Democrats for Israel - Los Angeles

History of Democrats for Israel - Los Angeles

Conceived in 1990 by pro-Israel activists such as Congressman Brad Sherman, former Assemblyman Paul Koretz and Clinton White House Advisor John Emerson, for to serve as a bridge between the Democratic Party and the Jewish/Pro-Israel community, Democrats for Israel (DFI) Los Angeles has two missions - supporting Israel in any way that we can alongside fighting antisemitism in our party as well as in society at large.

In the 1980s the sole voice for the pro-Israel community in the United States was AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee - A group of leaders within that organization felt it was necessary to focus a voice specifically within and onto the Democratic Party, since AIPAC by definition is a bipartisan organization. The motivations behind DFI were the precursor concept to forming additional national organizations in latter years within the Democratic Party like DMFI (Democratic Majority for Israel - and JDCA (The Jewish Democratic Council of America

DFI got its start from humble beginnings in 1990, which is when a group of like-minded Democrats who shared a passion for Israel came together and decided to coordinate their Democratic and pro-Israel activism under a partisan umbrella. They agreed on laying the foundation for a new pro-Israel club within the Democratic Party and named it Democrats for Israel - Los Angeles, which obtained its first official annual charter by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party in 1991. DFI-LA has efforted to work with other Pro-Israel groups to organize within the California Democratic Party to educate party activists about Israel and the Middle East.

Howard Welinsky was chosen as DFI’s first president in 1991 and served three years, followed by Dr. Francine Hanberg who served as president from 1994-1997. During those years, which coincided with the Oslo peace process, DFI would send delegations of two dozen active members to the California Democratic Party statewide conventions, ready to respond to any potential problematic resolutions or changes that might be proposed to the party’s platform.

No history of DFI can be conveyed without sharing the sentiment of how for decades Howard has been vital hero for the club, the Democratic party, pro-Israel activism, and for the Jewish community as a whole across this entire state of California.

Over the years, the organization has flourished under the leadership of Howard Welinsky (1991-94), John Emerson (DFI's first Chairman), Dr. Francine Hanberg (1994-97), Jay Greenstein (1997-99), Marilyn Landau (1999-2002), Edward Tabash, Paul Kujawsky, Leeor Alpern, Andrew Lachman (2016-2019), Gregg Solkovits (2020-present), and others. The group grew to become a full-fledged Democratic Club serving the role of reaching out to the Jewish community on behalf of the Democratic Party as well and getting involved with other issues of concern to the Jewish community such as protecting religious tolerance, human rights abuses in North Korea and Darfur, civil rights and labor rights.


Ron Galperin, founding member: “Dems for Israel represents my values unlike any other organization. My mother’s family came to Israel before statehood to escape pogroms in Ukraine and Russia. My father came to Israel from Romania to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. They both played a role in helping gain Israel’s statehood in 1948. If it wasn’t for Israel, I wouldn’t even be here. For me, what binds Israel and the U.S. is shared values: Democracy, equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights... and more. Both the U.S. and Israel are, of course, works in progress - but we share the common goal to create a better world.”

Howard Welinsky, founding member: “At the beginning DFI comprised of Howard Sterling, Brad Sherman, Gary Davis, John Emerson (who was also an early President of the organization), and Howard Welinsky. It was an effort to counter anti-Israel efforts at the state Democratic Party in 1988 and 1990 leading to Floor Issues, Resolutions, and Platform. Those efforts backed by Jesse Jackson supporters were countered on an ad-hoc basis involving Howard Berman, Terry Friedman, and Assembly member Burt Margolin. DFI-LA was designed to provide a permanent structure to populate the state Party Key Committees, Resolutions, Platform Legislation, and Credentials with Israel supporters. Between 1992-2018 there were no floor issues about Israel that took place.”

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PO Box 7577, Van Nuys, CA 91409
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