Traversing the cultural differences between the center and the Diaspora

Israeli American Council hosts second conference in DC this weekend.

September 20, 2016 18:55
1 minute read.
Jewish American

Thousands of Jewish American high-school students attend a rally in Manhattan in 2002 calling for an end to terrorism. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The Israeli American Council, which aims to bridge cultural gaps between Israeli and American Jewry, will host its second conference in Washington this weekend.

The event will host several prominent members of both communities, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Foreign Minister director-general Dore Gold and several US congressmen and former diplomats.

The goal of the conference is to encourage dialogue on a host of issues critical to both communities: How young Jewish Americans are identifying with Israel, what it means to be Jewish in this day and age and what Zionism looks like today, said Shoham Nicolet, co-founder and CEO of the IAC.

“The conference is going to touch on many issues,” Nicolet said. “I think that what we have at the IAC as Israeli Americans is that we can speak both Israeli and American – and by that I mean, we help bridge the cultural differences.”

The conference will include several “breakout” plenaries, on a range of topics from politics to the arts, Nicolet said.

“It makes us a living bridge,” he added. “At the end of the day we need to remember it’s not different parties. We’re one family.”

Nicolet cited “100 percent growth” in volunteers from last year, and said that 250 students have already registered for the event, to be held downtown at the Marriott Marquis.

“This conference is going to be very young, and that’s good news for us,” he said. “We speak about turning it into a movement – going from participation to engagement. And it’s amazing how many volunteers and community leaders we’re getting. Today the organization is active in 27 different states.”

The conference highlights a growing concern among Jewish- American establishment organizations that younger generations in the US are identifying less with the religion, the culture, or both. Nicolet said this was a personal concern of his, and that he expects it to be a central theme of the conference.

“Research shows that they are thinking more about themselves than bigger issues,” he said. “I don’t think we can trust that with time, they will go searching for their roots.”

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