(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
No sooner had he returned from Spain on Wednesday night of last week, President Reuven Rivlin began preparing for his visit to the US where on Tuesday, he will be the keynote speaker at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Los Angeles.
But even before addressing the GA, Rivlin will take the rare step of addressing the Los Angeles branch of the Israeli American Council, which earlier this month had its national conference in Washington where the main areas of discussion centered on Jewish and Israeli identity, Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, innovative ideas in philanthropy, community building and hybrid identities, and leadership.
The conference was attended by more than 2,000 people representing the 15 IAC regional offices across the US, and entertainment was imported from Israel and included Rami Kleinstein and Einat Sarouf.
Rivlin will meet on Sunday afternoon with the IAC leadership headed by Adam Milstein, after which he will address a mass meeting of expatriates at the IAC Shepher Community Center in the Woodland Hills neighborhood. The meeting is co-sponsored by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.
No one knows exactly how many Israelis live in the US. A conservative estimate, based on surveys in 2014, put the figure at around 200,000, but in previous years, the numbers bandied about were in excess of 300,000.
Up until a couple of decades ago, Israelis moving to Diaspora communities were seen in a particularity negative light. The 1990s saw the beginnings of a change of attitude, where rather than castigate citizens who had decided to live elsewhere, the various Israeli agencies decided to treat communities of expatriates as vital components in bridge building with the countries in which they live.
Thus Rivlin, who may call on them to come home, will be careful not to criticize them for not doing so.
On Monday evening, following his meeting with the IAC, Rivlin will meet with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
A schedule of Rivlin’s activities that was released by his office is prefaced with an explanation that Rivlin is making the trip against the backdrop of the recent rift in relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, as well his concerns about the resurgence of antisemitism in many countries around the world.
Before addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday, Rivlin will have a private meeting with the JFNA leadership.
Following his address, Rivlin is due to meet with the family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli civilian who crossed into the Gaza Strip in September 2014 and is believed to be one of two Israelis being held in captivity by Hamas.
Mengistu’s family, which has been actively campaigning for his release, was invited to attend the GA.
On Tuesday evening, Rivlin will participate in a round table discussion with the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
On Wednesday, he will visit the Museum of Tolerance, the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and after that will visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Rivlin is due to leave Los Angeles on Thursday night to return to Israel.