The Council of Israeli Community (CIC), an organization primarily known for planning the annual Israeli Independence Day Festival in Los Angeles, is moving in new directions in the wake of the current Middle East crisis.
According to Vice President Haim Linder, the CIC (originally called the Council of Israeli Organizations) came together in 1996 as one arm of a nonprofit umbrella organization called the Promoting Israel Education and Culture Fund. The group adopted its current title and mission statement on Sept. 10, 2001.
"We got together at Valley Beth Shalom. At noon we went home, knowing we had a new organization, and then we all know what happened the next day," Linder said.
Working with agencies like The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the CIC has gained a reputation for being able to quickly pull together the manpower and materials for pro-Israel rallies. The organization's latest activities include a writer's bureau, which sends e-mail and letters to members with information to help them respond to various media outlets' coverage of Israel; a speaker's bureau, and guest lecturers such as Dan Bahat, an archeology professor at Bar-Ilan University and Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman.
The group strives to make positive connections with people in the media who support Israel, including radio talk show hosts Larry Elder, Sean Hannity and Al Rantell (all of radio station KABC), and to promote Israeli cultural events, such as the Israeli Film Festival (currently taking place through April 25) and the Israel Independence Day Block Party that was held April 17 at UCLA.
In addition to its lobbying efforts, the CIC provides contacts and other support for Israeli immigrants, many of whom need help adjusting to American Jewish life. Dr. Yehuda Handelsman, a physician at Tarzana Medical Center and president of the CIC's steering committee, says, for example, that Jews in the United States, who move from one city to another, customarily seek out a synagogue in their new area in order to connect with the Jewish community, an act that would never occur to a secular Israeli.
Handelsman said the group not only wants to help immigrant Israelis connect, but is also actively seeking donors among Israelis who have made a success of their lives in Los Angeles.
"We need to get the word out. Each time we organize a showing [rally] at the Federal Building, it costs $3,000 to $4,000 for the advertising, to get security and so on," he said. "We have found over many years other Jewish groups ask, 'How come Israelis don't contribute money? How come they don't come to events?'
"The answer is simple: they don't know [about the need or event]. So there is a massive amount that needs to be done for education and for Israelis to learn from other groups how to become a group," he said
The one area the organization stays away from is partisan politics. Linder points out that the CIC is unusual as a Zionist organization in that it espouses no particular bent regarding how Israel should handle the current crisis.
"We have only one thing in mind and that is supporting Israel with no strings attached," Linder said. "We have only one country, and we can't afford to shortchange it. We have to put our agendas aside and pull together."
In addition to chapters of B'nai B'rith and Hadassah, about 400 families belong to the CIC. Membership costs $20 a year. The council maintains offices in Tarzana that include a meeting room available for use by the community.