JEWISH NATIONAL FUND

OC_0418_COVER_FEATUREAMBASSADOR IDO AHARONI has worn many hats during his illustrious career in the public and private sectors. His expertise in nation branding and public diplomacy has led him to his current role as Global Distinguished Professor at New York University’s School of International Relations in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He is also a member of the International Advisory Council of APCO Worldwide, one of the largest companies in the world in its field.

Ambassador Aharoni was a member of Israel’s Foreign Service for over 25 years. During his tenure in the public sector, from 1991-2016, he held three overseas positions, once in Los Angeles and twice in New York. He is a gifted public diplomacy specialist who initiated the idea of promoting Israel through its relative advantages, later known as the Brand Israel program.

Among the highlights of his diplomatic career were appointments to serve under then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as policy assistant to Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians. He was a member of Israel’s official delegation to the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords at the White House in September of 1993. In the spring of 2006, Aharoni was appointed senior advisor and press secretary to Israel’s Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister. In 2007 he became his nation’s first Head of Brand Management.

From 1994 to 1998, Aharoni served as Israel’s consul for communications and public affairs in Los Angeles and the seven southwestern states. He then served as a policy advisor to the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem before moving to New York in 2001. From 2001 to 2005, Aharoni served as Israel’s consul for media and public affairs at Israel’s Consulate General in New York and the Tri-State area, where as head of the department, he oversaw the operation of Israel’s largest public diplomacy and media relations apparatus worldwide, including the management of public diplomacy, media relations, community outreach, social media platforms, as well as a variety of informational services. In that capacity, after 9/11, he convened the Brand Israel Group (known as BIG) and later introduced nation branding methods and country positioning strategies as pillars of Israel’s public diplomacy.

Leaving the foreign service in 2016 was a natural next step for Ambassador Aharoni who had a desire to pursue other, more independent ventures. “It was time to move on,” he declares. “I had the privilege of representing Israel twice in the most important hub in the world: New York is the capital of the free world. It is the nerve center of the financial world and media. It is a major global center of culture and art and of course the epicenter of organized Jewish life.”

Among his many accolades, in 2015, Ambassador Aharoni was awarded Honorary Governor by Tel Aviv University. In the summer of 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced July 29th, 2016 as “Ambassador Ido Aharoni Day” in New York. In 2013, The Algemeiner named him among the ‘Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life,’ commonly known as the “Jewish 100.” In 2005, a communications studies scholarship, ‘Wings of Hope,’ was named after him by the Yemenite-Jewish Federation of North America. In 1998, he was given the Community Leadership Award in Los Angeles by the American Friends of the Rabin Medical Center. In the fall of that year, Aharoni was honored by the Jerusalem Foundation at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Among the many organizations that Ambassador Aharoni admires and lends his support to is Jewish National Fund. On June 21, he will be speaking at Jewish National Fund’s annual Breakfast for Israel at the Newport Beach Marriott. The event is complimentary and guests can register via jnf.org/oclbbreakfast or by calling (949) 260-0400 x952.

Ambassador Aharoni’s relationship with JNF goes back almost 25 years. Shortly after arriving to serve in Los Angeles in 1994, he met Russell F. Robinson, who was then the head of the LA office for United Jewish Appeal. Their paths crossed many times in the Los Angeles Jewish community scene. In 1997, when Robinson became CEO of Jewish National Fund, the two maintained their friendship. “Russell and I clicked immediately,” recalls Aharoni. “JNF is lucky to have such an energetic, forceful, visionary and creative person at the helm. I am not surprised at all at the JNF’s incredible success under Russell’s management. He is a gifted person.”

The feeling is mutual. Robinson recalls a fond memory – when he and Aharoni threw out the first pitch at the very first Jewish Heritage Night at a Major League baseball game. “Our synergies came together,” says Robinson of JNF and Aharoni. “Ido knew how to talk about Israel when no one else was doing it. His perception and our direction on how to sell Israel from a branding perspective are what Positively Israel is all about.”

In 2001, when Ambassador Aharoni arrived in New York to serve as Israel’s consul for media and public affairs, he and Robinson got reacquainted. When Aharoni was looking for partners to promote the values Israel celebrates as a brand, Robinson was one of the first to understand the potential of a broader conversation about Israel as well on the JNF’s ability to recruit new people and expand organizationally. “Naturally, because of JNF’s core competency, their strategy centered around the environment,” said Aharoni. When JNF embraced the “green agenda” they did it wholeheartedly. It was also timely. It happened just as global ecological awareness was on the rise and JNF literally became one of the most active and productive environmental agencies in the world. “So, for me,” continued Aharoni, “as a civil servant who was constantly looking to broaden the conversation about Israel – JNF’s leadership on this issue was a tremendous gift.”

“When you serve as Israel’s official representative in a diverse place as New York, you always look for strategic partners to execute your country’s plans and vision,” said Ambassador Aharoni. “I consider myself a very fortunate Israeli diplomat for having JNF there for me throughout my entire career. A special gratitude goes to the lay leadership that I learned to know and love dearly. Wonderful people such as Stan Chesley, Ron Lauder, Jeff Levine, Jane Ottenstein, Sol Lizerbram and many others.”

Ambassador Aharoni praises JNF’s Positively Israel initiative, which is focused on broadening the conversation to enlighten the world about the unbelievable strides Israel is making in technology, agriculture, medicine and many other fields. He calls it “a huge help for the State of Israel” to focus on all the productive and positive things coming out of the phenomenal country.

Caravan for Democracy is a program for which Ambassador Aharoni spoke on several occasions and is passionate about. Over the years, he engaged about the program to tens of US-campuses speaking to students and faculty alike. On its Israeli side, he had a chance to address the participants of its 10-day fully subsidized educational program that is meant to attract non-Jewish student leaders who have not visited before. This unique trip provides students with the opportunity to explore the Jewish and democratic country of Israel through meetings with political, cultural and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths.

Ambassador Aharoni also praises the Faculty Fellowship Summer Institute in Israel, which is a fully-paid intensive program for full-time academics at a recognized university/learning institution. “It was always a true delight and a real educational experience to engage with the professors during their time in Israel,” recalls Aharoni. “While it’s amazing to send students on trips, it is also meaningful to send faculty who endure at universities for many years so that they can forge relationships with their counterparts and learn more about the work being done in Israel.”

Continuing the educational note, Ambassador Aharoni is a big fan of JNF’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel, which gives high school students the opportunity to spend a semester living and studying in Israel. “This program favorably changes the emotional landscape that exists between Israel and American Jews,” he explains. “Program participants get to experience Israel, authentically, directly and in an un-mediated fashion. This is priceless. Each participant becomes Israel’s brand ambassador.”

During Jewish National Fund’s Breakfast for Israel, Ambassador Aharoni will speak about the current climate in Israel and will undoubtedly touch on the impact JNF has made on the country. JNF is “greening” the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks across Israel, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid agriculture techniques and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

For more information about the Jewish National Fund Breakfast for Israel, please contact Lisa Grier at lgrier@jnf.org or (949)260-0400 x986.

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