In late April, more than 3,000 Jews from North America and Israel convened at Jewish Federations’ General Assembly in Israel to celebrate their homeland’s 75th birthday. Attendees heard from a range of Israeli leaders, including President Isaac Herzog, and engaged in dialogue on critical issues facing our communities, including opportunities to strengthen ties between North American Jewry and Israel.

Among the 3,000 were leaders from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County – Board Chair Jill Rose, President and CEO Matt Levin, COO Todd Polikoff and Federation and JAFI Board Member Dana Adler.

While the conference took place at a time of heightened political tension in Israel and preceded the current cease fire, the General Assembly succeeded in creating a supportive, welcoming, and inclusive environment for its participants. We encourage you to read more about the events of the conference here.

For more personal accounts, our local leaders shared their most memorable moments from their time at the 2023 General Assembly —

Board Chair Jill Rose: “The most impactful thing for me was witnessing Yom HaZikaron and then the transition to Yom HaAtzmaut–Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. Participating in a moving Yom HaZikaron ceremony touched me deeply. It is something I will always remember.”

President and CEO Matt Levin: “The 48 hours of Yom HaZikaron, which was followed by Yom HaAtzmaut, were a time of mixed emotions for me, as I experienced the somber loss of Jewish life, then the intense pride as CEO of a Jewish Federation. We recognized both the immense sacrifice and dedication that was required to build our country over the past 75 years. There many tender moments that kept me on the edge of tears.”

As reported by the leadership of JFNA, Jill and Matt weren’t the only attendees who felt the deep significance of those two special days in Israel.

“Israel is a country that is so small, and that has sacrificed so much. Everyone has in their family or among close friends a soldier who has died in the defense of the nation or has been a victim of the too-numerous terror attacks in Israel’s history. Yom HaZikaron is thus intensely personal, a day of individual and collective national mourning, ”wrote JFNA Chair Julie Platt and President and CEO Eric Fingerhut.

COO Todd Polikoff: Having lived in Israel for almost two years and this being his 30th trip “home,” Todd was still overwhelmed by the breadth and diversity of the protestors.

“I was in Jerusalem, and the cab couldn’t get me to the train station because of the protests. I’ve seen protests here and there, but this time, the crowd included all Jews from across the spectrum. Oftentimes, protestors in the U.S. represent only one group of people; but here it was everyone, and not everyone was left-wing. They were not protesting against their country. They were protesting against this particular policy. Almost everyone was carrying an Israeli flag to show how much they loved their country. That was a paradigm shift for me. Here in the U.S., protests as of late have intimated that our country is in decline, or that our country doesn’t care about us. In Israel, they are protesting for the love of country.”

Board Member Dana Post Adler: “I traveled to Israel for both the Board of Governors meeting for JAFI and the JFNA General Assembly, which were scheduled back to back. During the Board of Governors panel, Knesset Member Oded Forer (from the left) and Knesset Member Simcha Rothman (from the right) discussed the proposed (and controversial) changes in the Judiciary. MK Rothman stated that he believes that democracy and the protection of women and minorities were exercised through voting and that the separation of powers and checks and balances were not necessary. Just prior to the panel, a young female reform rabbi attempted to halt the event, using whistles and groggers to silence MK Rothman. Chairman Doron Almog persuaded the woman to allow the panel to proceed. Emotions flared.”