Jessa Cameron, a college student leader at University of Washington, recently attended the AIPAC National Policy Conference as part of Or Ami's congregational delegation.
Three whirlwind days at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference 2009. Amazing. Heard from both presumptive nominees (Obama and McCain), candidate Senator Hilary Clinton, the Speaker of the House Pelosi, Leader of the Republican in Congress, Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli Minister Natan Sharansky dozens of Senators and Congresspeople, and more. It was a clean, crisp event, well-managed, well-produced. We fretted about the threats from Iran and its underlings (Hamas, Hezbollah and others), talked about the Palestinian-Israeli challenges, and considered the strangehold oil has on our country.
Or Ami’s delegation of 11, represented the same percentage of membership that the larger LA synagogues had. Led by Faculty member Patti Jo Wolfson, we comprised different political backgrounds and multiple perspectives on how to solve the problems of the Middle East. We came together in that we all are pro-Israel, pro-American and concerned about the future for both and the whole world.
Learn more about the Conference here (or read about my experiences listening to Senator Obama and Senator McCain elsewhere on this blog).
Thank you to participants: Patti Jo Wolfson, Shirley Wolfson, Cindy Walkov, Fariba Cooper, Bob Rothstein, College Students Max Cohen and Chaniel Cooper, teenager Kenya Rothstein, Mishpacha and Temple Teen Night Faculty member Lauren Gottlieb, and myself. Former intern Rabbi Brett Krichiver was also in attendance.
Or Ami is committed to doubling our participation at next year’s Policy Conference (May 3-5, 2009). If you are interested, Rabbi Kipnes.
The day after he surpassed the delegate threshold, Senator Barack Obama showed up at the AIPAC Policy Conference to honor and reflect upon the amazing relationship between America and Israel. That this was one of his FIRST stops once he clinched the nomination is a tribute to the intense work AIPAC does to create relationships with leaders on both sides of the political aisle.
The presumptive Democratic nominee came to AIPAC with a purpose: to share his vision of the American-Israeli relationship and to address questions that we have of all candidates – Democratic or Republican – about how they will deepen and secure Israel’s present and future.
Obama’s words were clear; his meaning could not have been misunderstood. He explained, emoted, clarified his connection to Israel, his belief in the importance to America (and to Israel) of this unshakable alliance, and his conviction that this relationship must be deepened and maintained. He said what needed to be said to convince open-minded Jews that he is a very pro-Israel candidate and will take care of Israel and the American-Israeli relationship as well as our best presidents in the past. That he is an amazing speaker, so moving, was well-known. Experiencing it firsthand was so inspiring. You may view his speech here.
Sadly, politics seemed to blind democrats and republicans alike. I watched Democrats watch Senator McCain, and they were dismissive of some of his words. I watched Republicans watch Senator Obama, and they were dismissive of some of his words. The reality is, with regards to Israel, Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, they will be equally strong, resolute, thoughtful and committed. So vote for whichever candidate or party suits your other political concerns, since each will be “good on and good for” Israel.
I’m here in Washington DC leading a delegation of 8 from Congregation Or Ami to the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference.
Congregation Or Ami is well represented. Some of the larger congregations boast having 100 members present. Yet when you look at percentage of membership attending (they have 3200 plus members; Or Ami has 320), our smaller delegation seems impressive.
I have attended plenty of conventions but I must admit, this AIPAC conference is very impressive. From the use of technology to the level of assistance to the information booths to the electronic preregistration, AIPAC makes learning about our concerns very easy. Moreover, the friendships they have cultivated to support Israel becomes clear as a perusal of the program evidences their uncanny ability to turn out congressional leaders, top journalists and think tank scholars, Israeli leaders and ALL THREE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES.
We heard presumptive Republican nominee John McCain speak this morning. (See the video here.) Sitting next to Faculty member Patti Jo Wolfson and her son college campus delegate Max Cohen, I listened to Mr. McCain reaffirm his deep connection to Israel even as he laid out some pretty scary concerns about the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East. He took his swipes at Obama, as I’m sure Obama (and Clinton) will do toward McCain tomorrow. Ha’aretz, Israel’s New York Times, reviewed his speech here. AIPAC’s internal report is here.
We also heard an opening panel discussion with The Honorable Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives; Ms. Elizabeth Cheney, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, United States Department of State; Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and The Honorable Ephraim Sneh, Former Deputy Defense Minister, Member of Knesset, Labor party.
I took in a session on “Inside Islam: Can the West Overcome the Extremists and Reach Moderate Muslims” with Mr. Daniel Benjamin, Director, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution ; Dr. Martin Kramer, Wexler-Frommer Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, Shalem Center; and Dr. Walid Phares, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Fascinating. Scary. Thought-provoking. The conservative speaker was more hopeful; the self-described more liberal presenter was less hopeful.
I am impressed with the level of concern and discussion about Israel, Iraq, Iran, the Middle East and Israel’s relationship with America. Said simply, we need an AIPAC to help us keep the relationship strong and secure.