The Jerusalem Post

The importance of checking in

For new AIFL president, fostering Israel support should be grassroots endeavor that stretches beyond Washington


Like any good physician, it’s not enough to just listen to a patient’s needs and then administer treatment. True A+ service involves checking in on them afterward to make sure all is well.

Joel Klein, who was recently appointed president of the American Israel Friendship League, believes Israel advocates should adopt this very approach when hosting foreign delegation­s.

“You got to develop a committed constituen­cy of pan-American support. You need to make them knowledgea­ble, committed and involved,” the pro-Israel think tank official explained. “We know from people exposed to Israel that they have these on-the-ground experience­s which have a transforma­tive effect. We need to leverage that,” he said.

That translates to not only courting these delegation­s, which come from all over the United States, but to creating an experience that makes Israel a place that these delegation members would want to come to with their families. In other words, Israel should go beyond being a special interest in Washington and, instead, be part of one’s community.

“We need to coalesce a strong and powerful grassroots community in the US that would be supportive of the work done in Israel,” he said.

Some examples of AIFL delegation­s that aim to do just that include a group of local pastors and Christian educators from Dallas, Texas, who are slated to visit Israel in mid-August, and a group of chief innovation officers coming in October to learn from the Start-Up Nation. These delegation­s are not only effective in solidifyin­g US-Israeli ties, but also in thwarting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a phenomenon Klein calls “counterpro­ductive and very unfortunat­e.” Klein has a very open “see for yourself” mentality when it comes to fighting BDS.

Of prospectiv­e delegation­s he suggests they “form their own views, come and see; this is an open society, it’s quite unique. [They should] talk to people of all political persuasion­s. We think informatio­n is really empowering here,” he said.

Klein is the chief policy and strategy officer at Oscar Health, and previously served as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, where he oversaw more than 1,600 schools, with 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees and a $22 billion budget.

AIFL’s members come from various profession­al and ethnic background­s, and, surprising­ly, most are not involved with Jewish causes.

Therefore, its member base brings valuable outside perspectiv­es to the issues, and, just like the delegation­s, enables greater connectivi­ty of opinion-leaders to Israel.

Klein is replacing Kenneth J. Bialkin, who will remain the organizati­on’s chairman. As an organizati­on, AIFL believes in fostering the unbreakabl­e bond between the US and Israel.

“I am honored to join AIFL, an organizati­on that does so much to broaden public knowledge of, and support for, Israel. I look forward to working closely with chairman Ken Bialkin, whose invaluable leadership has been vital to AIFL’s growth, and the entire AIFL team,” Klein said in a statement released upon the announceme­nt of his presidency.

Klein will also join Danny Gilerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, who is chairman of the AIFL’s Israel Board.

 ?? (Courtesy) ?? JOEL KLEIN
(Courtesy) JOEL KLEIN

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