Tidewater goes to AIPAC

by | Mar 21, 2014 | Other News

The 2014 America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference was the largest gathering of America’s pro-Israel community with 14,000 attendees. The conference highlighted the importance of the partnership between the United States and Israel and showcased the two nations’ common interests in making the world a better place.

Through demonstrations of groundbreaking Israeli innovations that are saving American lives, keynote speeches by top leaders from both the United States and Israel such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, along with many members of the U.S. Senate and Congress and others— emotional and inspiring moments on stage, smaller and more intimate educational sessions, and dynamic interactive exhibits, Policy Conference was three days of full scale pro-Israel activism in Washington, DC.

The conference culminated in the opportunity for delegates to lobby their members of Congress to support legislation that encourages a stronger relationship between the United States and Israel. Read what some of Tidewater’s 56 attendees of AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 had to say about the experience:

The theme of Policy Conference this year was “I am AIPAC.” The opening moment of the conference brought a businessman, a nurse practitioner and disaster relief worker, an executive with the NBA, a Harley riding Evangelical preacher, a Mexican American Union president, former senator Joe Lieberman, a Latino community activist, a Jewish Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, a college student representing 2,300 students, and a African American pastor and community leader to the stage. The end of their presentation was “I am, You are, We are AIPAC!” The entire conference was based on this theme and weaved support for the Israel-U.S. relationship, the importance of support for initiatives making clear that Iran must dismantle it’s illicit nuclear program such that it cannot develop or build a nuclear weapon, support for fulfillment of America’s commitment and support for the full $3.1-billion in security assistance to Israel for the fiscal year 2015 (this is year seven of a 10-year memorandum of understanding that the U.S. has with Israel, keeping in mind that 76% of this money is to be spent back in the U.S.), and the strong commitment to peace and need for continuing close U.S.-Israel cooperation to facilitate peace efforts.

It was a conference like no other and I can’t wait to attend my fifth Policy Conference March 1–3, 2015.
—Robin Mancoll

There was someone for everyone to relate to and it reminded us all that Israel needs all of the friends she can get.

I have never been more proud to be Jewish. Three days of total immersion into Pro-Israel programming being surrounded by thousands of Jews, Christians, African- Americans, Atheists, young and old with one vision—the acknowledgement of and preservation of our Jewish homeland.

No matter what political stance one has, ALL came together under the banner of protecting the Jewish state. There were inspiring speeches, tearful stories of how Israel helps our Arab neighbors, and a raucous soulful and engaging testimony of dedication to Israel by a black pastor from the poorest area of South Chicago. I was very proud to hear Benjamin Netanyahu speak and verify that all options are on the table to continue Israel’s existence. I was proud that so many of my fellow Jews came to Washington from Tidewater to be a part of this historic convention. Am Yisroel Chai.
—Dr. Robert Lehman

This is the second year that I attended this conference as an Israel Fellow. Exactly as the first year, I was amazed by this grandiose event and as the first year – I learned a lot of new, deep and important things. I learned it, mostly, not from the speakers, politicians or lectors, but from other Jews who I talked with between all the speeches, in corners of the conference hall. I would love to share with you some of the main things that I have gotten from this conference and which will stay with me forever.

Last year, I was not sure if I wanted to attend the conference. I had heard before that AIPAC is too radical, too “pro-Israeli” and as an Israeli, I know that seeing only one side of a story is always wrong. My director of Hillel at Virginia Tech, Sue Kurtz said: “You have to go. It is not about you and your political visions. It is about our students who are going. If they go—it is important for you to be there with them.” Thank you Sue, the conference has changed my life. This year I wanted to go without any doubts.

First of all, I saw that all those things that have been said about AIPAC are absolutely wrong. There were speakers with different points of view. Republicans and Democrats, Latinos and African Americans, Israelis and American Jews shared their feelings about Israel. They spoke about their love of Israel, their passion and their commitment to the Jewish State. How inspiring to see 14,000 Americans applauding three rabbis from different streams of Judaism who are on the same podium and embracing each other. It gives you wings, it gives you power and it gives you feeling that YOU are responsible for Israel exactly as those people are. All of us are Jews, all of us love Israel.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by Elliot Kosegrov, a rabbi in New York. He claimed that we, Jewish people are going through a sad process. According to him, Israelis and American Jews have no topics to speak about between themselves anymore. They have different interests, different realities and different duties. It is an important issue and I am glad that he has started talking about this. But during the AIPAC conference, I felt that the article is wrong. And especially, I felt so during free time, when I talked with American Jews who I had never met before. That is how it is at AIPAC—you just feel that everyone is your friend, a part of you. I am sure that participating in this conference can partially solve the problem that Rabbi Kosegrov talks about. The 2,300 students who attended the conference will be connected forever to Israel and Judaism . They will find new friends, new couples will be born and new Judaic issues will be solved. I am sure of this.

This year we had one student who attended the conference and participated in lobbing on Capitol Hill. Melissa Eichelbaum, the student I am so proud of, said she will do everything possible to bring more students from Virginia Tech next year. In fact, Sue Kurtz, Isabel Shocket and I have decided that the AIPAC conference will be our priority for next year. We will write grants and do what is necessary to send as many Hokies as possible to this amazing conference with great people.

I believe that every Jewish family should go to this Conference. Every parent should take their children. I know that this is the place where they will understand that we are the same nation. They will find new Jewish friends. And even if all those things are only my imagination —you still have to go. In the end of the day, where else can you see the American Secretary John Kerry said in Hebrew: “Am Yisorel Chai!” he said, and continued: “Am Yisorel Chai! Chai… Chai…Chai….”
—Ivan Goncharenko, Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at Hillel at Virginia Tech

I once again found the conference amazing, motivating and emotional with fantastic programs and speakers—from U.S. political leaders on both sides of the aisle, to people of other races and faiths who also care about the U.S./Israel relationship and, finally Prime Minister Netanyahu, who brought it all together and was so energizing.

The conference really builds toward more than 14,000 people going to Capitol Hill to meet with EVERY member of the House of Representatives and all 100 members of the Senate in regard to the U.S./ Israel relationship, including ensuring the long-term security of both of our countries. We had the opportunity to have meaningful, two-way conversations with Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Scott Rigell. It is so important that they hear from our Jewish community and I hope more people will have the opportunity to have this experience!
—Betty Ann Levin

An absolutely fantastic experience— 14,000 Jewish Americans coming together to express their commitment to Israel and the Jewish people everywhere—Educational—Emotional— Exhilarating—I was honored to be present.
—Bobby Copeland

What an emotionally uplifting experience this year’s AIPAC Policy conference was. Yes, the dangers facing Israel were front and center and they were many and daunting, but so were the many accomplishments of the Jewish state. Israel’s defense, both in terms of concrete military preparedness as well as strategy, were explored. Magnificent innovation in the world of health care, water resources, technology were all on display, as well as the economic and political ramifications of Israel as a new energy power and so much more. Equally compelling were the several thousand students among the delegates. Strong presence from the black religious community, as well as the evangelical community, were also seen.

AIPAC not only showed me what is going on to help and safeguard Israel in a dangerously fluid moment in the world…it also allowed me to be personally involved, doing my part, and not feel I am sitting on the sidelines of history.
—Abbey Horwitz

This was my third Policy Conference and the best yet.
—Matt Sharpe

To learn more about how to get involved with AIPAC or other pro-Israel activities in Tidewater, contact Robin Mancoll, director, CRC at RMancoll@ujft.org.