of Israel. Rather, it has been a lack of organizations with a national reach and a grassroots presence on campus with the courage, motivation, know-how, and boots on the ground to be effective.

Some of that changed five years ago, with the founding of a then-small group of pro-Israel student activists at the University of Minnesota: Students Supporting Israel (SSI). SSI was created organically by students who were sick and tired standing idly by as Israel was demonized on their campus. Some of the students were not Jewish, but they all shared unwavering support for the Jewish state and a unique courage to defend it.

Their plan was simple: create a grassroots group that could bring together all the supporters of Israel, of all races and religions, by connecting them on the most basic level with the pure idea of Zionism – that the Jewish People have the right to sovereignty and self-determination in their ancestral homeland.

An idea that – regardless of one’s political camp or cultural background – is hard to object to if not for bias and double standards.

And so, with a dedicated army of advocates, SSI began operating on the University of Minnesota campus. Members of the group became so involved with campus activism that from time to time, 10% of those in student government were also members of SSI. A major turning point came when, for the first time, the student government passed a pro-Israel resolution suggested by its members. This move was revolutionary in light of the many BDS bills that were being considered around the country, and in an environment where pro-Israel groups traditionally worked on reactive campaigns, rather than proactive ones.

Following that first groundbreaking resolution, SSI started adding more chapters across the country, replicating the Minnesota model for proactive grassroots work on campus. With its unapologetically pro-Israel message and committed members who proudly engaged in conversation and build coalitions outside their comfort zone, SSI rapidly grew to include nearly 20 chapters nationwide in only its second year of operation.

When SJP erected an apartheid wall at Columbia University, for example, SSI was there with a taller display right across the street. Returning the following year with its own new campaign, “Hebrew Liberation Week,” SSI completely took the attention from SJP.

Coming into existence during a time when the traditional pro-Israel camp often avoided pressing topics and opted instead to simply showcase Israel’s culture with some hummus and Israeli music, SSI brought forth programs about critical issues, including Jewish refugees from Arab lands, the significance of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and Israel’s fight against terrorism and its standing with the American people, just to name a few.

SSI celebrated its fifth anniversary this spring. The organization’s achievements are too numerous to list in one article but include hundreds of events, thousands of students reached two national conferences and nearly 50 active chapters nationwide. SSI has put together many programs that pushed the limit of what the pro-Israel camp felt comfortable doing before.

Perhaps most telling is the relative success (or lack thereof) of the BDS campaign on college campuses where an SSI group is present. In four of these situations – each at different universities – every proposed BDS bill was defeated in student government. Even more, all eight pro-Israel resolutions that were introduced by SSI activists at these institutions passed.

With bold messaging, national coordination, a clear vision, effective leadership and passionate activists, SSI in the past five years has emerged as the organization that puts boots on the ground – and the true special forces of pro-Israel leadership.

Original article featured on The Jerusalem Post

By: Adam Milstein

The author 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.

BDS is Continuing to Spread Hate and Anti-Semitism Across the U.S.

You can join the fight to stop it! Click here to help us fight BDS.

A vicious sickness known as anti-Semitism has infected people with hate across centuries, cultures, and continents — and Jewish communities have often paid the price for it. In the U.S., after decades of historic declines in anti-Semitic attitudes and incidents, the disease has come roaring back at an exponential rate over the last seven years. According to the ADL, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. grew by more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Nowhere has this rise in incidents been more pronounced than on America’s college campuses.

How do we explain this astronomical rise?

In no small part, it is the result of a systematic campaign to demonize the Jewish state using the same tactics that have long been used to demonize the Jewish people: the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS).

In my work as a pro-Israel activist and philanthropist, I’m often asked: is BDS really anti-Semitic? Does it really lead to an increase in anti-Semitism?

If you look at the evidence — and examine the roots, goals, and strategy of BDS — you see that the answer is an unequivocal yes!

Let’s start with the evidence, which shows that anti-Semitism spikes when BDS strikes. One recent report found that on 64 campuses with a large presence of BDS activists, 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred, compared to 198 occurrences that took place during the same time last year, reflecting a 45 percent increase.

