“I am an Israeli American!” a teenager declared in a promotional video at the fourth annual Israel Leadership Council (ILC) Gala on March 11, and the room of some 1,000 proud Israeli-Americans erupted in applause.
The gala of the Los Angeles-based organization was titled “Connecting Us to Our Roots” and honored Meir Dagan, former director of the Mossad, and Ehud Danoch, former Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and featured live performances by Rita and Liel Kolet.
The organization, founded in 2007 by well-heeled Israelis living in Los Angeles, raises money to support Israeli Scouts, identity-building educational programs in Israel and Los Angeles, and cultural and hasbara activities.
Until just a decade ago, Israelis and American Jews often looked down on expat Israelis as people who had abandoned their country. But by organizing activities and raising millions of dollars for Israel and local causes, the ILC and its supporters have staked out a new, proud hybrid identity.
“I am in awe of the ILC accomplishments in five short years,” supporter and philanthropist Haim Saban said.
Danoch, who as Consul General during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, helped spur the ILC’s birth, said how proud he was that the organization has become such a force in L.A. Jewish life.
“The Israeli reality in L.A. demanded ILC be born,” he said.
The current Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, David Siegel, said the ILC “helps nurture [the] young generation’s connection to Israel.”
ILC co-founders Eli Tene, Danny Alpert and Shawn Evenhaim were among the speakers, and Evenhaim oversaw a pledge session that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Saban then made a commitment to match. The entire cost of the evening was underwritten by ILC member Beny Alagem, who happens to own the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Dagan, who has been openly critical of the idea of an immediate military strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, stayed away from politics and simply thanked the ILC for his award. The evening’s emcee, Noa Tishby — radiant and sharp — introduced the Israeli singer Rita, who opened with music from her new album in Farsi, and with a declaration of how music can help bring peace to Israel and Iran.