Few cities encapsulate America quite as well as Los Angeles. Everything in LA is instant, indulgent, and ambitious. The city has a flair for the dramatic, and often life in LA can feel so self-centered that people fail to see beyond themselves. When people think about America, they often think about Hollywood, about bright city lights—about Los Angeles.
This kind of atmosphere is a far cry from Israel. And yet Los Angeles has the fifth largest population of Jewish people in the world. As a result, LA is home to many Jewish and pro-Israeli organizations and some of their most influential activists.
The Israeli-American Council (IAC)
The IAC was born as the Israeli Leadership Council in 2007 in order to establish and strengthen three pillars: the future generations of Israeli-Americans, the American Jewish community, and the State of Israel. It was co-founded by the Israeli-American philanthropist and activist Adam Milstein, who still sits as its chairman for national expansion today.
The IAC has over 50,000 members across the United States. It works to rally together Jewish Americans and educate the younger generation about their Israeli culture in order to strengthen the pride and support for Israel from everyone involved.
The IAC runs a number of programs, such as the Young Professionals program and the IAC Keshet—an enrichment program for Jewish-American children. They also founded the Celebrate Israel Festival, which takes place in 15 major cities across the United States. Every year, they host the IAC National Conference where prominent leaders, diplomats, and journalists gather together to discuss the Jewish and Israeli identity and support Israel in the conflict with Palestine.
Another group for which Adam Milstein is a board member is StandWithUs. This non-profit was founded in 2001 as a response to the deaths of Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran at the hands of terrorists. In the first meeting on May 21, the group addressed the fact that there seemed to be no organized voice to stand up for Israel in the West, particularly in the United States. So they decided to become that voice. Since then, the group has expanded to reach all over the world and spread support for Israel, although their home base is still in Los Angeles. StandWithUs believes in educating people about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and standing against antisemitism.
The Israel Group
Located in Valley Village, The Israel Group’s mission is as clear as their name: “protecting Israel in the diaspora.” With a legal task force assembled, they lobby to protect Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses. Their website provides information how people should stand up and protect Jewish and Israeli Americans.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
Adam Milstein’s influence shows again in the AIPAC. Much like the IAC, the AIPAC is dedicated to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel. AIPAC lobbies Congress to keep Israel protected and advocates for peace between Israel and its neighbors. They support a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Democrats for Israel
Often, Zionism is seen as a conservative cause with liberals tending to take a stance against it. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Support for Israel is a bipartisan cause and that’s what Democrats for Israel have recognized and attempted to convey to the rest of Los Angeles and the country as a whole. Democrats for Israel advocates for the Jewish people and Israel and tries to encourage other liberals to do the same. They also speak out against groups, both Democrat and Republican, who spread misinformation about the State of Israel. To rally support, they host social events like the Annual Garden Party Fundraiser, Hanukkah Party, and the California Democratic Convention Ice Cream Social.
Milstein Family Foundation
The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation was founded by Adam Milstein and his wife Gila, a fellow Israeli-American and a former IDF soldier. Their goal is to strengthen the State of Israel and strengthen its bonds with the United States. Through the Milstein Family Foundation, the Milsteins support a number of Israeli-American organizations like the IAC, StandWithUs, Hasbara Fellowships, and Israel on Campus Coalition.
As #IranProtests heat up, more than 29 women have been arrested over anti-hijab protests inspired by ‘girl of #Enghelab Street’ #WhereIsShe #IranFreedom https://t.co/4IRBknumxT pic.twitter.com/eswb2Z3lHO
— Adam Milstein (@AdamMilstein) February 2, 2018
They practice active philanthropy, offering material and social resources to support groups doing the most good and try to foster Jewish pride in the younger generation of Jewish Americans through to their adulthood. They also offer grants to pro-Israel foundations. Just this year, they started hosting the Milstein Meme Competition, using internet memes to shower Israel with support and call out antisemitism.
Los Angeles is a quintessentially American city, and as such, it is something of a melting pot. The Jewish Americans who live here make up a large part of its culture, adding their own ideas and traditions to the mix.
Adam and Gila are well known to have big hearts when it comes to helping pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish non-profits become established. Not only do Adam and Gila donate money to these causes through their foundation, they also roll up their own sleeves and go to work, providing time and resources to ensure the success of the causes they support.
The Donor Forum
Getting funding from a donor may take months or even years in the non-profit world. In order to help pro-Israel causes find funding in a more efficient manner, Adam Milstein has set up the Donor Forum. The Forum operates by allowing organizations pitch their cause over lunch during a short 15-minute presentation. This process accelerates the funding process significantly and allows the philanthropists to be personally involved with the leaders of the organizations they fund.
The members of the Donor Forum must be willing to give a minimum of $10,000 on an annual basis to the causes presented to them.
The organizations that are selected to pitch in front of the donors are pre-screened by a committee before they are allowed to present. This allows the philanthropists to know that the causes they choose to support are genuine and show promise.
From the non-profit organizations’ point of view, this idea is a real winner as well.
Instead of spending time figuring out whether they will receive funding from the donors they have pitched to, the organizations can get a quick judgment from the philanthropists in-person. This way, they can devote more time to the work they are doing.
The presenters at the Donor Forum vary widely in purpose and scope. One organization was the Reservists on Duty, whose purpose is to expose and fight against anti-Israeli propaganda and antisemitism on college campuses. Another presenter was JLens, a group focused on finding ways to encourage investment within the Jewish community, social justice, and environmental preservation.
It will be interesting to see if this method that Adam Milstein has developed with the Donor Forum will catch on and be replicated by others. Mr. Milstein has been a pioneer all his life, so it would not be the first time that others have followed his lead.