“The days during our modern Jewish history class, in which Rabbi Matanky spent detailing and discussing the birth of the State of Israel, came alive for me in a profound way when I spent the year living in Israel in 2001,” says Elana Lichtenstein (’01). Elana now works for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where she serves as the area director for Southern Connecticut. Her primary role as area director is to fundraise for AIPAC and cultivate donor relationships. She serves as a liaison between Washington, D.C. and Israel and the community members who are invested in AIPAC’s mission. She works hard to keep community members informed of how Congress members vote on issues affecting Israel, such as the foreign aid bill or Iran’s nuclear program.
Elana has a focused set of community members, and she wisely recognizes that the US-Israel relationship is important to people for varying reasons. What may be important to one person is completely irrelevant to another. For some, Israel is crucial to them because of the country’s cutting-edge technology. Others connect to Israel because of religious values. All of the constituents, though, are united in their passion for Zionism.
Elana’s region of Southern Connecticut was a semi-established AIPAC community prior to when she began working there in 2006. She is now responsible for raising $2.5 million annually. She views her job as not just a way to pay her monthly bills, but instead it is a way to express her passion for Israel. Even when Elana finishes her day’s work, she goes home and reads up on news about Israel and worries about its civilians because, she explains, “It’s something I deeply believe in and have a personal and emotional connection to.” When helping to raise money for AIPAC, it’s not just the pat on the back that she receives from her superiors, it’s a personal gain for Israel, a cause which she cares about deeply.
When asked about the current situation in Israel, Elana responded that AIPAC works to ensure that US legislators and civic leaders have a thorough understanding of the inextricable link between our two nations, while igniting community members to work with policymakers to further that relationship. In April, AIPAC worked with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to circulate a letter, penned by Senators Ben Cardin and Susan Collins, calling for an immediate freeze in US aid to the Palestinian Authority after it began to construct a unity government with Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Within five days, 88 US Senators had requested a freeze in aid to the Palestinian Authority.
AIPAC’s influence in this particular situation is something that Elana hopes current student can learn from. She says, “It’s amazing to internalize that individual people can make a difference. If you care about Israel – even if you can’t or don’t live there or serve in the army – there are other meaningful ways here in the US to show your love and support.”
For Elana that difference lies in AIPAC, as she aims, each year, to encourage her investors to increase their commitments and introduce her to other potential donors who are committed to strengthening and protecting the US-Israel relationship. Elana attributes her appreciation for Israel to her upbringing from Hillel Torah and Ida Crown and her summers spent in Camp Moshava. Each of these environments were extremely nourishing of her love of Zionism.