One of the advantages of being involved in a newspaper is that attending and having exposure to meaningful events and functions is part of my job. Of the many events that I have wanted to attend but haven’t able to because of work or other restrictions, AIPAC was always high on the list. Thousands of people joining together from across the world to support Israel in our own backyard - who wouldn’t want to attend if they could? Thus, I will provide a synopsis of my experiences for those who may not have been able to make it to help give others a sense of what it was like.
Leveraging one of the press passes that AIPAC graciously provided Kol HaBirah, I enjoyed every minute of the week, beginning with Chabad of Washington’s Intercollegiate Shabbat Dinner that the Shemtov’s graciously hosted. The dinner included some 180 college students who traveled from across the country representing various student organizations to join AIPAC. Besides for the meal and dessert (prepared by Rebbetzin Shemtov and family being absolutely excellent as always), the conversation with the students was fascinating. We sat with students representing the Florida Atlantic University Hillel, and each one was equally impressive. One was president of her on-campus Israel society, another was involved with ZOA, while another was involved with Hillel International. It was refreshingly apparent over the course of the evening that each one had a plethora of experience and put in immense effort throughout their daily lives to support the Jews and Israel. I was also pleased to hear them express that they didn’t feel a lot of pressure from the BDS movement on campus.
Shabbat morning included running into a group of about 20 high school students on the way to davening (prayers) at Kesher Israel. They traveled to DC from New Jersey as part of NCSY and were a select group of students that had the privilege of being part of the region’s leadership program. The shul itself was packed with visitors who were fired up for the week ahead.
AIPAC itself was phenomenal. Under the banner of “Many Voices: One Mission,” there was indeed a throng of people from many different backgrounds joining to demonstrate support for Israel. After davening Mincha in a room that involved a breakout session with a number of Baltimore attendees, I had the good fortune of hearing words of Torah wisdom by Rabbi Silber of Suburban Orthodox Synagogue. He mentioned how impressed he was with the attendees for pushing off various responsibilities to be at AIPAC. He pointed out that people may opt out by saying that there are so many people and question the impact they would make by being there. He explained that for some occasions, all that is required of us is to just show up. There are times when we aren’t needed for anything further than just to be present, and indeed AIPAC is one of those times.
Those words helped affirm our attendance, as well as the many speakers who expressed a similar sentiment about how impressed they were at the number of people that came out to support Israel. The sheer numbers of nearly 18,000 participants sends a strong message that support for Israel is overwhelming in this country. Now that we are on the speakers, United States Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley brought the “house down” when she exclaimed that there is a “new sheriff in town,” referring to how she and the U.S. are beginning to show a strong force at the U.N. in defense of Israel. She had the most impressive performance (to me) of all the individuals that took the stage at AIPAC. Many expressed the usual platitudes of having Israel’s back, but she exuded a real genuineness and directness when talking about Israel. She said that she didn’t feel that the support she was receiving after her U.N. speech from the pro-Israel community was deserved, as she was just speaking truthfully. She added that when the U.S. abstained from the nuclear deal, it wasn’t just shameful, “it was hurtful.”
She talked about how when she first took her position at the U.N. she couldn’t believe how the same false accusations were lobbed against Israel by the same people in an “Israel bashing” session. She decided that it was time for the U.S. to show more strength and leadership in the U.N. and facilitated tossing out reports of Israel as an apartheid state and ensuring that certain individuals who hold negative views of Israel would not be elected to a leadership position at the U.N., indeed demonstrating that there is a “new sheriff in town.” Political views aside, I could not help but admire her pure passion, strength, assertiveness, and courage and I started energetically clapping, and, along with everyone else, refused to stop until she walked off the stage and was out of sight.
Besides the many great speeches, which I admittedly find hard to sit through, the networking was unmatched. I met various members of the press from local media outlets in the press box, including JMore, Washington Jewish Week, Red Alert, NBC, Voice of America, and MRCTV, among others. In addition, I met a number of old acquaintances, friends, and colleagues and had a great time bonding over Israel and other topics.
All told, it was a fulfilling and eventful week. Not only was the week important for the State of Israel, it was also productive for the extended Greater Washington Jewish community. People from around the world were exposed to our institutions, our businesses, and of course, Kol HaBirah. I was proud to show people the fourth edition of Kol HaBirah and let them see for themselves (including Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education and leader of the Jewish Home Party) how much is going on in our community. AIPAC’s banner of “Many Voices: One Mission” can apply to our community and, as an extension, Kol HaBirah. We have many voices, many different types of people in our community. But we have one mission — to strengthen the Greater Washington Jewish community.
Will we be at AIPAC next year? YES! —
Kol HaBirah plans on printing 20,000 extra copies to show the AIPAC attendees the vibrant community they are visiting. How could we not be there to hand them out?
3/16 edition continues to be impressive--in fact best yet--sense of reporting being more diversified & reaching out---sports, food, human interest, some political commentary (liked Phil Jacobs column although I’m anti-voucher) & addressing a broad age range. Would still like to see more conservative & reformed inclusion.
Highlight of the edition was “Publishers Note.” Heartfelt & personal--humanizes the publication. Also very well written--I’m sure an outcome of all those homework assignments.
Glad you’re increasingly aware of need for delegation. (Make sure) you focus more on the business of publishing especially MARKETING & SALES. Do not get distracted from this make or break component of the paper’s success.
PS: Jeter the role model? I thought it was Rosenbaum.
"Sincerely, Professor Rosenbaum"
Kol hakavod on the article on teen drug abuse in the community. Such an important message. I was truly impressed by the Ross family’s courage and your reporting. Please continue reporting on these very important topics.
Dr. Emily Friedman
Silver Spring, Maryland
In Kol HaBirah Issue #4, “Israel-Russia Talks Reflect the Two Share Some, But Not All, Priorities” appeared without a byline. It was written by Seth Jacobson, special contributor to Kol HaBirah.