By Shalle’ McDonald
Several of the country’s most prominent pro-Israel groups participated in the first Israel Today Symposium designed to educate the Dallas community on understanding the complex issues Israel faces.
The event, organized by Temple Shalom, drew more than 300 people to hear speakers including Lillian Pinkus, president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); Charles Pulman, founder of Why Israel Matters; and Daniel Agrano
v, deputy consul general of Israel to the Southwestern U.S.
Pulman, one of two keynote speakers, opened the day with the topic “We are Israel, A time of Pride and Resolve.” He explained that his journey of support for Israel started in his first days of religious school at age 5 and has grown into a lifelong passion. Today, the Dallas attorney travels across the country advocating for Israel and visits Jewish communities around the world.
He asked the audience to think about a very personal question: their own obligation to ensure that Israel and the Jewish people survive in perpetuity.
Lillian Pinkus, AIPAC national president, delivered the lunchtime keynote. Always an impassioned speaker, the daughter of Holocaust survivors told the audience that it wasn’t enough to be educated, that the next step is action.
Throughout the day, more than a dozen topics were discussed by experts including the Arab-Israeli conflict; business development in Israel; missile defense systems in Israel; Israeli technology; Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation; and Christian outreach for Israel advocacy.
The BDS panel drew very many participants, who heard from Max Chamovitz, deputy director of Israel Action Network; Republican Texas Representative Phil King; and Lauren Feibelman, national associate director of campus affairs for StandWithUs, among others.
“The BDS panel’s explanation of what they are doing, particularly on (college) campuses, was thought-provoking,” Pamela Buckroyd told JNS.org. “They mentioned that one of the challenges is that different pro-Israel organizations on campuses are not united in their approach.
“Personally, I think another challenge is simplifying and clarifying the message. People (who are pro-Palestinian, pro-Black Lives Matter and pro-LGBT) do not realize they are boycotting businesses that employ Palestinians, Black (Ethiopian) Israelis, and LGBT Israelis,” she said.
Texas Rep. King, who spoke on the BDS panel, focused on some of the challenges Texas faces in passing anti-BDS legislation. He plans to introduce an anti-BDS bill in January, similar to what 11 other states have already passed (see box).
Ken Glaser, chair of the synagogue’s Israel Connection Committee, which organized the Aug. 7 event, told JNS.org why creating the symposium was important. He is also a founder of Temple Shalom, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Other members of the symposium committee from Temple Shalom were Anita Weinstein Warner, Ken Parker, David and Ruth Gordon, Perry Zidow, Steve Weintraub, and Marc and Laurel Fisher, as well as countless volunteers.
“We actually had a mini-version of this limited to just the congregation a couple of years ago,” Glaser said. As a member of AIPAC, he found it helpful to model a larger version of the event after AIPAC programs that seek to empower people in their advocacy of Israel.
“I wanted to bring something like this to Dallas because not everybody can afford or has the time to go to AIPAC.”
Various organizations that typically attend national conferences on Israel advocacy sent representatives from the local area to set up booths, signifying that these groups consider the Dallas/Fort Worth community an important region to focus on. Some of the groups included the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Bnai Zion Foundation.
Glaser said that he hoped to reach the wider non-Jewish Dallas community by offering topics with a “broad perspective of raising awareness of Israel.”
Joann and Olin Bond, a Christian couple who have visited Israel countless times and advocate for the Jewish state, attended the symposium to learn more about these topics so they can be better prepared to discuss them in their community.
“It is always wonderful to see Jews and non-Jews meeting together to find mutual ways to support Israel’s right to exist in the land,” Joann Bond told JNS.org. “I especially enjoyed the Ethiopian Aliyah session and my husband particularly enjoyed the session on desalinization.”
For Joseph Green-Bishop, this event was an opportunity to learn more about Israel, its history and its people. “It is important that all members of the human family respect and grow to love one (another), the symposium was consistent with that desire,” Bishop told JNS.org.
Green-Bishop co-chairs North Texas BLEWS with Ken Glaser, a North Texas-based group “dedicated to the advancement of the relationship between the Black American and Jewish communities through dialogue that leads to actions that enhance the entire society,” he said.
Glaser was pleased that people that he collaborates with outside of Temple Shalom also participated. “It’s working,” he said. “Bringing this to the community is really what this is all about.”
TJP Editor Sharon Wisch-Ray contributed to this report.
Did you know?
You can purchase an Israel bond for a charitable organization or institution. The program is called the Double Mitzvah Program.
Purchase an Israel bond for the organization, synagogue, foundation or other charitable cause you choose to support by contacting Garry Kahalnik at 972-338-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recipient of your Israel bond will receive interest on the bond, plus principal upon maturity.
The value of the donated Israel bond may be tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Contact your tax adviser for details.
Texas State Representative for the 61st District Phil King described his proposed bill in a nutshell: “The State of Texas will not do business with any company that is boycotting Israel.”
Because Texas has such a strong attitude toward free markets, King explained it will be a tough bill to pass, but it already has bipartisan support as well as the backing of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
What you can do
Rep. King explained that the best thing you can do between now and January is contact your state representative and state senator and have your friends do the same and let them know it’s important to you.
“When I get 10 or 15 contacts saying ‘Hey, this issue is important to me,’ it’s on my radar and I’m monitoring it and having my staff monitor it all the way through,” King said.
4 Questions with Lauren Feibelman, national associate director of campus affairs for StandWithUs
Lauren Feibelman answered a few questions for the TJP:
1. We are college hunting. What’s the most important thing to consider when viewing a school’s policy toward Israel?
Most important is to find a college that they love and that fits their wish list. Whatever they are looking for, nothing should stop your child from attending their dream school.
One of the best ways to discover the school’s policy toward Israel is to connect with on-campus Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. These groups are regularly putting out Israel educational programming and events and are on the front lines when necessary to defend Israel. We have to be careful not to keep our children away from hot campuses because if we do, there will be no Jewish students left to stand up to the lies and misinformation being put out by anti-Israel groups on campus.
2. My child is off to college this month. I feel like we are late to the party in Israel preparation. What can we do quickly to help arm her with important facts about Israel?
First, you are not alone. Many parents realize late in the game that they have not done enough to prepare their children for what they may face in college concerning Israel. To prevent this, share educational material about Israel (SWU has many flyers and brochures about a myriad topics on its website); answer the tough questions including the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.
Encourage them to get involved with the Israel/Jewish community on campus. SWU can help your children connect with key leaders and staff on campus.
3. What’s the best way to help my high schooler understand the importance of standing for Israel?
The best way to ensure your child understands the importance of standing with Israel is to ensure they know their own narrative. Of course the best way to allow them to connect with Israel is through a trip there where they can see it with their own eyes.
SWU’s High School Internship provides students with the training and the support necessary to lead Israel programming at their school and in their community and prepares them for the challenges they may face in college.
4. How can StandWithUs help here in Dallas-Fort Worth?
SWU recently opened a Dallas office staffed by Jesse Stock, the organization’s Southern Regional High School program coordinator. Stock is the primary contact for StandWithUs throughout the South and can be reached at email@example.com or 818-877-9011.