JStreet, the liberal lobby and peace advocacy group that aims to influence U.S. policy toward Israel, is rapidly expanding its national operation, adding two L.A.-based staff members to launch the group’s Southern California/Southwest regional branch.
Serena Zeise will be the Southern California/Southwest regional director, charged to organize support at the community level and coordinate volunteers. Amos Buhai will be political director, working closely with local members of Congress and overseeing fundraising efforts.
Zeise worked for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on and off since 2005, serving as a campaign fundraiser and later as a policy analyst. Buhai is a fifth-generation Angeleno with campaign experience on the local, state and federal levels, and also served as a consultant for the New York-based organization Personal Democracy Forum, which investigates how technology is changing politics.
JStreet’s expansion into Los Angeles is a sign of the growing political significance of the L.A. Jewish community on the national stage, and also an indication of a broadening divide between traditional modes of pro-Israel advocacy, notably through AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), and a host of emerging alternatives.
JStreet consists of a lobby, a political action committee and a nonprofit grass-roots arm, which launched nationally in April 2008. The group currently has regional leadership in several major locations across the country, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and, according to a JStreet official in D.C., has an active grass-roots network of 150,000 supporters throughout the country. JStreet’s two-fold mission supports the creation of a two-state solution in Israel and an end to settlement building and the Gaza blockade and, secondly, aims to create a space for public discourse on Israel that is loving, but critical, and seeks to engage the broader American Jewish population on the many complex issues Israel faces.
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