For the Israeli American Council (IAC), the findings in the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study were not terribly surprising, particularly as it pertains to the Israeli community. Since opening our Boston chapter in 2014, we have found that Israelis—whether newcomers to the city, 20-year Boston residents or second generation—are increasingly looking to make an impact in their adopted homes. With a full 8 percent of the adult Jewish American population identifying as Israeli, their voices will continue to be felt and heard into the next decade.
The IAC runs programs that serve a three-fold mission: to build an engaged and united Israeli-American community that strengthens the Israeli and Jewish identity of our next generation, to build bridges to the American Jewish community, and to further solidify the bond between the United States and Israel. Since 2014, the IAC’s myriad programs have attracted thousands of Israeli Americans and Jewish Americans into our orbit.
The hub for our programming, Boston’s Merkaz IAC, bursts with activities. Recently, one evening saw volunteers running an Israel advocacy program for teens; our Torah study group celebrating its anniversary; mid-career professionals, who graduated from our signature Gvanim program, busy laying the foundation for a young professionals networking group connecting Birthright alumni with the local Israeli American community; and Israeli and American teens planning a social event. That night at our center was a great example of engaged and enthusiastic community members who felt proud of being part of a larger Jewish community. They were empowered by the privilege to build a community that is connected to our Jewish and Israeli identities, our collective heritage, the Jewish people and the Hebrew language.
When IAC Boston was founded, we knew the Israeli population was significant, but we also knew their voice had been silent; some would say they were disorganized and even largely disconnected from the Jewish community. Now, not only are Israeli Americans energized, they are contributing their time and resources to the Jewish community as well. Just five years ago, there were only a handful of Israeli Americans on the boards of local Jewish organizations; this is changing with Israelis now sitting on the boards and committees of many of the major Jewish institutions in Boston.
Based on the Community Study’s findings that two-thirds of Boston Jewish adults report feeling connected to Israel and that young adults, in particular, are looking for alternative ways of engaging, the IAC will continue to serve as a place where Israeli Americans and Jewish Americans can come closer together in support of Israel and a vibrant and vital Jewish community. As the study shows, Israelis are enhancing Jewish Boston by bringing their own voices into celebrating Israel, as well as Jewish culture and traditions. Israeli Americans also “speak” American and Israeli (not to mention Hebrew!), and as such are well-positioned to navigate and enhance both communities.
The IAC values its community partners in helping to fulfill its mission. From CJP to synagogues, Hebrew College, the JCC and others, the IAC is working hard to broaden its reach and bring the Israeli voice to Boston.
Read the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study here.
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