‘FORCE FOR GOOD’: Educate Israeli-Americans on Zionism, Miriam Adelson says

The Jewish billionaire philanthropist stressed how the future could be won for the next generation of American Jews of Israeli origin at the Israeli-American Council conference.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Education is the key for Israeli Americans to remain Zionistic and keep support for Israel strong in the United States, billionaire philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson told the Israeli-American Council (IAC) conference Friday.

“Educate the second-generation of Israeli Americans on Zionism, loyalty, fighting for our future,” she said to some 3,000 attendees from the United States and Israel, including officials of both countries.

Referring to her late husband, who passed away in January, she said, “Sheldon loved to say: Fight for what you believe in even if you fight alone. We are a force for good, we will go from strength to strength, as Sheldon predicted.”

Adelson is continuing the philanthropical work that the pair had done together, supporting a huge range of Israeli and Jewish causes, including being key backers of Taglit-Birthright, which has brought hundreds of thousands of American Jews to Israel for the first time on ten-day free trips.

The Israeli-American Council is in large part funded by the family, who see it as a body that can turn Israel into a matter of consensus for American Jewry, regardless of their religious or political orientation.

“When we band together and defend Israel without apology and without hesitation and convince Americans like us to follow in our footsteps, there’s no stopping us,” she told the crowd. “The Israeli-Americans are not just people with two citizenships. We are greater than the sum of our parts because we exemplify the close relationship between two great nations.”

There is no question that more work needs to be done to achieve their goals, especially now, she added.

“Unity among Jewish Americans” is necessary, as is bringing Israel “closer to its greatest ally [the United States] at a time when some on the fringes try to drive a wedge between them.”

According to speaker Brandeis Professor of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna, Israeli Americans make up some 10% of the Jewish population in the United States, and another tenth are Israelis of Russian origin. Agreeing with Adelson, he said their future as Jews and Israel supporters is in their own hands.

“If you send your children to public schools and they become ashamed of their Israeli roots, it will lead to a not very bright future,” he warned. “On the other hand, if you make them ambassadors of Israel, and interact with the American Jewish community, that’s already a different story.”

Hebrew media outlet Makor Rishon reported Sunday that an internal poll that took place during the IAC conference revealed that more than a third of Israeli-Americans are “sure” they will not return to live in Israel, while about 20% are on the fence on the issue. This makes this population a significant part of the second largest Jewish community in the world, whose actions can directly affect the community’s direction both socially and politically in the near and not-so-near future.

The conference is the largest in-person Jewish event since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic nearly two years ago. Israeli cabinet members Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, all spoke, as did Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.

One congressman also addressed the audience, Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York. Businesspeople, philanthropists, journalists including the editors-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, and mostly Jewish cultural figures also took part in or mediated many sessions over the two-day event.