IAC ‘Center’ for Israelis opens in Rockville JCC

The Israeli-American Council’s Eitanim program meets at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. Photo courtesy of Miller Ink

As many as 10,000 Israeli-Americans live in the Washington area, according to Ronit Gudes Totah, regional director for the Israeli-American Council, which tries to build a collective American identity among those whose ancestry is Israeli.

The group has an office, but no space to hold programs geared toward Jewish education and leadership development.

“The community kind of told us they were looking for a space,” Gudes Totah said.

With an agreement with the Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville this month, the Israeli-American Council will get its space and both organizations will encourage Israeli-Americans to become more involved in the wider Jewish community.


Gudes Totah said the programs that will meet at the Bender JCC include Gvanim to help Israeli-American adults examine their cultural identities and “explore how they can be a part of Jewish America.”

Another program, Keshet, has a similar purpose. It serves children younger than 12 and is conducted in Hebrew.

The Eitanim program teaches professional development and entrepreneurial skills to high school students. It already meets at the IAC center.

Bender JCC Executive Director Michael Feinstein called the arrangement a “collaboration in the truest sense.”

Feinstein said that the Israeli-American Council will also co-sponsor annual programs such as IsraelFest and the IAC center’s Chanukah party. He said both organizations agree on the need to encourage Israeli-Americans to increase their participation in community events.

“We both have the same goals of engaging our community, and the Israeli-American community is very much a large part of our local Jewish community,” Feinstein said. “We’re both looking to activate more Jews in the area to participate in Jewish life.”

“Both sides are going to benefit from this collaboration,” said Israeli-American Council CEO Shoham Nicolet.

He said his group has entered into a similar partnership with Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, in Tenafly, N.J., adding that these agreements are important for helping Israelis feel accepted within the broader Jewish community.

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