The Impact of American Jewry on Israel

Thursday, Mar 31 2016

by Karen Feit
Zionist Education Co-Team Leader

Historiography looks at history through the impact of individuals who have made history. In this brief discussion, I would like to introduce you to an arbitrary list of Americans who have made aliyah to Israel, either on a full time or a part time basis, and who have made incredible contributions to Israel. They are practical Zionists, bringing their unique talents to Medinat Yisrael. They all have very strong ties to Hadassah as well. This list is by no means comprehensive nor is it complete. It is a sample of contemporary Zionists who made aliyah.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. He writes a regular column— "A Dose of Nuance"— for the Jerusalem Post, and is also a regular columnist for Bloomberg View. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, the first rabbinical college on the West Coast of the United States. Dr. Gordis joined Shalem in 2007 to help found Israel’s first liberal arts college, after spending nine years as vice president of the Mandel Foundation in Israel and director of its Leadership Institute. We in Hadassah know him as an eloquent speaker at several conventions, missions, and institutes who has written extensively on his experiences as an American who has made aliyah with his family.

Yosef (Yossi) Abramowitz is a Young Judaean; having worked at Camp Sprout Lake, CYJ California, and was a camper, counselor and unit head at Tel Yehuda, and he participated in the 1982–1983 Young Judaea Year Course in Israel program on a Hadassah scholarship. In 2006, he moved from Newton, Massachusetts to Kibbutz Ketura.

Yosef Abramowitz serves as President of the Arava Power Company (2006- 2013) and is now focused on serving as CEO and President of Energiya Global (2011-) founding both companies with partners David Rosenblatt and Ed Hofland. Arava Power is Israel's leading solar developer and a pioneer in mid-size and large-size solar fields. Arava Power built the first grid-connected solar field in Israel and closed on $300 million for the next eight solar fields in Israel, with a further $1.2 billion worth of projects in the pipeline.

Energiya Global develops affordable solar projects worldwide, with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020. Abramowitz was named by Haaretz as one of 2011's top ten most influential Anglo immigrants.[13] He has been co-nominated 3 times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work with Union of Councils for Soviet Jews in the former Soviet Union. Yosef was also awarded "Person of the Year" by the 2012 Israel Energy and Business Convention. Gil Troy, also a Young Judaean, is a prominent activist in the debate over Zionism and the future of Israel. He has been a Shalom Hartman Center Research Fellow and helped found the center's Engaging Israel Program. His articles on the subject have appeared in The New Republic and elsewhere, and he has written two books, Why I am a Zionist and Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism, which David G. Dalin, writing in the National Review, called "beautifully written, and rich in its insight and analysis ... the definitive account of this episode and of why its legacy is an enduring one."[5] Jewish Ideas Daily designated Moynihan's Moment one of its "best books" of 2012, it was the winner of a 2014 J.I. Segal Award in the category of English Non-Fiction Award on a Jewish Theme, and his article "Democracy, Judaism, and War" won a 2014 Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Single Commentary.

Barbara Sofer is a prize-winning journalist and author who lives in Jerusalem and lectures frequently to Jewish and general audiences. She speaks about Israel, Judaism, women's issues, and spirituality. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, her byline has appeared in The New York Times, Woman's Day, Readers Digest, Parents, The Boston Globe as well as many other publications. She has written six books and contributed to others. She writes a Friday column for The Jerusalem Post that deals with the challenges and miracles of everyday life in Israel, where she moved from the United States 35 years ago.

As the Israel Director of Public Relations for Hadassah, she has witnessed and documented the daily effort to create an island of peace and sanity within Jerusalem's biggest medical center. Because of the prominence of Hadassah Hospital in the news, she has worked with top-tier media, including Sixty Minutes and Nightline in formulating programs that show Israel in a positive light. She contributed to the Emmy winning CNBC program Jerusalem ER.

Sofer appeared on Good Morning America's new Seven Wonders of the World series as an expert on the spiritual uniqueness of Jerusalem and likes to think of herself as a "magida," an itinerant teller of the stories of Israel, past and present. She has served as a scholar-in-residence and visiting lecture in a variety of venues, including synagogues, churches, regional conferences of Hadassah, national conventions, for Jewish communities and at schools. She is also a committed member of Shira Hadasha, an egalitarian-Orthodox community and an informal spokesperson for Orthodox feminism. Her prizes include many Rockower awards for Jewish journalism, the Sidney Taylor Award for the best Jewish children's book, and the 2008 Eliav-Sartawi Award for creating understanding through Middle Eastern journalism.

Next steps:
Do you have a friend, relative or colleague who has made aliyah and gone on to make a significant difference in Israel? Consider a program featuring personal stories of people your members know who have made a difference. Invite someone who has made aliyah to speak to the group about their experiences. Spotlight Young Judea in a program that tells the story of Judaeans who have made a difference. Take a more historical approach. Go back to the early days and do a generational study of Americans who made aliyah and made important contributions to Israel in various fields.

Do you have a book club? Read books by Daniel Gordis or Gil Troy, or research and share articles by Barbara Sofer.

These articles are part of the April/May 2016 edition of Women Who Learn. To obtain a PDF version of the full edition, email us at


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