Annual Israel Today Forum celebrates five years

by | Jun 27, 2016 | Other News

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz and Olga Meshoe.

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz and Olga Meshoe.

Another successful year of expert speakers and engaging dialogue concluded Wednesday, May 11 when Matti Friedman, former Jerusalem Bureau reporter and editor for the Associated Press visited Tidewater to share his take on mainstream media malfunction in the international press. Friedman’s two-day stay included addresses to leaders in the local Jewish community, Virginia State legislators, and wider audiences via media such as Christian Broadcasting Network and WHRV’s Hearsay with Cathy Lewis. The signature event for each Israel Today speaker is a Community Forum that takes place at the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus during the evening. Friedman’s topic drew a crowd of more than 200 as moderator Kim Simon Fink asked Friedman about reporting from Israel.

Earlier speakers in the forum’s fifth season, Olga Meshoe (March 2, 2016) and Josh Kram (November 18, 2015), also shared valuable information and personal insights.

Meshoe, founder of the South Africanbased, Christian organization DEISI (Defend, Embrace, Invest, Support Israel) spoke about her work advocating for Israel and voicing opposition to the BDS Movement. Describing her family’s personal experience of South African apartheid, Meshoe also spoke in a variety of contexts and encouraged her audiences to become educated about what life is really like in Israel and to share, through personal relationships, the truth about Israel’s significant contributions to global society. Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz served as moderator for the community Israel Today event that capped her visit.

Kram, executive director for the Middle East Commercial Center and director of the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, kicked the season off by addressing the need for a strong commercial relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Kram maximized his one-day stay in the area by speaking over lunch with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, visiting Cape Henry Collegiate for a conversation with their Global Scholars and participating in a dinner discussion with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities— all prior to his community Israel Today event at 7:30 pm. His focus included sharing the success stories of Israel’s many cutting-edge innovations and model business practices, as well as future opportunities for economic growth between Israel, the U.S. and throughout the Middle East. Kram’s community event was moderated by Danny Rubin.

This year’s Israel Today forum reached audiences totaling more than 2,500 and thousands more through local and international media.

Sponsored by the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and 40 Community Partners, including synagogues, businesses, organizations, foundations, and individuals, the series has experienced strong participation and growth each year, none of which would be possible without support from its partners.

Harry Graber, UJFT executive vice president, says “Five years ago when CRC started “Israel Today” all of us at the UJFT were excited about the idea and confident that the program would succeed. However, we did not imagine the heights that it has achieved, the number of people it has reached and the influence it has had on its ever widening audience. We have grown to eagerly anticipate every year’s program offering with incredible excitement and we expect 2016–17 to be the best ever.”

For more information about the CRC and next year’s Annual Israel Today Series, visit or email

Nicole Farrar