Las Vegas. When one usually thinks of the famed resort town images of the bustling strip come to mind complete with casinos, hotels, parties, entertainment, and the never-ending desire to make millions. But not this weekend.
This past weekend the one goal that gathered some of the most active pro-Israel groups together was not the casinos or extravagance, but rather the urgent call to unite. Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson, arguably two of the greatest Jewish philanthropists of our time, hosted around 100 students and professionals greatly involved in Israel advocacy and leadership in their communities and campuses for the first ever Maccabee Academy Conference.
Adam Milstein, Chairman of the IAC who established the Adam and Gila Milstein Foundation with his wife to support countless Jewish-Israel organizations, was also in attendance. Participants traveled from all across America with involvement in organizations such as the Israeli American Council, StandWithUs, Hasbara Fellowships, Hillel International, Christians United for Israel, The David Project, The Zionist Organization of America, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, IDC Herzliya, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, the Jewish fraternity AEPi, and Students Supporting Israel.
The conference took place over the course of 24 hours as programming opened Friday night with Shabbat services and continued with welcoming remarks from David Brog, founder of the Maccabee Task Force. He thanked Sheldon and Miri Adelson for their constant support and efforts that make it possible for all of the organizations to accomplish the great work that they do. The Adelsons later went onto the stage and addressed the students and staff, speaking about how near and dear this cause was to them and how important it was that we all work together to achieve our common goal.
After dinner, renowned radio talk show host, columnist, and author Dennis Prager gave us a real dose of the reality we face today on/off campus and how to combat our challenges. The next day there were many opportunities to network with others from different organizations, hear panels about coalitions and Israel trips from different campuses, and how to engage others on social media and empower others to be strong and proud Israel advocates.
Right before lunch, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of Our Soldiers Speak and an Israeli Defense Forces veteran, inspired and greatly touched everyone as he thanked us for coming together and praised all the hard work that goes into our defense of Israel here in the States. He urged us to continue passionately and realize how important our mission was and is. The panels continued after lunch and closed off with a presentation by students and staff from IDC’s Public Diplomacy program, The Situation Room. The founder of the program Yarden Ben Yosef introduced the initiative and then the students participated in a simulation exercise to tackle media bias.
Through out the past two operations in Israel, Pillar of Defense (2012) and Protective Edge (2014), students at IDC gathered together for days on end tirelessly to combat anti-Israel hatred and media bias and increase Hasbara and advocacy in the world. As I apply to IDC’s Lauder School of Government to study for my Master’s in Diplomacy I look forward to being part of such an incredible movement. For more information the IDC Situation Room can be contacted here:
Dumisani Washington, a pastor, composer, author and music teacher from Northern California, spoke about the great bond between Christians and Israel and the Jewish people. He spoke of the legacy of Martin Luther King (whose remembrance day was just a few days afterwards) and that he not only was a great leader of the Civil Rights movement for the Black community, but a staunch supporter of the Jewish one as well. Dumisani kept everyone at the edge of their seats with his strong energy and humor as he expressed how we have to look past the negativity, “stop whining”, and be proud and strong as Israel advocates. Finally someone tells us like it is! To hear him tell it like it is you can follow his Twitter
The conference was short and jam-packed, but incredibly vital for our continuing efforts to defend Israel and proudly represent her values and morality. Thank you again to all the organizations who made it possible for us to unite as we did and to the Adelsons for bringing us together. May we go from strength to strength!