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Rabbi Rick Sherwin's perspective on the AIPAC Rabbinic Symposium


Rabbi Rick Sherwin with Mark Waldman, national director of AIPAC Synagogue Initiative.

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, Rabbi Rick Sherwin of Congregation Beth Am in Longwood joined 300 pulpit rabbis from around the country for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's 3rd National Rabbinic Symposium, a one-day symposium on U.S. – Israel relations that featured top thinkers and influential policy makers. AIPAC advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. The mission of AIPAC is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of both nations.

The intense programming for this day of rabbinic support, focused on this summer's war with Hamas, the rise of ISIS and the proliferation of radical Islamic groups worldwide, allowed Rabbi Rick and the other attendees the opportunity to inform their congregations in their High Holy Day messages.

Howard Kohr, AIPAC executive director, told the rabbis that both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are opposed to Hamas and both countries distrust the Palestinian Authority. There is support for Israel's call to demilitarize Gaza and to monitor the import of building materials so that Gaza residents will have hospitals and schools as opposed to terrorist tunnels. Kohr asked rabbis to help their congregations to continue to focus on the northern border where Islamic factions are at war, kidnapping peace forces from the Philippines and Fiji. ISIS is supporting Jordanian citizens to topple the government, and Hezbollah forces in the north have ten-times the numbers of rockets stockpiled by Hamas. Finally, he shared the good news/bad news that Iran is growing stronger as a nuclear force and the Arab world is uniting against Iran.

Ilan Fluss, director for Policy Planning and External Relations in MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development, emphasized Israel's tremendous humanitarian endeavors in Gaza during the war with Hamas and in developing countries throughout the world. Israel provides technology the West African nations of Sudan, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Ghana, along with providing major humanitarian knowledge to such powers as India and China. Rabbi Rick found this session particularly helpful as few people speak about Israel's outreach to these countries.

The featured speaker, Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas co-founder and leader Hassan Yousef, shared with the rabbis his incentive to reject his family's destiny and to join Shin-Bet, the Israeli equivalent of America's CIA. He allowed the rabbis to see Hamas through insider's eyes, and to offer insight on the psyche of Hamas.

The closing speaker, Antony Blinken, assistant to the president of the United States and deputy national security adviser for President Barack, was instrumental in obtaining bipartisan support for allocating $250 million for Iron Dome. It was Mr. Blinken who stood in the Oval Office when President Obama said, "Let's get it done."

In retrospect, Rabbi Rick enjoyed sharing thoughts, experiences, frustrations and fulfillments with other pulpit rabbis including Rabbi Susie Tendler of Chattanooga, Tennessee where he began his rabbinic career. Rabbi Rick added, "I am looking forward to bringing the awareness of what I learned at the APIAC Rabbinic Symposium to my congregational family at Beth Am during the High Holy Days. And I am excited to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. in March, 2015 where 12,000 attendees will participate in the pro-Israel community's largest and most important advocacy day."

For more information on Rabbi Rick and Congregation Beth Am consult the synagogue web site at http://www.CongBethAm.org, call the synagogue office at (407) 862-3505 or "friend" Beth Am at http://www.Facebook.com/CongBethAm.


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