AIPAC: Record number of pro-Israel community convenes at critical moment

March 20, 2015

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Thousands of pro-Israel activists gathered in Washington, D.C. March 1-3, 2015 for the largest-ever American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference to reaffirm the broad bipartisan consensus in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

With violence spreading throughout the Middle East and Iran continuing its march toward a nuclear weapons capability, a record crowd of 16,000 delegates attended to learn from top experts, to see the extraordinary impact of the pro-Israel community’s work and to engage elected representatives on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Attendees know that when it comes to the issues that matter most to the security of America and Israel, the meaningful work of citizen activists building relationships with leaders in Washington helps to keep these policy imperatives in focus.

One of AIPAC’s most important priorities is to broaden the base of pro-Israel advocacy and ensure that the U.S.-Israel relationship is embraced by people of all walks of life. Throughout Policy Conference, delegates had the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the commitment of AIPAC’s most diverse leaders and how the pro-Israel movement is represented by the diverse fabric of American society.

This year’s Policy Conference brought leaders of the African-American and Hispanic communities, labor unions, evangelical Christians, veterans and other progressive constituencies. Each group is an integral part of the pro-Israel movement. Though each comes from a different walk of life, these leaders are unified in their powerful commitment to the U.S.- Israel alliance. In addition to filling the halls of the Washington Convention Center during Policy Conference, these leaders carry out the work of strengthening the pro-Israel movement in their communities year-round. Thanks to their involvement, pro-Israel activists are found in every congressional district, and on both sides of the aisle.

When support for Israel is challenged on campuses across America, AIPAC responds by engaging a greater number of students in their campus initiatives. AIPAC began working with campus activists in 1980 when no more than 200 students from 30 campuses attended Policy Conference. This year, more than 2,500 students representing 460 campuses in all 50 states stood united at Policy Conference. More than 250 student government presidents representing every state in the Union, the national leadership of both College Democrats and College Republicans, as well as the presidents of the five largest Jewish youth organizations in the country were in Washington to learn, get to know one another and continue to strengthen their resolve to making a difference in the pro-Israel arena.

Together, the pro-Israel community has a vital role to play in ensuring that Israel remains a top congressional priority in the months and years ahead. Returning to Tidewater with a clear message, local attendees know that the work of strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance requires renewed commitment in the months and years ahead. The group is energized and prepared to do that work.

For more details on what took place at this year’s Policy Conference, including video highlights, or to register for next year’s conference which will take place March 20-22, 2016, visit www.policyconference.org or contact Robin Mancoll, CRC director at RMancoll@ujft.org or 757-965-6120.

More than 60 people from Tidewater attended the AIPAC Policy Conference. These are reflections on the conference from a few members of the delegation.

Many of our speakers emphasized the importance of keeping pressure on Iran and making sure congress has an opportunity to review any possible “deal.” There seemed to be unanimity on the importance of Iran dismantling its nuclear infrastructure. The message I got from Prof. Stephen Berk (Union College) is the importance of saying and saying again that everyone is at risk when Jews are being threatened. It’s the classic canary in the mine warning. We must make the world see that Iran is a threat to the world, not just Israel.

Other speakers emphasized that our relationship with Israel is strong and will weather this “falling out” just as it has many times in the past. Brett Stephens, journalist for the Wall Street Journal, reminded us that conducting negotiations with Iran is dealing with a regime that has continually lied and stonewalled…It was a policy conference laced with both optimism and pessimism. Our job is to not let the pessimism paralyze us from acting in the best interests of America, Israel and mankind.
—Betsy Karotkin

You can be Jewish without going to Israel, or without going to AIPAC, but if you can find any way at all to be able to visit either or both, your experience of being Jewish will be richer, more meaningful, and more satisfying. Participating as part of a powerful AIPAC Policy Conference with 16,000 fellow Jews and non-Jewish supporters gives you a feeling of pride and purpose that is hard to explain, but hard to forget.
—Arthur Rosenfeld

It was eye opening in so many ways. I will definitely return next year and future years. I gained a much greater appreciation for the difficulties Israel faces daily, but also the many contributions Israel makes to our culture in America.
—David Nygaard

It was so invigorating to be surrounded by such a diverse group coming together in support of Israel. It was the emotional and intellectual highlight of my year. We have already reserved our spot to come back again next year. If you don’t know what AIPAC is all about, come next year and join us.
—Joanna and Craig Schranz

This was my fourth consecutive AIPAC Policy Conference. Serving as a Christian outreach delegate allowed me to learn, to support Israel, to engage my senators and congressman and to enjoy the company of old and new friends.
—Matt Sharpe

The minute I walked into the Convention Center I could feel the energy of the 16,000 attendees literally filling every square inch of the room. From the President of the Czech Republic to the various Police, Fire and Rescue departments who spoke about the benefits obtained from Israel’s technology, it served to remind me that we do not stand alone in our love and support of Israel. Throw in an emotionally charged speech from Prime Minister Nentanyahu and one can see why I’ve already signed up for next year’s Policy Conference!
—Susan P. Becker

This was my first AIPAC Policy Conference. Despite downloading the AIPAC app, signing up for breakout sessions of interest, and asking multiple questions before I left for the conference, I still was not prepared for the experience of being with 16,000+ pro-Israeli supporters. My AIPAC experience was informative, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting and left my head spinning by the time I got back home. Even a week later, I am still processing what I learned and heard at AIPAC Policy Conference 2015.
—Barbara Dudley

This was my first time at Policy Conference. I always figured there was no need since I’m already a proponent of Israel and supporter of AIPAC. Well, I’m sorry it took me so long to go because I thoroughly enjoyed the entire conference, from the Shabbaton to the closing event. The five breakout sessions were the most engaging part for me, but there was nothing I did the entire time that was anything less than excellent. Can’t wait to go back!
—Seth Fleishman

This is my third AIPAC Policy Conference. Packed with actionable information, insights from global experts and inspiring, AIPAC Policy Conference over the past three years has given me tools for influencing others in the Christian community, and refuting popularized errors. Every year the endearing values of pro-Israel work is demonstrated in new ways. The movement for Israel is accelerating, and the Christian community is grateful to be included in this process.

This year I brought my brother, he was able to lobby his Senator and Congressmen from Wisconsin. We are honored to join with our local Jewish communities in supporting Israel. It shows Congress that pro-Israel steps are what we all want now as Americans. We all pray—and we should —but, I think that there are also times when we must be willing to follow our prayers with the right steps. Thank you AIPAC for calling Christians to come learn how to support Israel today!
—Joel Palser

In 35 years attending AIPAC Conference, this was largest and best executed. Current events were fairly presented and all participants were well prepared for their lobbying responsibilities.
—Sam Werbel

Policy Conference provided me with vital up-to-date information on what is happening in the world and the dangerous issues facing Israel. During a time when the world’s only democracy in the Middle East is facing so many threats, it it is an incredibly moving moment of solidarity that so many people from all political parties, creeds and backgrounds can come as one and say: We Stand With Israel.
—Jason Miyares

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