This past week, the Hebrew Academy sent me and five other delegates to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit. AIPAC’s mission is to strengthen, protect, and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.
Although I have attended AIPAC’s Policy Conference in previous years, this was my first time at Schusterman, and I loved it. AIPAC is all about giving a voice to the future: my generation.
The first day revolved around the idea of “Why I Commit.” In the first session, we gathered and discussed our own, personal reasons for Israel advocacy. Everyone had different reasons and backgrounds for their “how” and “why,” but a sense of unity pervaded the session’s atmosphere.
During the three day conference, I attended over a dozen seminars that all reaffirmed my love for Israel and the reasons why I specifically joined AIPAC. Throughout the sessions, college students discussed their involvement in AIPAC and spoke about lobbying strategies.
In one session that I was in, an African-American college student praised Israel for its continued support of the black community. As a child, her family from Jamaica continuously professed their love for Israel.
Another speaker explained that the IDF was the first group to show up in Haiti after the tragic earthquake on January 12, 2010. Israel’s humanitarian effort resonated with him and made him feel the need to get involved with Israel. The sight of all kinds of people – race, religion, culture, and background – uniting together for Israel sent chills down my spine.
The climax of the entire summit was lobbying a member of the House of Representatives on the third day. Our delegation lobbied the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R-FL. We thanked her legislative assistant, Mr. Geoffrey Bendell (and Maya, the office dog) for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s constant, unwavering support for Israel during her 29 years in Congress, along with a bill that she authored to give $3.8 billion in aid to Israel.
The fact that we were able to do this because of AIPAC is truly remarkable. I really enjoyed these three days because it gave me the foundation to advocate for Israel, and informed me further on the necessity of the continuation of the U.S.-Israel relationship. I hope to continue advocating for Israel in high school, college, and beyond.
By: Samantha Ebner (11th Grade)