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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


April 10, 2015  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

500-plus expected for ‘Evening of Unity for Israel’

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Kasim Hafeez, who once called for Israel’s destruction, now travels the world speaking in its support. He will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming event, organized by the Tampa Ameet Chapter of Hadassah. Kasim Hafeez, who once called for Israel’s destruction, now travels the world speaking in its support. He will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming event, organized by the Tampa Ameet Chapter of Hadassah. An event expected to draw more than 500 community members for a strong show of support for Israel will feature top speakers, a panel discussion and a dessert reception on Monday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.

Keynote speaker for what is billed as “An Evening of Unity for Israel,” will be Kasim Hafeez, a man who once called for the destruction of Israel and now says he is proud to be a Zionist.

Also speaking at the event will be Chaim Shacham, Consul General for Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, who will talk about “What Your Support Means to Israel” and there will be a welcoming address by Marcie Natan, Hadassah national president. Natan will also be one of five members of a panel discussion on how their Jewish organization supports Israel.

The event, in the planning for more than six months, is being presented by the Tampa Ameet Chapter of Hadassah and will include a gala dessert reception where those in attendance can meet the speakers and members of the panel after the program.

The idea for the evening came from Debra Gladstone, immediate past president and co-vice president of fundraising for the chapter, but has taken the active support of many people “working relentlessly” to pull it together.

“We’ve never before done anything of this magnitude. Most important, we believe the message being conveyed will inspire a call to action and spread the word,” said Gladstone, who is co-chairing the event along with Anita Greenberg.

The impetus for the unity evening sprang from events last year, she explained.

“Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Israel unjustly took a big PR hit. With the BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions] movement gaining strength, support for Israel waning, and anti-Semitism at an all-time high, it seemed like the right time to create a truthful, fact based and powerful dialogue about the importance of supporting Israel now, more than ever,” she said. “We feel confident that we have put together a program that will accomplish our goals.”

Keynote speaker

Kasim Hafeez is a British man of Pakistani Muslim heritage. He grew up in a predominately Muslim community where he was exposed to radical anti-Western, anti- Semitic and anti-Israel ideas. As a teen he adopted a radical Islamist ideology and called for the destruction of Israel. Later, thanks much to his reading of A Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, he began a transformation into the pro-Israel Zionist he is today.

“I told myself that I would read his arguments, easily refute them, and that would be that,” he said in a 2012 Jerusalem Post story. Hafeez found it difficult to refute Dershowitz’s reasoning and that led to months of research on the history of Israel and finally led him to visit Israel.

Even being detained for eight hours at Ben Gurion Airport for a security check turned out to be a positive experience, he said, and when he looked for signs of discrimination against Arabs on buses and at the Western Wall, he found none. It was then that he realized he has been told many lies about Israel.

“I was just at the Wailing Wall and I broke down crying,” Hafeez told the Jerusalem Post. “I realized the meaning of Jewish independence, and was saddened by the fact that no matter what, six million people will never get to experience it. Israel is an expression of the fact that the Jewish people simply do not want to be oppressed any more.”

Hafeez now travels to many places to tell of how his ideas changed. He is on the advisory board for Stand With Us, a pro- Israel advocacy group that works on campuses in the United States, Europe and Israel to educate students about Israel.

“The strength of [Hafez’s] words will be immeasurable, Gladstone said. “The community and those of us who spend our time working for organizations whose mission is to support Israel, need to be reenergized. We are hopeful that this evening of unity will do just that.”

Consul General

The second speaker, Chaim Shacham has been an advocate for Israel for years and much of his duties as Consul General have to do with building support in Florida for Israel. According to the consulate’s website, since assuming the post in 2011, Shacham has overseen important milestones in Florida-Israel relations including the signing of a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Joint Israel-Florida Research and Development in the realm of Space and a special initiative to prevent a nuclear-bent Iran from benefiting in any way from Florida taxpayer dollars.

Originally from the United States, he immigrated to Israel after high school. He has a degree in international relations and political science from the State University of New York.

Hadassah president

Hadassah National President Marci Natan has shown both a love for Israel and Hadassah in her service to the organization. She has visited Israel more than 70 times, including visits during both intifadas and the 2006 Lebanon War.

She has been a member of Hadassah for more than four decades and previously served as national treasurer for Hadassah and as chairwoman of Hadassah College in Jerusalem. She has an undergraduate degree in early childhood education and was trained and formerly served as a divorce mediator.


In addition to Natan, others participating in the panel discussion will be Mark Kleinman, Southeastern States director of AIPAC; Uri Smajovits, regional director of Jewish National Fund; Emilie Socash, executive director of the Tampa-Orlando-Pinellas Jewish Foundation and Reva Pearlstein, an Israel Bonds assistant director in the Tampa Bay regional office.

Moderating the discussion will be Robin Sussingham, a program host and reporter at WUSF, an NPR member station.

About the event

Gladstone said she anticipates 500 to 600 will turn out for the event.

“Responses to the event have been very positive. Some people are surprised that an event like this has never been done before,” she said. “The organizations involved have been very enthusiastic to participate in ‘An Evening of Unity for Israel’ to showcase how they love and support Israel and how we will all work in sync toward our common goal.”

Cost for the event is $100 for members of Hadassah, Israel Bonds, AIPAC, Tampa Jewish Federation or Jewish National Fund, and $125 for non-members. Sponsorship are also available.

For more information, contact Anita Greenberg at (813) 969-3454 or Gladstone at (813) 476-0160.

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