The stirring power of AIPAC, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, lies in its pro-Israel mission. There are throngs of participants who now involve themselves in AIPAC events that encourage political engagement. You cannot walk away from the Annual Policy Conference, attended by 16,000 supporters, with anything less than inspiration. The group energy flows across religious, racial and political spectrums, sweeping you to the end goal; support of the Israeli government.
On the political spectrum, AIPAC is truly a bi-partisan organization that has one agenda; empowering pro-Israel activists of all agendas, ages, religions and races to be politically engaged and to build relationships with members of Congress that will promote the U.S. – Israel relationship.
The AIPAC Conference offered a program that was exciting, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally heartwarming. A tremendous amount of credit goes to the Orthodox Union and Chabad, who, in recent years, have invested a great deal of time and resources in the policy conference and this year brought to life the multi-layered accomplishments of Israel and her people. Numerous stories and anecdotes in the areas of sports, politics, medicine, military and security were highlighted and shared with the participants. The accomplishments are breathtaking.
Danny Lacker, Deputy Director General of the Israel Water Authority, was recognized with honor as both a leader in Israel and a resource for the US.
In January 2014, Danny read about The Elk River water contamination in Charleston, West Virginia. The city was forced to shut down their water supply when a water tank leaked contaminants. The plight of this community struck a chord in Danny and in March 2014, he visited Charleston with his team of Israeli water experts who gave guidance and information to the West Virginia National Guard, business leaders and the Jewish community. More importantly, Lacker advised city leaders on how future catastrophes could be prevented.
There was also an interview with Republican Majority House leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, (Kentucky) and a speech from the Democratic US National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, amongst many others. In the religious arena, AIPAC facilitated a dual presentation with a conservative Baptist Minister and a liberal secular Jew that both work together for AIPAC.
All food at the event is strictly kosher, (some of the food is even yoshson, and at times they provided cholov yisroel milk). On Shabbos, there were minyanim, shiurim, and approximately 600 people gathered together for the Shabbos meals. During the following days of the conference, there were multiple minyanim with Divrei Torah presented by a host of rabbis. With an array of great programing and amazingly fluid organization, the AIPAC Policy Conference is an extremely impressive and well organized event.
Having said that, as a Torah Jew I am constantly cognizant of two issues that have possible non-Torah implications. First, AIPAC’s philosophy is to support the needs of Israel, regardless of the governing powers position on religious life. As we know, not all governments are created equal. There are some that are more sympathetic to the needs of the Torah community and others that are not. Some are more religiously liberal and some are more traditional. Therefore, giving unilateral support for AIPAC may compromise a particular person’s religious philosophies. This issue is indeed one that we in the Torah world constantly grapple with, as we often partner with organizations that do not necessarily have the same values as us. The second issue, although certainly not a reason to avoid AIPAC, but rather, something that any Jew who believes in a Higher Authority needs to be very cautious about is Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Intervention vs Man.
When you hear PM Netanyahu say with great emphasis and passion, that gone are the days when the Jews will be moved from place to place and the promise that Israel, if forced to, will stand alone and defend herself, it stirs us. We feel a sense of strength and pride, albeit, a potentially false sense of pride. When you listen to multiple speakers boast about the accomplishments of the secular state with no mention of Hashem’s hand in all these accomplishments, it can take a philosophical toll on one’s religious values. As an aside, other than Bibi, it was primarily the non-Jewish speakers who ended their presentations with, “Gd bless Israel and Gd bless America.”
And yet, we must reflect and consider this; was it not specifically at the time when Bnei Yisroel stood at threat of annihilation, a hapless and weakened nation, surrounded by the Red Sea and the strongest military of its era that Moshe said to us, “And Hashem shall fight for you, and you shall remain silent”? Yes, I know we need an army, no less than we did when Yehoshua led our first battle, and we are on a level that undoubtedly requires hishtadlus, personal and communal effort. However, that does not free us from our religious obligation to believe only in the guiding hand of Hashem. Indeed, if anything, the need for hishtadlus makes it even harder. It is our faith in Hashem that supports our efforts. This is a value that is not often heard or felt at AIPAC, yet this is not a contradiction. There is a healthy balance of AIPAC’s political goals with Torah and a Torah Jew should be sure to maintain this balance.
Now, as we stand between the two great months and their miracles, Adar with Purim and Nissan with Pesach, we are celebrating the wonderful miracles that Hashem has done for us. We must fortify our faith in Hashem. We must instill in our hearts that it is our faith in His eternal love for us, and His ever watching eye that will bring us the merit of His protection.
So now, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I conclude these thoughts; G-d bless Israel, G-d bless America and may we merit to see Moshiach speedily in our days. Amen.