Fall in Washington isn’t the best field trip destination for teenagers from Florida, but for more than a decade I’ve brought my students to Washington for AIPAC’s Schusterman High School Summit. The Summit is intended for 11th and 12th grade high school activists who are politically inclined and have a serious interest in learning more about the U.S-Israel relationship. I am often asked why I bring my students to an AIPAC conference – after all, I’m a Rabbi and our Sages told us to stay far away from politics and I’m a teacher and therefore I’m supposed to be apolitical. I’m also a “settler” (I teach from Israel via Skype) and I am supposed to be too right wing for AIPAC.
As a Rabbi my role is to educate other Jews about the beauty of the Torah’s wisdom and pleasant path. The Torah’s wisdom is best perceived through its logic and peaceful laws. AIPAC’s bipartisan approach is consistent with the Torah’s ways. AIPAC doesn’t denounce elected officials that oppose Israel; it tries to win them over by explaining that supporting Israel is in America’s best interest. In the angry hyper-partisan world of today’s politics, I’m proud that AIPAC teaches my students to reach out and speak kindly to ally and opponent alike about Israel. I’m especially proud when they exercise a pleasant approach in the political sphere. My Torah lessons on treating others with respect find a practical manifestation in AIPAC’s refined advocacy.
Teachers look to provide their students with opportunities to make a difference. AIPAC teaches my students how to help Israel in a concrete way. All too often teenagers looking to help Israel are directed to join rallies or attend a current events briefing, which are helpful to students’ growth, but don’t really make a tangible difference in Israel. AIPAC empowers my students to make a difference by lobbying decision makers about steps they can take to help Israel. I’m excited to provide them the opportunity.
As a “settler” I’d love to see AIPAC lobby for Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria. I eagerly await the day when AIPAC’s Howard Kohr announces that AIPAC stands with Israel in its return to ALL of its historic homeland. I also understand that AIPAC’s policy of not interfering in internal Israeli affairs won’t allow that to happen. As an Israeli, I know that God protects Israel and her people, but I know He uses American planes, tanks and guns to secure Israel. AIPAC is the only major lobby that lobbies for needed military funding for Israel. Aid for Israel has consistently risen and now tops over $3.8 billion a year. That aid keeps my family and I safe. AIPAC gives my students the tools to confidently lobby elected leaders for aid to Israel.
Using reason in a respectful and bipartisan manner, AIPAC teaches how to strengthen the United States and Israel by ensuring Israel has what it needs to defend herself. Its leadership development division staff, led by Adam Teitelbaum, are excellent facilitators and advocates. They are true role models for our students. Carly Sternberg, who leads AIPAC’s High School Early Engagement department is an unending resource for students and partner educators like myself. She constantly encourages our students to do and grow more. With the help of Adam, Carly and the rest of the leadership development staff, my students are provided a rare opportunity at the Schusterman High School Summit to grow as Americans, Zionists and advocates. How could I not bring my students?