The student governments at 10 of these schools took up anti-Israel divestment resolutions. Of these 10 schools, eight showed the largest increase in anti-Semitism from 2015 to 2016. BDS activity does not merely encourage, but also causes anti-Semitism: at 7 of the 9 schools in the 2015 study that considered or voted on divestment resolutions, there was a drastic decrease in anti-Semitic activity the following year, when no divestment resolution was considered.

Despite this evidence, for the past seven years, many in the Jewish-American community ignored or downplayed the threat of BDS. In opinion pages across the Jewish and Israeli press, you continue to find claims that BDS is not connected to anti-Semitism and arguments that BDS has been beaten or is fading away. When you take the time to learn about BDS and its expansion into mainstream America, you understand how dangerous it is and why we need to fight it.

This movement has roots in anti-Semitic boycotts that began long before Israel was even a country. From the Romans to the Nazis to the anti-Semitic leaders of the Soviet Union, organized boycotts of Jews have a long history. An official, organized boycott of the Jewish community in the area that is now Israel started as early as 1922, more than 25 years before the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948. An official boycott was adopted by the Arab League in December 1945, which became an official boycott against the country of Israel when it was founded three years later, with the goal of isolating the Jewish state from the international community.

Boycott policies have continued to this day, taking different forms over the years. While the strategy hasn’t changed, those behind these today’s anti-Israel boycotts have gotten much more sophisticated.

Over the past 15 years, BDS has effectively branded itself as a human rights movement, hiding its true intentions from the public and obscuring the role of the extremists, racists, terrorists, and radicals behind the Movement.

By 2006, BDS had developed a robust model of operating in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. They focused on a few areas where their movement can enjoy structural advantages, such as the judiciary, academia, churches, and trade unions. They formed alliances with social justice and minority groups, speaking out on totally unrelated issues — from prison reform to global warming — so that they could ingratiate themselves with these new allies and indoctrinate them with their lies about the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

The result? Anti-Israel hate that was once on the margins has entered the mainstream, becoming accepted as a legitimate voice in too much of our political discourse. If you want to see how broadly this hate has spread, take a look at this video shot just this month at UC Irvine, which has become a near-daily occurrence on our campuses.

How did this happen? The BDS playbook developed in the UK has been exported to the rest of Europe and to America, and its success here has followed like clockwork (I’ll speak more about this in my next op-ed).

Many in the American Jewish community ignored this threat when it first emerged. Some have even accepted BDS’ claims that it was simply a human rights movement and had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

Anyone who spends the time to dig a little deeper discovers the truth. BDS has made clear time and again that their goal isn’t to exert international pressure to change Israeli policies: it is to destroy Israel and demonize any that support it.

The maps that BDS groups publish of the region make clear that they seek Israel’s elimination, depicting a single Palestinian state that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, with no trace of the Jewish state. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has said publicly that he’s working for Israel’s “euthanasia.” Hatem Bazian — the other major co-founder of BDS in America — has called for an armed struggle, an “intifada,” against the United States and spouted anti-Semitic stereotypes from his pulpit as a lecturer at UC Berkeley.

Those who see BDS for what it is — a sophisticated hate movement committed to the destruction of the Jewish people — are the only ones equipped to defeat it. The time has come to put the delusions behind us, but we cannot be successful without courage, conviction, and unity. If you want to join me in this fight as a philanthropist or volunteer, CLICK HERE to fill out a sign-up form to tell us more about your background and motivation. We will connect you with organizations doing important work in this space, according to your talents and interests. We must stand up and fight BDS now — with all the tools and all the strength that our community can muster — before it’s too late.

Originally featured on Huffington Post and Times of Israel.

Adam Milstein listed on The Philanthropists & Social Entrepreneurs Top 200 List: The Most Influential Do-Gooders in the World

Via Richtopia

Whether you’re a would-be Philanthropist/Social-Entrepreneur or have spent decades being one. You could be worse-off than to read the short biographies of those who’ve been through the journey before.

So we’ve compiled a list of top Philanthropists and Social-Entrepreneurs. It’s a list of influential people at effectively having soft-power and being pro-active, particularly at being socially concerned.

Our Philanthropists and Social-Entrepreneurs list is an automatic algorithm based on social media influence, Klout scores and a secret recipe.

