Supporting Israel: It’s a lot more than giving ‘Benjamins.’
With anti-Semitism arising at an alarming rate, American Jews can no longer take for granted our “comfort” in this country or that Israel will receive whole-hearted, bipartisan U.S. support now or in the future.
Most of us have grown up believing that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, and that America will have “Israel’s back,” no matter what the circumstance.
In recent months we’ve learned that these facts aren’t guaranteed. And that’s why my family and I are going to Washington, D.C., at the end of this month for the AIPAC Policy Conference.
When Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar casually tweets the old “dual loyalty” canard and accuses AIPAC of “buying support” for Israel, can we simply assume our government and the media will widely condemn her?
When eleven innocent souls are murdered on Shabbat in Pittsburgh by an anti-immigration extremist, and Jews walking the Brooklyn streets are physically assaulted, and there is a 24/7 onslaught against Jews and Israel in the Twitter-sphere, can we afford to rest on our “never again” laurels?
Of course not.
As a child of Holocaust survivors, I was raised to believe that supporting Israel is the single most important thing Jews can do to protect themselves from anti-Semitism. And the best way for us, as a community, to do that is by supporting AIPAC— the most influential American-Jewish organization, and one of the only lobbying groups that enjoys bipartisan support.
Contrary to Omar’s lies, AIPAC does not give money to Congress or candidates. It’s not allowed. Despite its name, it is not a PAC; rather it’s a public affairs committee.
AIPAC lobbies; it provides information; it brings freshman members of Congress to Israel by the dozens so they can see the vitality of its democracy; it’s at the forefront of garnering support for the passage of critical legislation, including nearly $40 billion in military aid over the next ten years. But its work will never be done.
Policy Conference is the largest, single gathering of America’s pro-Israel community. More than 18,000 people will descend on the nation’s capital from March 24-26. Attendees will hear from American and Israeli elected officials and policymakers, but more importantly— they will be seen and heard.
The eyes of the media, U.S. politicians, the U.N., the European Union, Arab countries—the world—will be on the conference. Only a fractional number of American Jews serve in either the IDF or the U.S. military—and I am in awe of their service. However, we can be “boots on the ground” for Israel and the Jewish people at Policy Conference.
Writing a check is easy and also an important way to show support, but being there to stand proudly in the halls of Congress for Israel as an American Jew is an experience like no other.
In order to raise awareness for AIPAC among Teaneck’s “South of Cedar” community, my wife and I recently had the privilege of hosting a parlor meeting with AIPAC’s president, Dr. Mort Fridman and its northeast senior director of development, Jay Haberman. Approximately 50 people attended, and we were honored by the presence of Rabbi Aaron Ciment, of Arzei Darom; Rabbi Daniel Feldman of Ohr Saadya and Rabbi Daniel Fridman of the Jewish Center of Teaneck. Netivot Shalom’s Rabbi Nati Helfgot, who had a prior teaching engagement that evening, previously sent a letter to the entire membership urging them to join him at Policy Conference, which he is attending for the first time.
In Washington, D.C., we are scheduled to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu; as well as MKs Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz—one of who may be Israel’s next leader. Also scheduled to attend are Ambassador Nikki Haley and more than half of Congress. When we go up to the Hill, we will let our local representatives, Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascarell, as well as New Jersey senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, know where we want and need them to continue to stand on behalf of the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as our needs as a Jewish community.
It doesn’t matter if we are Republican, Democrat, liberal, progressive, Orthodox, Conservative or Reform—we will show the world that the Jewish people are strong and unified. We do not all agree on every issue, but we all are committed to strengthening the unbreakable, special relationship and bond that we as American Jews are privileged to have between U.S. and Israel.
Join me and make your voice heard. For more information visit AIPAC.org.
By Richard Dukas
Richard Dukas—who is a member of Congregation Arzei Darom and Netivot Shalom—moved to Teaneck in 1967. He is the CEO of Dukas Linden Public Relations.