Israel Shelanu (Our Israel) was the name of a Hebrew language weekly that went under back in the mid-1990s and targeted Israelis in the US. It was known as the Yordim newspaper, “yordim” being the opposite of “olim.” Now, the first-ever party of Israelis living in the US took that same name and officially launched its campaign on Tuesday to gain entry into the World Zionist Congress under the slogan: “Israeli Americans Choose to Make an Impact!”
According to Israel Shelanu’s press release, about a million Israelis currently live in the United States, and those among them who care to will be given a “historic opportunity to vote,” starting yesterday, for Israel Shelanu to become part of the 38th World Zionist Congress.
“It is a decision that has the potential to heavily impact their lives as Israelis in America,” according to the new party, which claims to be representing these Israelis’ “own unique needs.”
Thankfully, that million Israelis estimate is quite exaggerated. According to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, between 1949 and 2015, about 250,000 Israelis acquired permanent residency in the United States. The statistics did not track those who eventually moved back to Israel. In 2012, a Global Religion and Migration Database constructed by the Pew Research Center showed that there were a total of 330,000 native-born Israelis, of whom 230,000 were Jewish, living outside Israel, in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Current estimates show that of that number, some 140,000 live in the US, the rest in Canada, Europe, South America, South Africa and all the other parts of the planet. They obviously have children who were not born in Israel, but their number is difficult to estimate. But a million it ain’t.
Elected delegates to the World Zionist Congress are charged with allocating the organization’s $1 billion budget and setting communal priorities, says Israel Shelanu, which promises to help Israeli-Americans compete against other Jewish organizations for funding to promote programs which are crucial to their lives.
“As Israelis living in the United States, it is important to us that our children grow up in an open and pluralistic atmosphere, but, at the same time, we want them to be exposed to educational and communal activities of Hebrew language and culture,” says one of the founders of Israel Shelanu, Shanie Korabelnik. “Unfortunately, the Jewish community in the United States has not responded to this need, and we have decided to take the lead and take our destiny into our own hands.”
Born in Yavne, Israel, Shanie Korabelnik currently lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (near Central Park). Back in November, she managed to collect 500 signatures, which qualified her newly forged party to run. Incidentally, Korabelnik is studying to become a movement therapist, so running of any kind should be easy for her.
According to the press release, Israel Shelanu is looking to establish Hebrew language cultural centers and after-school classes for children and youth in US cities with large Israeli communities. These cultural centers will operate in an Israeli atmosphere with Hebrew spoken and will also hold community activities for the whole family.
Israel Shelanu also strives to deepen the dialogue, connection and Arvut Hadadit (mutual responsibility) between Israel and American Jews. Kobi Cohen, another founder of Israel Shelanu, stated: “Only we, Israelis living in the United States, who know both sides of the bridge, can make a real connection between the two largest Jewish communities in the world, which make up over 80 percent of the entire Jewish people.”
Good luck with the election, and keep sending us emails about what you’ve done with your share of that billion dollar budget.