A former consul-general of Israel is scheduled to speak in Milwaukee about the nation’s history.
Ido Aharoni is a global distinguished professor at New York University’s School of International Relations. A native of Israel, he spent 25 years in his homeland’s Foreign Service, including six years as the consul-general in New York. Aharoni held the rank of ambassador and supervised the operations of Israel’s largest diplomatic mission in the world from 2010 to 2016.
On Nov. 11, he is scheduled to speak at the Jewish National Fund’s Guardian of Israel award dinner at Four Points Sheraton in Brown Deer. Gail and Martin Komisar of Biltrite Furniture will be honored at the event. Aharoni will draw from his personal and professional experience to provide an overview of how Israel has changed since its founding.
He said the role he held as consul-general, the chief diplomat, made him Israel’s ambassador to the organized Jewish world. The job was part of his career progression, although it wasn’t a job he was working toward.
“When the opportunity came, I just said, ‘Hey, this is a job of a lifetime. Let’s do it,’” he said. “And I gave it everything I had.”
He said centers like the one he headed typically appear in a nation’s capital, but Israel views New York as the most important city in the world. New York is the “nerve center” of global media, finance, culture and arts.
“It’s a hub of academic power,” he said. “It’s the place where many ethnic and religious groups hold their headquarters. For all those reasons and beyond, the plate of the consul-general is constantly full.”
His office was responsible for serving Israel’s agenda of building bridges with communities that matter, he said.
Consul-general is a political appointment and works to serve a political party leader. Aharoni said he was a unique choice for the post, because unlike most others who have held the role, he is a political independent.
After retiring from that work, he moved on to other ventures. He is a principal at Emerson Rigby, an Israel-based investment, business development and consulting company he founded in 2016.
Aharoni is now also in his third year as a professor at NYU. He teaches two main courses: nation branding and the impact of technology on traditional diplomacy. He also produces an annual conference on those subjects for the university. Aharoni said he aims to teach students about how past approaches to policy making have been entirely disrupted. He said he guides the students toward thinking creatively about solutions to the new diplomatic conditions.
The work needs to shift, he said, from an advocacy model to proactive marketing.
“Diplomacy relied heavily on facts and relied heavily on historical arguments, legal arguments,” he said. “All of that is gone. Technology disrupted the conversation. Today facts are being replaced by storytelling, and you’re being asked to demonstrate strong marketing skills as a diplomat.”
When Aharoni visits Milwaukee in November, he said he plans to use all of this experience to explain how Israel’s assets have changed since its founding, and how that connects with the work of being Jewish in America.
He said he hopes guests who hear his speech learn that Israel is not merely a place “plagued with problems.”
“It’s a real place with real people that have real achievements and real aspirations and real contributions,” he said. “It’s a country. It’s not a conflict.”
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What: Guardian Of Israel Award Dinner, featuring Ido Aharoni
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Where: Brown Deer
More information: Jnf.org or Kim Levy, executive director, Midwest Jewish National Fund,
KLevy@Jnf.org or 414-963-8733.