BOSTON – The Los Angeles-based Israeli-American Council (IAC), the largest Israeli-American organization in the United States, opened its newest regional office in Boston earlier this month.
Na’ama Ore, the newly appointed IAC Boston Regional Director, brings extensive experience from the non-profit world, most recently working for Clalit, Israel’s largest public health service provider. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ore was born and raised in Jerusalem, but spent seven years of her childhood living in Brookline. For the past 14 years she lived in Neve Savion with her husband and children. Ore recently spoke to the Jewish Ledger about the IAC’s new Boston regional office and how it wlll serve the Israeli-American community.
Q: What exactly is the Israeli-American Council and what is its main goal? Is it all about Israel advocacy?
A: The Israeli-American Council (IAC) seeks to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, the Jewish and Israeli identity of next generations, and provide a bridge to the Jewish American community. We seek to achieve this through a spectrum of cultural and educational activities in the Israeli spirit for all age groups. This includes IAC programs for children, young adults, college students, young professionals, adults and families. We also help to build community nationwide by supporting over 30 Israeli-American organizations throughout the United States through IAC Community Grants. We are the first organization to provide national-level, top-tiered programming for the estimated 500,000-800,000 Israeli-Americans living in the United States today. IAC Programs include Sifriyat Pijama B’America (SP-BA), the largest Hebrew outreach program in North America, reaching 10,000 families every month in partnership with The Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) and the Adam and Gila Milstein Foundation; Celebrate Israel, large-scale Jewish festivals for Israel’s Independence day; IAC BINA and IAC Dor Chadash, programs for young professional Israeli-Americans and other young Jews, which work to strengthen connections within the community and to Israel; IAC Care, a volunteer community for Israeli- and Jewish-Americans of all ages; MISHELANU, a young leadership group on American college campuses where Israeli-Americans come together to strengthen their Jewish and Israeli identities and their ties to Israel; and TZAV 8, which organizes community activists to participate in demonstrations and pro-Israeli activities, and others.
Q: Why was it decided to open an office of the IAC in Boston?
A: As part of the IAC LA Headquarters growth plan, a Boston office was launched by accomplished Israeli-American lay leaders in Boston that were excited for the opportunity to bring IAC community-building programming to their local community. The Israeli-American population in the Boston area is unique, intellectual, professional, and influential. The IAC leadership is excited to work with the local community to help unite and engage Israeli-Americans throughout the area.
Q: How many Israeli-Americans are living in the Boston area and how active and involved have they been in the past as a group? How will this new office change this?
A: Some 15,000 Israelis are estimated to live in Massachusetts, mostly in or around Greater Boston. The Israeli-American community has been extremely active and has established many programs, activities and professional groups, but has not had an overarching organization to connect the entire community. IAC Boston intends to work together with these organizations to offer support and provide funding to expand these initiatives to a larger population. Moreover, as part of IAC’s mission, we seek to build partnerships with the outstanding Jewish American organizations in the region that will bring added value to all parties.
Q: The office is in Boston, but will it also cover other areas in New England, such as Western Massachusetts or Central Massachusetts? What is the full area that the office will cover? Will it venture into other states like Connecticut?
A: The IAC Regional Office in Boston will focus on the Greater Boston area to start; however, events and initiatives are open to communities in surrounding cities. The national IAC office offers grants to Israeli-American organizations in any city where an IAC Regional Office does not have a presence.
Q: What are some of the difficulties or issues that Israeli-Americans are faced with today? And how does the IAC help combat these issues?
A: Although it is estimated that over half a million Israeli-Americans live in the United States, many are uninvolved in the organized Jewish American community. We are working to facilitate connectivity to Israeliness and Jewish identity in the United States, both among first- and second-generation Israeli-Americans. According to a study done by the Israeli-American Council and Midgam Research Center in Israel in October 2013 (results attached), among second-generation Israeli-Americans, there is a significant decrease in knowledge of Hebrew, and increase in the number of mixed marriages. However, there is a correlation between the length of stay in the US, and increase in importance of Jewish identity and publicly supporting Israel. We have seen that with the right kind of programming and engagement of the Israeli-American community, we can help galvanize this community and facilitate Jewish identity in future generations.
Q: What are some of the specific programs the Boston office of the IAC will offer?
A: IAC Boston will customize national programs to suit our community. The Boston region flourishes with excellent universities where young Israeli-Americans can join MISHELANU; we have already launched an initiative at MIT and are seeking to expand to other universities as well. An extraordinarily large group of young professionals in all fields that are an asset to the community can enjoy IAC BINA activities. Our community thrives on open-hearted people who will unite to volunteer for those less fortunate through IAC CARE activities; Sifriyat Pijama b’America will expand its outreach to many more schools and families with young children in order to enable them exposure and fun with the Hebrew language. Furthermore, IAC Boston will offer community events and celebrations throughout the year starting this May with grand opening events for adults and children celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut. We plan on expanding the Israeli culture enabling our community to feel at home away from home.