As one who thought seeing Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera up close was the ultimate, this is now a distant second. In three all too short days I was exposed to Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain, Isaac “Buji” Herzon (the leader of the opposition and Labor Party in Israel), and House Majority Leader Congressman Eric Cantor.
Being with 14,000 others as passionate about the State of Israel as me was invigorating. All of the woes that confront Israel are known, but when you hear of them compressed into a few days it becomes bewildering. Between security in general, the overpowering Iranian threat, the two-state solution, the burgeoning BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions or as the moniker Bibi gave it, the Electric Intifada) and now the Russia/Ukraine situation. The general sessions when everyone is together seemed like a sporting event---where everyone is rooting for Israel!
The larger sessions were wonderful, but it was the smaller or breakout ones for rabbis that were truly stimulating. Emphasis was placed on how to make Israel more relevant to the younger generation and how to be able to discuss and debate Israel’s issues in a persuasive and constructive manner. Even with the myriad of luminaries speaking, the highlights of the conference came from Chicago’s Pastor Chris Harris and Hispanic Union Head Olga Miranda of Washington, D.C.
Pastor Harris spoke about his passion for Israel and the importance of the relationship the African-American community needs to have with Israel and what AIPAC has done for him. Thankfully, the technology is such that you can “almost be there” to see and hear the way he had the entire conference on its feet “rooting for Israel.” For the link, click here: <a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJPo7-_rOvA" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJPo7-_rOvA">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJPo7-_rOvA</a>.
Olga Miranda spoke about the importance of the Jewish and Latino communities uniting together. By 2020, it is estimated that the Hispanic community in America will be the majority. Generally speaking, Hispanics like to champion the underdog, and therefore, today they are often against Israel. Thanks to AIPAC’s incredible new work, the Hispanic community is being brought to Israel to show that there are, in fact, two sides to the conflict. To watch Olga Miranda, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd6JHMYr2ps&list=UUxG28n8wj0thZukIZ56-9uQ&feature=c4-overview.
After the conference, I was a speaker at a seminar for the Executive Council of the Rabbinical Assembly about community organizing and building better relationships in our communities. In order to better advocate for both Israel and our synagogue communities, we must begin with building relationships. There have been wrongs on all sides in the Middle East, and we can only hope and pray that peace will one day come for the region. After hearing from John Kerry and Bibi Netanyahu, I am more optimistic than ever. What I did experience was the value of lobbying first-hand. Am Yisrael Chai!
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham