David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

AIPAC does the difficult work for us

I want the US to oppose BDS and efforts to delegitimize Israel, no matter how distasteful I find the relevant congressmen
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy arrives for a closed-door meeting with the Republican Conference, at the Capitol in Washington, January 31, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy arrives for a closed-door meeting with the Republican Conference, at the Capitol in Washington, January 31, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The events of January 6, 2021, were abhorrent. It was a dark day in our national history. The vote not to certify the election, the ensuing riot, and attempted takeover of our Capitol are seared in our collective memories. They will forever serve as a reminder of how fragile our democracy is. I hold President Trump and his enablers in Congress accountable for this stain on our nation.

This week, AIPAC announced its endorsements of more than 90 pro-Israel leaders in Congress. They include members from both sides of the aisle with a strong record on pro-Israel legislation. Included among them are some Republicans who didn’t vote to certify President Biden’s election.

I wish those Republicans weren’t still in office. But they are.

I wish Kevin McCarthy, who initially objected to certifying Biden’s win, wasn’t the speaker of the House. But he is.

AIPAC — and we Americans — are forced to deal with reality as it is, not as we all wish it to be.

Whether I like it or not, the practical reality is this: Those who want to shape bipartisan US policy need the speaker on their side, as well as the Democratic leader on their side.

As a lifelong Zionist and a proud advocate for Israel, I have long admired AIPAC’s disciplined and pragmatic approach: Keep the pro-Israel tent wide, build strong relationships on both sides of the aisle, and ensure the doors are always open to the decision-makers in government who have the power to determine policy.

Few other issue-based groups maintain this discipline, especially as bipartisanship has become an almost impossible task. Yet, it is the reason why AIPAC succeeds as the leading Israel advocacy organization in America and why my support for AIPAC is unwavering.

Predictably, and as it did a year ago, AIPAC is taking fire from people and organizations who loathe the individuals on their endorsement list. I share their disdain for election-deniers who violate my values, and I understand the instinct to cut these leaders off. But doing so would be counterproductive to keeping Israel safe, and would only serve to undermine bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship.

I don’t ever want to see America’s ties to Israel severed, no matter how I may feel about these politicians. I need AIPAC doing the work to keep them informed, engaged and ready to join their Democratic colleagues on pro-Israel legislation.

For those of us who want American support for Israel to remain bipartisan, that means recognizing the pro-Israel leaders with whom we disagree on many other issues.

The implications are lifesaving.

I want America to support Iron Dome, regardless of which party is in power.

I want America to oppose the BDS campaign and efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state, no matter who is speaker.

I want to broaden and deepen the Abraham Accords, regardless of which party holds the gavel.

I want America to help Israel confront its adversaries while creating the environment for peace, no matter who is spearheading the bills.

The sure way to guarantee those outcomes is through bipartisan support in Congress from pro-Israel leaders and pro-Israel legislation. AIPAC doesn’t ask me to be bipartisan, but I need them to be, and I am deeply appreciative that they are – even when it may be unpopular.

You are not going find me at a Kevin McCarthy rally these days. But the pro-Israel community needs the speaker in our corner rallying for Israel. I applaud AIPAC for doing the work to ensure that happens.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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