Time to be on the same team
If ever there was a time to come together as Jews, it is now. Either we learn from history and survive, or we ignore it, and suffer the consequences. With rising anti-Semitism around the world, which is often disguised, as anti Zionism, we must be proactive as a community.
What should we do? I am far from being an expert, but I do have a few observations to offer. First of all, we need to let go of the labels that divide us. It does not matter what stream of Judaism we identify with, what synagogue we do or don’t attend, or if we are secular. It does not matter if we are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. What matters is that we share a common purpose—the survival of the Jewish people around the world, and the survival of the State of Israel.
For 40 years I have been involved with AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is not a PAC. It does not support candidates. Its purpose is to build friends for Israel in the U.S. Congress and the White House. You may not know that for decades, everyone running for a congressional seat has been educated by AIPAC about the importance of the U.S. – Israel relationship. AIPAC has been extremely successful doing this because it is a bipartisan organization. AIPAC works with politicians of every persuasion and AIPAC’s membership consists of citizens of every political persuasion, so it is very nimble and can stay on message no matter who has the majority in congress and who sits in the White House. The founders of AIPAC did it right, and this organization has been at the forefront lobbying for issues of vital importance to Israel. Just this week, the United States Senate passed a resolution making it clear that the United States will stand with Israel if the Jewish state is compelled to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program in legitimate self-defense. Before coming to a vote, the resolution had 92 Senate co-sponsors. It passed by a vote of 99-0. This resolution was introduced at the AIPAC Policy Conference this past March, and the across the aisle support, and speed with which the resolution passed, did not happen by accident. It happened because AIPAC activists did their job educating and lobbying. This is an example of what our AIPAC, non-partisan approach can accomplish. This type of resolution, combined with the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which just passed out of committee in the House of Representatives, sends a strong message to Iran on the eve of its presidential elections. Whether they are lobbying for Iron Dome missile defense funding, critical foreign aid security assistance, or securing congressional support for Israel’s right to self-defense against terrorist rockets, AIPAC is in the halls of congress advocating for the pro-Israel community.
Because AIPAC has been so successful lobbying for legislation to assist and protect Israel, some people incorrectly assume that AIPAC is connected to the Israeli government. Again, AIPAC has no political ties to any Israeli party or the government. It does have a small Jerusalem office (as do many Jewish organizations) and it works closely with whatever Israeli government is in power so it can lobby on issues that are consistent with the current security needs of the Israeli people.
Because Jews are a tiny percentage of the U.S. population (2 percent and getting smaller), AIPAC realized years ago that it would have to build alliances with other groups to sustain our voice and message in support of Israel. Outreach to the Christian and Latino community has been very successful, and rebuilding ties between the Jewish community and African American community has also proven to be positive. Through the AIPAC college program, student leaders of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds are educated about the U.S. - Israel relationship and taught how to be advocates. Anyone who has attended an AIPAC Policy Conference can’t help but be impressed by the hundreds of students of all races and religions who have participated in the Saban Program and seminars in Israel. AIPAC is educating tomorrow’s leaders.
These are difficult times. We read the newspapers and cringe. Our organizations and synagogues are struggling to stay afloat financially, and every one is carefully watching how they spend their own money. While AIPAC is not tax deductible (unless a gift is made to its educational foundation) it is one of the best investments any of us can make toward the security of the State of Israel. Locally, Marc Smith and Mark Israel chair our AIPAC efforts. I urge you all to contact them or Jacki Alexander, our Central Florida AIPAC Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved with both your contribution and your voice. Aside from getting alerts to contact our representatives about important pending legislation, we hold several briefings a year in Orlando, will have our annual fundraiser in September, and would like to take a large delegation to Washington D.C. for the annual Policy Conference in March. It will be an experience you won’t forget and, like me, you might even get you hooked for 40 years.
Roz Fuchs Schwartz
Past AIPAC Chair
Past President JFGO