Jacob Herber

AIPAC the Unifier

Each week, rabbis across America stand before their congregations to deliver a sermon. Our messages are scrutinized and dissected, and in today’s increasingly divided America, we are often taken to task if a message touches a third rail of American politics. Guns. Abortion. Immigration. Education. Each is viewed first through the lens of one’s political loyalty, whether you get “news” from MSNBC or Fox or voted for Biden or Trump.

Unfortunately, Israel is not an exception. It’s increasingly the rule; the perfect example. Pro- or against-Netanyahu, judicial reform, settlements. Each issue is contentious, personal, emotional, meaningful, and ripe for debate. Yet it is the conversation about Israel that we can least afford to divide our community. We need to remind ourselves of the fundamental importance of the Jewish state, the centrality of its meaning to us as Jews, and the recognition that its survival can never be taken for granted.

As Americans, we have the right to engage in fierce, respectful dialogue about the future of the country – this is certainly the case in my own congregation. We have a responsibility to voice our opinions and help our friends in Israel see their way to a better future. But no matter the complexity or urgency of an issue, we should always want America to stand with the State of Israel. For decades this support has been bipartisan – one of the few issues that unites Democrats and Republicans. That is how it must stay.

My commitment to ensuring this unique bipartisan bond does not mean I inherently support every issue each Democratic or Republican lawmaker pursues. In fact, I disagree with many of their policy positions vehemently. But I want them to be aligned with me when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. In this, AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – models this single-issue, bipartisan commitment better than any other.

This week it announced its endorsements of more than 90 members of Congress – pro-Israel Democrats and Republicans. Some of the individuals it endorsed are not aligned with my values on other issues of importance to me. In fact, I often vehemently disagree with many of their policy positions. But they are undoubtedly pro-Israel. We delude ourselves – and do our community a disservice – if we demand total alignment on the issues we care about.

Does every spouse agree on every issue with their partner?

We endanger the future of Israel, and the future of our politically diverse community, if we set a standard that says to a politician – or to each other – that you either are everything or you are disqualified. AIPAC’s embrace of bipartisan leaders on this narrow and specific issue is a model for unity and community. And of course, it is the only practical path to advance policy in Washington.

Without bipartisan support, we wouldn’t see Iron Dome funding, we wouldn’t see bills promoting normalization between Israel and her Arab neighbors, and we wouldn’t see opposition to anti-Israel discrimination at the U.N. Those in our community who hold strongly divergent views on other important issues can and should come together to recognize those who stand with Israel.

Most in my congregation want bipartisan support for Israel. They don’t want support for the Jewish state turned into a political football. AIPAC’s bipartisan endorsements prove its values are aligned with its mission, and also my values.

About the Author
Rabbi Jacob Herber is the spiritual leader of Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Synagogue in Mercer Island, Washington. He serves on AIPAC’s Washington State Council, is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Executive Council.
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