Joining the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations in Atlanta is the IAC, the Israeli-American Council. Sabra Shaked Angel has been in Atlanta for half a year launching the 16th regional office, joining cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Phoenix.
“Our goal is to be more integrated and aligned with American Jews and create a space within the already successful Jewish organizations like the JCC, Federation, synagogues, rather than reinvent the wheel,” Angel said.
He joked: “Maybe the Americans would like us to bring in some Israeli chutzpah. We want to make it easy to attend events by locating in geographic areas like Buckhead, Toco Hills and Alpharetta.”
Angel estimates that Atlanta has 12,000 to 15,000 Israeli Jews, roughly 10 percent of the Jewish community.
Jaffe: Share your background.
Angel: I grew up on Kibbutz Zikim on the border between Gaza and Ashkelon. In 2009, I became an emissary for the Jewish Agency and a camp director out of New York. In 2016 I joined the IAC as educational director (also out of New York) for children from birth to college. This past July, I moved my wife and young children to Atlanta.
Jaffe: What are some of the programs already in progress?
Angel: Keshet — community, language and culture for younger kids. We offer great tools with a subscription to help build Jewish identity plus a kit with activities (arts and crafts, Hebrew skills) for holidays like Tu B’Shevat or Chanukah that one can do at home. This is run by lay leaders, currently all Israeli women, and there are two divisions: ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 8.
Eitanim (strong) is named in honor of an IDF army commander who died in Lebanon. It’s a project-based learning symposium for teens which encourages leadership and entrepreneurship along with Jewish values. It’s held at the Weber School and mentored by project managers — again, lay leaders/volunteers from high-tech or software companies like Amdocs. Our goal here is to bring Jewish and Israeli-American teens together, learn Israeli technology in action.
Mishelanu (our own) is a pro-Israeli campus program targeting Emory, UGA and Georgia Tech to foster leaders and provide a home for Israeli-American students. These students are able to explore and strengthen their Israeli-American and Jewish identities through culture, language, heritage and a strong connection to Israel. Some are from intermarriages, meaning a Jewish American married to an Israeli. We want them to feel at home and be accepted … (through) small things like serving Israeli Bamba (a crispy snack).
Jaffe: What’s an example of a college Mishelanu activity?
Angel: In Israel there is a tradition before joining the army where young adults hike a trail to see the interior of the country. It’s similar to the Appalachian Trail … maybe 500 miles. One can do all or part. We sponsored a similar Stone Mountain hike serving Israeli meals.
Jaffe: To what can we look forward?
Angel: Feb. 9, Friday night, Kabbalat Shabbat dinner at the Chabad of East Cobb for all ages. It will be a beautiful candle lighting and dinner led by lay leaders. We’re inviting all to be part of this experience: $10 per person or $50 maximum per family (www.israeliamerican.org/atlanta/iac-events/shishi-israeli-chabad-of-cobb).
Jaffe: Much has been said about discord between American Jews’ expectations and experiences with Israeli-Americans or Israelis not sharing the traditional vision of community support.
Angel: The IAC has two main objectives: the first, to create space for the Israeli-Americans to become a community; the second is to engage the Israeli-American community with the Jewish American community and strengthen this bond. There are many stereotypes regarding the Israeli-American community; we aim to remove this barrier. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but this is what we are here for. As Israelis, we need to understand that to live a meaningful Jewish life, you need to put your resources into that and make sure our children are equipped to have a strong, clear identity.
Thinking about generations to come, our goal, our most important mission, is to form Israeli-American engagement within the Jewish community. After all, we are one nation. In the final analysis, we have each other’s backs.