We take into account various metrics from Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Instagram. This list gets updated once a year. All entries are considered by our admins, and Richtopia reserves the right to accept or forbid people from the list as it deems fit. Please bear in mind we do not measure net-worth, but rather social-worth. This list is not about how rich these people are, but rather how influential they are.

Follow these Philanthropists and Social-Entrepreneurs to keep up with trends. You will also learn what resources they use to stay in the know.

Why Pride and Courage are the Keys to the Jewish People’s Future

Original article featured in The Jerusalem Post

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” This quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, has been a secret of the Jewish people for 5,000 years.

Through ups and downs, through unbelievable triumph and unimaginable persecution, Jewish men and women in each generation have found the courage and strength to continue our traditions, protect our values and keep our faith.

Alarm bells have been ringing in Jewish communities about rising antisemitism throughout the US and Europe.

In academia, radical left-wing organizations have launched a vicious campaign of intimidation, discrimination, and attacks against Jewish students, organizations and even professors who identify as pro-Israel.

On the radical Right, Jewish and pro-Israel journalists are targeted and harassed by neo-Nazis. In the international arena, Iran, with P5+1 approval, continues to develop the very nuclear weapons it has threatened to use to eradicate the State of Israel.

How should the Jewish people respond? First, we need to foster the sense of courage in our current and future generations of Jews that we have shown before and still possess.

Yet, building courage begins by instilling pride. The Jewish People have only had the courage to persevere because our predecessors were proud of our history, our heritage, our land, our values and our achievements. If you are proud of your Jewish identity and heritage, you will be willing to fight and defend it. We must empower our children with the perspective to go out and fight for their dreams and contribute solutions to the challenges facing Jews worldwide.

This is why our family foundation invests in Jewish leadership programs that bring the young generations together around Jewish “pride of ownership” and foster a deep connection to the State of Israel. Strong families, and strong educational, cultural and social communal institutions are critical for educating the next generation with pride and confidence.

We must teach our children to be proud of their Jewish heritage and the history of the Jewish People, who, despite our tiny numbers have been able to contribute extraordinary things to the world, such as monotheism, Judeo-Christian values, modern economic theory, the foundations of psychology, the theory of relativity and more modern inventions such as Google, Facebook, Waze, Checkpoint and Mobileye.

Although we are less than 0.2% of mankind, 22% of Nobel Prize laureates are Jews. Jews constitute 12% of the US Senate, three of the nine US Supreme Court Justices are Jewish as are a large percentage of leaders in arts, business, entertainment and many other fields.

We must teach our children to be proud of the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, which has not just survived but thrived in the face of constant threats. With no natural resources, Israel has become start-up nation, a high-tech hub, a global water technology powerhouse and a beacon of hope and innovation.

Israel is the living, breathing embodiment of courage. It is the homeland of a people who achieved miraculous military victories in 1948, 1967, 1973, launched the daring Entebbe operation that rescued Jewish hostages from terrorists in Uganda and oversaw Operation Solomon to airlift 14,500 Ethiopian Jews out of harm’s way to Israel.

It is the place where a brave and determined people formed a new identity, revived an ancient language, turned swampland into farmland, seawater into drinking water and built a thriving knowledge- based economy – against all odds.

Israel’s success is rooted in the young country’s willingness to take risks – in an understanding that failure is nothing shameful, but merely an opportunity to learn and move on to your next success.

With all the challenges Israelis face – wars, political conflicts, lack of wealth and natural resources – they respond with courage and tremendous pride in their history, heritage, culture and society.

It’s no wonder then, with such a strong sense of pride and courage, that Israelis are known to be some of the happiest people in the world – ranking extraordinarily high, year after year, in the annual World Happiness Report.

What can the history of the Jewish People and the Jewish state teach us? The most powerful antidote to antisemitism will come from within our own community. As pro-boycott and anti-Israel groups seek to intimidate supporters of Israel to remain silent – and drive a wedge between the State of Israel and the Jewish People – we must remember that pride and courage are the only productive response.

So, just as we instill the value of education and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), let’s also remember to take action to inspire courage and pride in our heritage, in our history, in our culture, in our land, and in our people.

We must communicate to the next generation that tremendous pride and willingness to stand up, speak out, and when necessary, fight back to protect ourselves when our faith, our values, and our homeland are under attack.

Nothing less than the future of the Jewish People is at stake.

The author 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.