English-speaking immigrants to Israel have been president, prime minister and governor of the Bank of Israel, but they have never had an organization that succeeded in speaking on their behalf in one voice.
A new organization, Hadar, will aim to change that beginning Wednesday night with its inaugural conference at Jerusalem's Menachem Begin Heritage Center, entitled "1947-2009: Would the UN create Israel today?"
Former Jerusalem Post journalist Ruthie Blum Leibowitz will lead a discussion at the event with former foreign minister Moshe Arens, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, former UN ambassador Dore Gold, and the Foreign Ministry's former legal adviser, Alan Baker.
Hadar's founders hope the conference will be the first of many for the new grassroots organization, which aspires to develop leadership and volunteer opportunities for English-speakers in Israel. It plans to provide training, information, and assistance in order to increase Anglo participation in Israeli public affairs and maximize the community's influence in Israeli society.
"A huge number of people who were active in Jewish life in their countries of origin came to Israel to play a role and are still looking to do that," said the organization's acting chairman Bobby Brown, a former Diaspora affairs adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"We decided to create a framework for people to do good things to help the State of Israel and further the Zionist dream. Israel can use our dedication and skills."
Hadar director Shalom Helman said the organization would publish educational materials and reports in English, track key legislation in the Knesset, train leadership, hold conferences and initiate meetings with national leaders.
"We can be a player even though our numbers are not dominant," Helman said. "We have something to say, and if we focus ourselves, then we can have an impact in key policy areas in a timely and visible way. This organization will give us a platform to do it in our own way and be successful."
Hadar will focus on issues its founders believe are supported by a consensus of English-speaking immigrants, including Zionism and Jewish values, democracy and the rule of law, reforms in the economy and electoral system, keeping Israel strong and secure, and increased support for Western aliya.
Helman said Hadar would try to steer clear of both American and Israeli politics.
"We're not interested in having an anti-Obama event," Helman said. "We can leave that to our cousins in America. We want to be more involved in Israel."
The organization's board in formation includes Gold, Shalem Center vice president Daniel Gordis, and Netanyahu's former chief of staff Yechiel Leiter.
Left-wing politicians past and present criticized Hadar for not involving any well-known Anglo public figures whose views are far from those of Likud. They suggested Peace Now founder Galia Golan, former Shinui MK Reshef Cheyne, former Green Party Knesset candidate Alon Tal, and Democrats Abroad Israel chairperson Joanne Yaron.
"They seem to only want to speak for all Israelis who agree with them," a former MK said.
"It is amazing that they have not been able to find a single woman to become one of their leaders. They think they can speak for all Anglos when they don't have a representative of more than 50 percent of the Anglo population. This is the antithesis of the pluralism that Anglos pride themselves in."
Guy Spigelman, an Australian immigrant who ran for Knesset with Labor three years ago, questioned whether Hadar could speak for all Anglos if it has a political slant.
"It's a great idea to organize Anglos and think about issues unique to us, but any organization must be true to what it really is, and if they are right-wing, they should say it openly," Spigelman said.
"Anglos have a lot to offer on social justice because we have experienced being a minority where we came from," he added.
Helman responded that people with diverse views, including women, will be on the board and heavily involved in Hadar.
"We are trying to be broadbased but we are not trying to be all things for all people," Brown said. "Anyone who would criticize Israel to foreign governments or make Israel into something that in our opinion is not good for Israel does not fit into our framework."
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