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America-Israel Friendship League: Partners for Democracy Awards

Partners for Democracy Awards

Left: Jonathan Barsade, President AIFL; AmbassadorDan Gillerman; AIFLIsrael Chairman of the Board, Eric Gertler; US Chairman of the Board and honoree, Josh Weston, former CEO of Automatic Data Processing. Right: (top) Ambassador Dani Dayan, Israel's Consul General in New York. (bottom) Lilach Asher-Topilsky, Israel Discount Bank President and CEO.

December 20, 2019

By Henry Levy

This year the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) remembered its' mainstay for many years, Ken Bialkin, introduced its future leaders and honored top business leaders at their annual Partners for Democracy Award Gala held November 11th at Gustavino's in NYC.

The AIFL was founded in 1971 with the goal of strengthening the relationship between the people of the United States and Israel. Today, AIFL is continuing the vision of its founders by introducing Americans of all ages, faiths, ethnic backgrounds and political orientations to the culture, entrepreneurship, medical research, agricultural technology, environmental protection initiatives other aspects of contemporary Israel.

The AIFL honored Israel Discount Bank President & CEO, Lilach Asher-Topilsky, and Honorary Chairman & former CEO of Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Josh S. Weston, at its 2019 Partners for Democracy Awards Dinner.

A life-long philanthropist, Josh S. Weston has supported Israel, science, education and the arts for decades. He is responsible for one of AIFL's signature initiatives designed to introduce business leaders to Israel, the Josh Weston Business Delegation. Through this initiative, Mr. Weston has coordinated and led 18 trips to Israel for business leaders to date. Speaking of his award he quoted George Burns who said, “I don't deserve all these compliments. I also don't deserve arthritis. If I have to put up fwith one, I'll put up with the other.”

In an industry with few female CEOs, Lilach Asher-Topilsky was appointed President & CEO of Israel Discount Bank in 2014 and is credited with helping Discount become the third largest banking group in Israel. Lilach noted the crucial role that the Israeli banking industry plays in advancing Israel's economy. She said the Israeli economic strategy can be summed up by the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Eric Gertler, US Chairman of the Board said the AIFL is seeking to combat antisemitism around the world and inspire young Americans and Israelis for cooperation and betterment between the two countries.

AIFL President, Jonathan Barsade spoke of revitalizing the organization with new blood and new activities. His goal is to tell people in America “What is Israel”, highlighting common bonds beyond the conflicts and geopolitics. He said there are students in Israeli high schools working with students in American high schools on technology. Also, a Mideast Studies Program brings program directors at universities along with one deserving student to Israel for familiarization (FAM) trips. There is also an outreach to the Christian community this year. He remarked that the organization began the day, with over 100 guests, by ringing the opening of trade at NASDAQ (instead of the usual NYSE) to show a focus on cyber security.

Israel's Consul General in New York, Ambassador Dani Dayan, spoke of three challenges facing the American Jewish people: sociological, political and generational.

He said that in 30 years, 30% of American society will be Latino and we should address that reality now. Also, it is essential to keep bipartisan support of Israel in the Congress. Finally, we need to reach out to baby boomers. We must learn how to reach and connect to millennials and other youth. He concluded his remarks by saying, “Addressing these issues will help cement the alliance between the Land of the Free and& Home of the Brave and Eretz Yisroel.”

Eric Friedman, executive director of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meaghan & Flom LLC lauded his late partner, Ken Bialkin, who in 1980 established the firm's connection to, and support of, Israel. Today it is recognized as a leading law firm in that country with over fifty lawyers advising Israeli companies. Skadden pledged continued support for AIFL and Israel.

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