ISRAEL21c brings Israel home to Rochester, New York

How does a small but solid Jewish community get people to understand and know Israel beyond the typical news cycle headline fare of conflict and stalled peace negotiations? If you are Mona Kolko, chair of the Executive Committee of the …

How does a small but solid Jewish community get people to understand and know Israel beyond the typical news cycle headline fare of conflict and stalled peace negotiations? If you are Mona Kolko, chair of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester’s Community Relations department, and Isobel Goldman, its community relations director, you engage enthusiastic leadership with lots of creative energy and you place a call to ISRAEL21c.

Mona knew that there was one address to go to where the real face of Israel gets focus – ISRAEL21c. So, earlier this year, Mona contacted Amy Friedkin, president of ISRAEL21c, to explain to her what the Rochester community wanted to do – present a picture of the real Israel – its dynamism, its atmosphere of possibility, and the rich creativity and energy found in its people.

Amy immediately sent them the web link to an important new book, Start-Up Nation, and urged them to get in touch with its two authors, Dan Senor and Saul Singer and bring them to Rochester to speak to the community.

Energy was flowing. Dan Kinel, a new recruit to the Rochester Community Relations Executive Committee had recently and enthusiastically agreed to chair the community’s Speakers Series. Recognizing the opportunity before him, Dan began to turn what was a Jewish federation event for the Jewish community into a Rochester-wide event sponsored by local and nearby businesses and academic centers and now set on drawing an audience representing all of greater Rochester.

Among the sponsors of the event were the University of Rochester’s Technology Transfer Office, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, Rochester’s largest law firm, Hi Tech Rochester, Rochester’s preeminent organization dedicated to assisting entrepreneurial business ventures, and Greater Rochester Enterprise, the community’s business development advocate.

With Dan Senor secured for the Rochester speaking engagement, his co-author, Saul Singer, agreed to an on-air interview with Rochester’s largest talk radio station host – a program that reaches 25,000 listeners.

Some 750 people attended Dan Senor’s talk in person last June. Many of these attendees were business people, entrepreneurs, inventors and others interested in technological and economic transformation. The community buzz that followed continues to pay off in a more positive word of mouth about Israel by people whose word of mouth matters.

What is the important lesson learned by the Rochester Jewish community experience? Take risk. Try a new direction. And give ISRAEL21c a call if you want great ideas for presenting Israel effectively.