Local students lobby Representative Scott Rigell on issues important to U.S.-Israel relationship

by | Feb 8, 2013 | Uncategorized

Skylar Arias, Adam Zelenka, Representative Scott Rigell, Nathan Levy and Jake Patish.

Skylar Arias, Adam Zelenka, Representative Scott Rigell, Nathan Levy and Jake Patish.

Four of the five students who attended the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) High School Summit in October met to put their new skills to the test on Friday, Feb. 1. Representative Scott Rigell opened his office and engaged the students in discussion on the issues important to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Through training at the High School Summit, Skylar Arias, Nathan Levy, Jake Patish and Adam Zelenka discussed with Representative Rigell the importance of preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability and support for security assistance to Israel. The group also thanked Representative Rigell for signing the letter by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) urging the president to send a clear message to PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that his securing of an upgraded status at the United Nations is damaging to the peace process and will set back U.S.- Palestinian relations.

The students and Rep. Rigell shared personal experiences about Israel, as well as expressed hopes for their next visit. As the students learned, relationships are not made in a single visit and they look forward to the next opportunity they have to engage the Congressman in issues important to the Tidewater Jewish community and of course, the pro-Israel movement.

The students’ reflections on their meeting follow:

“We met with Representative Rigell for about 40 minutes to discuss America’s responsibility towards Israel. We talked about three key issues: the threat of the Iranian nuclear program, for which he assured us all options were on the table; Palestinian statehood; and U.S. foreign aid, which should become an issue of importance in the coming month, as sequestration looms. In the visit, it was comforting to be reassured that our representative is on our side and loyal to a thriving American Israeli relationship.” —Adam Zelenka, junior, Princess Anne High School

“Lobbying Representative Rigell was a great culmination of our AIPAC High School Summit. The time flew by with deep conversation about Israel. We shared our passion and knowledge on the issues with him, and he skillfully engaged in questioning discussion. The all-important relationship was started.” —Jake Patish, senior, Deep Creek High School

“Meeting with Representative Rigell was a great experience. Having the opportunity to meet with a member of Congress not only benefitted me as an advocate on behalf of AIPAC, but also for similar experiences in the future on other issues. I felt pressure going into the meeting since Rigell was taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us, but he quickly made all of us feel right at home. He seemed genuinely interested in what we were telling him, and he contributed stories and ideas of his own. He even went beyond the allotted time for our group so that we could finish advocating for all of the different issues we had prepared to talk about with him. Robin did an excellent job preparing us, and having her presence in the room made me much more at ease. It was a great learning experience, and I am glad that I finally received an opportunity to use the skills I gained at the high school summit.” —Nathan Levy, senior, Norfolk Academy

“In December I attended the AIPAC High School Summit in Washington, DC, where it had been planned for us to lobby congress. Sadly, our lobby time was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. Naturally I was nervous at first, in that kind of excited way, though. When we arrived at his office, I realized I had nothing to be nervous about. He was very welcoming and was really easy to talk to. He was openminded, but knew what he believed in, which is something I aspire to. The experience was all around great and I truly hope to do it again.” —Skylar Arias, junior, Cox High School

by Robin Mancoll