An excited crowd of 150 people gathered in Woodland Hills on January 10th to celebrate an important achievement: the Grand Preview of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) Shepher Community Center, the first Israeli-American community center in the United States. Among those in attendance were California State Assemblymember Matthew Dababneh, Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, IAC National Chairman Emeritus Shawn Evenhaim, IAC National Chairman Adam Milstein, IAC National Board Members, IAC L.A.’s full Regional and Advisory Councils, and the Center’s major supporters, Miri and Isaac Shepher and Debbie and Naty Saidoff, as well other guests and select media.
“I am proud of the IAC. This Center will be a bridge connecting Israel to Southern California, and a physical gathering space that will advance the IAC’s mission to engage and unite Israeli-Americans and the broader Jewish community, while training the national leadership of the Israeli-American community,” said IAC Los Angeles Regional Council Chairwoman Miri Shepher. “We are hopeful that it will be the first center of many around the country.”
The 11,000 sq. ft. IAC Shepher Community Center was designed by Jack Hollander as a home for Israeli and Jewish events, IAC offices both local and national, and additional office space earmarked for non-profit organizations that help the Israeli-American and Jewish American communities. There is no shul at this time, but there is a stage for presentations and lectures, and an additional 30,000 sq. ft. building is slated for construction at the location, with a 2018 completion date.
“This is a home – a home for our community, our children, our elderly, our moms and dads, our young professionals looking for engagement. If you are an Israeli-American, this is your home. If you are a Jewish American, this is your home,” announced Isaac Shepher at the Grand Preview. Isaac and Miri Shepher are the inventors and owners of Life Alert, a medical alert system specifically designed to protect seniors and all family members in a home health emergency.
Miri Shepher was born in Tunisia, but grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. An L.A. native for the past 41 years, she remains deeply connected to the Jewish community, which now numbers around 250,000. She spoke to The Jewish Home, explaining, “My husband and I have always wanted to do something special for this community and we looked for people to invest in the project. When it became a reality, I was thrilled, because I’ve been immersed in the Israeli-American community for many years. Previously, I spent 20 years running Israeli newspapers. I knew the address of every Israeli home… literally! This is the next step for me.”
The Center is one of many new initiatives launched in recent months by the IAC, which has become the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the United States. Mrs. Shepher notes, “The IAC is always so busy. You can ask what we are doing this minute, this week or this month and there are many answers, because of the variety of activities which we orchestrate. From the youngest to the oldest, we help so many causes and people.
“I grew up in Israel so I have always had an awareness of the urgency to solidify Israeli-American support for the State of Israel. We know it is very important to keep the Hebrew language alive, for example, and to give the next generation all the support necessary to continue the legacy of their Israeli parents.
“We don’t get involved in the politics of Israel, but we certainly want to ensure that Israeli-Americans and Jewish Americans are prepared to defend themselves and the State of Israel when they are in a confrontational situation, be it on a college campus or in the workplace.”