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JNF-USA Luncheon Features Speech from Amb. Michael Oren

In his speech, Oren was insistent that when the world calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, “we have no choice but to fight. A ceasefire means Hamas wins. Hamas gets away with mass murder and we lose. Period.”
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March 6, 2024
Moshe Elgrably Photography

On the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23, hundreds of JNF-USA donors and supporters gathered for the Brentwood Stand with Israel Luncheon at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. There, they raised money for Israel, heard from pro-Israel speakers, celebrated JNF-USA’s accomplishments over the past few months and listened to a keynote speech from author and former Ambassador Michael Oren. 

According to Cynthia Hizami, director of planned giving, West Coast JNF-USA has raised $56 million for Israel since Oct. 7. 

“We have watched as the world has not judged Hamas for their pure evil, but blamed Jews and Israel,” she said. “But our bond with Israel is stronger than ever.”

Since the war in Israel broke out, JNF-USA has helped thousands of Israeli residents relocate to safer areas, started an emergency campaign to raise funds, offered volunteer trips to help rebuild the affected areas, distributed care packages to soldiers and offered psychotherapy to those who have been traumatized. 

“I see a coming together of the Jewish community at this very tough time,” United States Representative Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) said. We have a lot to do to support Israel.”

Sherman has been a leading voice to make Israel a visa-waiver country and got it implemented two months early so it could “apply at this very difficult time,” he said.  He brought an American flag and presented it to Jewish National Fund-USA Co-Presidents, Fred Toczek and Susie Satzman Toczek, for their community-building work. 

In his speech, Oren was insistent that when the world calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, “we have no choice but to fight. A ceasefire means Hamas wins. Hamas gets away with mass murder and we lose. Period.” The author of “2048: The Rejuvenated State” and “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” also discussed the uptick in antisemitism. “The Jewish community is experiencing antisemitism like I did when I was a kid, but a hundred times over, especially on college campuses,” he said. “It’s so lonely and painful.”

The former ambassador highlighted how Hamas indoctrinates Palestinian children from a young age, using their twisted version of “Sesame Street” to talk about “taking over the White House,” he said. “This is what they learn. Anyone who wants true peace between Israelis and Palestinians has to begin with reeducation. It simply won’t happen without that.”

Oren took a long view of the current war, citing prior conflicts and how they ultimately led to a positive result for Israel.

“Since 1948, we have to remind our enemies every couple of years that it’s not a good idea to attack us.” – Michael Oren

“Since 1948, we have to remind our enemies every couple of years that it’s not a good idea to attack us,” he said. “The Egyptians tried it four times … the U.S. waged a war on Germany and Japan to take down Germany and Japan, not to destroy their countries. [Hamas] absolutely wants to destroy us. And they failed. Eventually, the Egyptians realized it wasn’t a good idea and they made peace. The Jordanians realized it wasn’t a good idea. The Abraham Accords countries realized it wasn’t a good idea. Right now, we’re reminding Hamas it’s not a good idea.” 

When Israel isn’t at war and fighting for its life, it’s building itself up — just like it’s always done. “What do we do in the intervals of these actions?” Oren asked. “We built one of the most successful nation states on this planet. Israel is a super successful nation state.”

Despite all the issues that Israel is facing right now, what gives him hope is the fact that the Jewish community is so united in this moment. He pointed out how 360,000 reservists came back to serve in the IDF following Oct. 7, which was unprecedented, and how everyone is banding together to help Israel win the war and continue its mission as the world’s only Jewish state.

“We are a family, we are a mishpacha,” said Oren. “There is nothing like it.”

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