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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Flatbush Students Attend AIPAC Policy Conference

As the roar of the applause died down, I took a moment to consider how fortunate I was to be in Washington D.C. and watch history unfold. Last week, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee held its annual Policy Conference from March 2-4, bringing over 14,000 pro-Israel activists together for three days dedicated to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. The conference marks the pinnacle of pro-Israel activism in America, and was an exciting event for all attendees, including Yeshivah of Flatbush students Rachel Linfield, David Feintuch, and Jacob Setton, who attended the conference alongside me.

At Policy Conference (PC), two types of sessions were given - general sessions and breakout sessions. General sessions bring all 14,000 attendees into one huge conference hall to listen to a wide array of fascinating, interesting, and prominent speakers, leaders, and innovators. Breakout sessions are smaller and more numerous, and enable you to choose different topics to focus on.
Speakers at the general sessions included Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Schumer, Senator Menendez, editor David Horovitz, rabbis, pastors, union leaders, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, amongst many others. Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech was certainly the most moving and passionate, having been saved for last and delivered in a charismatic, strong, and powerful manner. The 40 minute speech stressed the danger posed by a nuclear Iran to Israel and America, encouraged further US-Israel cooperation, delineated his views on the peace process, and viciously condemned the anti-Israel boycott movement.
Flatbush students with Congressman Jeffries 
After his speech, all 14,000 activists were given the opportunity to lobby their House Representative and Senator on Capitol Hill. This year, AIPAC was able to reach all 535 members of Congress in order to lobby them. From Flatbush, we joined up with a few AIPAC leaders to lobby Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who was highly receptive to us and concurred with our viewpoints. The time that he took to meet with us was greatly appreciated by us all. Moreover, his legislative assistant remembered that we had brought about 25 Yeshivah of Flatbush students in December to lobby his office, and said he was proud to see us returning and maintaining the commitment and activism, and that if we don't speak up then we can't impact the country we will inherit.

He couldn't be more right. AIPAC understands this. Over the past few years, the numbers of attendees at Policy Conference has doubled at an incredibly remarkable speed. AIPAC has dedicated tremendous time into outreach programs, recognizing that the state of Israel faces more threats than ever before. In a few years, they won't fit into the Walter E. Washington Convention Center anymore. A day after Policy Conference, the House passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act by a hugely bipartisan vote of 410-1!

Only through our support and help can a strong U.S.-Israel relationship be maintained. Policy Conference certainly proved it.

~Andrew Hersh, Israel Activism Commissioner