When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) visited Israel last year to buff up his pro-Israel credentials, the PR firm he hired was Lone Star Communications, headed by Charley Levine. When Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) made his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he hired the very same PR firm. Indeed, within the past few years, Levine’s firm has worked on behalf of no less than seven U.S. presidential candidates or hopefuls, including Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Perry.
In addition, over the years, Lone Star Communications has worked for the likes of the History Channel, the Cleveland Clinic, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hebrew University, Microsoft Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yossi Klein Halevi, Danny Danon, Michael Bloomberg, and Jon Voight.
Levine, however, is not all business. He is a passionate lifelong Zionist, and, although 62, he told The Jewish Press he sees himself as “an unreformed Jewish student activist.” A third-generation Texan, Levine was heavily involved in the Free Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s and realized a personal dream by making aliyah in 1978.
Most recently, Levine has become excited by a new organization called Zionist Spring, which aims to restore the “greatness and vitality of the Zionist movement.” Levine, one of Zionist Spring’s founding organizers, recently spoke to The Jewish Press about the two-month-old organization.
The Jewish Press: What is the Zionist Spring? What need is there for another Zionist organization?
Levine: This is not a typical Jewish organization. It has virtually no structure to it. There’s no president, there’s no vice president, there’s no board. It is totally from the grassroots up, and it’s rallying around an idea.
What happened was, around a year ago, a small group of businessmen and people involved in Jewish organizational life were talking. And they said, “Listen, it’s a real shame to what depths the Zionist movement has fallen, and we really ought to do something about it.”
So they said, “We’re going to put out a message, and we’re going to see if there’s any interest. If there is, great. If there’s not, we’ll forget about it.” So they put out the word, they sent some e-mails – bottom line is that the message seemed to resonate.
What’s the message?
The message is that Zionism, which used to be great, is today very institutionalized and [consists of a] bunch of people who are just squabbling over titles and budgets.
So what we’re trying to do is build something from the grassroots. For example, we want to at least double the number of American Jews who identify publicly as Zionists, who step up to the plate and say, “I’m a Zionist. What can I do to realize that passion?”
We’re looking for people out there in the field to fight for hasbarah, fight for aliyah, fight to make the Zionist movement great again, fight to get rid of bureaucracy and non-transparency.
But again, it’s not so much an organized baseball team; it’s more like a pick-up basketball team. We’re just picking up people along the way. We’re letting the flag up the pole, and seeing who salutes.
Zionist Spring’s mission statement calls for Zionism to “become once again relevant in our daily lives.” Isn’t moving to Israel the only way to make Zionism relevant to one’s daily life?
I’m a huge advocate of American aliyah. But there is certainly a lot of work that can be done effectively in America for Zionism. If I had to pick one, it would be fighting the good fight to bring the truth about Israel’s case to the wider public’s attention.
But what does it mean for Zionism to be relevant in daily life outside of Israel?