Brad Schneider

Who Will Be Our Esther?

Wednesday evening, Jews around the world will celebrate Purim, the holiday recalling the saving of the Jews of Persia (modern-day Iran) from annihilation at the hands of the evil Haman.  At this moment in history, it’s worth reflecting on the story of the holiday and the lessons within.

At the apex of the story, Mordecai says to his cousin, Queen Esther:

“If you keep silent at this moment, relief and deliverance for the Jews will rise from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish; and who knows—if this specific moment is the purpose you have arrived at your royal position.”

It’s not hard to draw a line to today and compare Iran’s Supreme Leader to a modern Haman. But who are our modern day Esthers and Mordecais? Who will stand up to risk their secure position, whether as business leader, a community volunteer, or just as a suburban soccer-dad?

This week, I’m in Washington where I am one of 16,000 people from around the country attending the annual AIPAC Policy Conference.  Each of us is in a small way is carrying on the tradition of Esther and standing together in support of a strong US – Israel relationship.

I am proud to have been a part of AIPAC for nearly 30 years, working to ensure unwavering support for the vital and immutable U.S.–Israel strategic partnership.  Yet in all my years, this year may be the most important.  That’s why on Tuesday I will be in the House chamber when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives his speech to the joint session of Congress.

I share many of the concerns that Prime Minister Netanyahu has with the negotiations with Iran. Yet given the gravity of the issues before us, it is unfortunate that at this most perilous moment, actions and words from people in both Israel and the United States have created an unnecessary and unhealthy sense of partisanship around support for Israel.  The power of our advocacy, the inherent trust in the relationship between both countries—at all levels and in every sector—is based on one simple principle: support for Israel must always be bipartisan.

We all—Israelis and Americans, Democrats and Republicans—share the singular goal of stopping the Iranian regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu may have differences on how to approach Iran, Israel is at its safest and most secure when our two countries are working together, rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted by partisan bickering.

Our partnership with Israel is arguably the most important one we have in the world. It is why, last year, I was proud to cosponsor the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, declaring Israel to be a “major strategic partner” of the United States. We cannot allow these types of disagreements to jeopardize this relationship – particularly when both of our countries are looking to achieve the same goals.

Staying away from the Prime Minister’s speech would do nothing to further the cause of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. While I wish that the Prime Minister had opted to consult the White House before scheduling his address, focusing on the diplomatic back-and-forths does nothing but distract from the larger, far more important issues at hand. People can agree or disagree, but with the stakes so high, it is important for us to hear each other and make sure we achieve our aim.  Failure is not an option.

At this time of need, we, as one Jewish community, must come together and remember the lessons of Purim. Mordecai’s call is not only to Esther, but to the entire Jewish people. Each of us must heed the call and do what we can to speak out against the threat of Iran with nuclear arms – or even Iran as a threshold state. We must speak out against the delegitimization of Israel. We must speak out against the rise of global anti-Semitism, BDS efforts on North American campuses, and yes, the polarization of support of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

So as Purim approaches, I ask – will you be our Esther? Will you be our Mordecai? Will you heed the call in fighting for our people’s survival? We cannot stand aside and hope others will lead us. We must join together—all of us—in working to ensure that another existential threat will not be allowed to rise up against the free world.

About the Author
U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider represented Illinois' 10th Congressional District from 2013-2015, and was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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