America’s bipartisan pro-Israel organization, AIPAC holds the Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit in Washington, DC each year for students from across the country. More than 500 teenagers attended the summit this year, including two members from Congregation Beth El, Jordan Parker- Ash and Ethan Myers. They were chosen to represent Tidewater by Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz.
The Summit was an intense three-day conference with training sessions starting at 8 am and ending at 11 pm. The sessions were designed to give the teens the knowledge and tools to become advocates for positive U.S.-Israel relations. The conference taught the teens how to work with both political parties to secure a stronger United States and Israel.
Along with receiving current and past information on the situation in Israel and the Middle East, one of the highlights of the conference is to prepare for and lobby a local Virginia Congressman. At the end of the third day, the four teen delegates from Virginia met with a staff member from Congressman Gerry Connolly’s (VA11) office. Each student explained why Israel is so important to them as a Jewish student and as an American. The students were asked to lobby for the current security situation in Israel explaining the situation on the Gaza border, asking for $3.3 billion in the next vote to go towards Israel’s security. They also lobbied for a bill that will issue sanctions against anyone that uses humans as shields.
“It was nice to be able to discuss the problems facing Israel openly and work on a solution for them in a meaningful way,” says Ethan Myers. This came even more true when discussing the current situation on college campuses with BDS and SJP. AIPAC Liaisons from college campuses spoke to the teens about what they might encounter when they enter college in the next few years. They also spoke about how important it is to have the knowledge ahead of time and strength to be able to stand up and be a pro-Israel advocate on their college campus.
“I am so honored to have had the opportunity to attend this conference,” says Jordan Parker-Ash. “I learned so much about the American-Israeli alliance, explored my interest in politics, and made many, many friends. It was an engaging and meaningful way to examine my Jewish political identity through education and experience right here in our nation’s capital.
“My favorite education session was the one where we heard about relationships, conflicts, and possible solutions going on in the Middle East from AIPAC’s own analysts. On our final day, we lobbied Congress, which was extremely exciting, as it was something I would have never been able to do,” she says.
This experience gave the two local students the skill set to positively speak about U.S.-Israel relations and become future AIPAC leaders. They learned that they have the power to make a difference and can continue to do so.