A number of Jacksonville delegates attend AIPAC policy conference
BY BARRY CHEFER
Etz Chaim Synagogue
The Jacksonville Jewish community was well-represented at the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, which was held March 20-22, in Washington, D.C., More than 35 people from Northeast Florida joined the 19,000 attendees at the annual conference. Supporters of Israel from throughout the U.S., overseas, across the entire political and religious spectrum were all united in their boundless love for Israel, as amazingly enough 30-percent of the conference attendees were non-Jews. Additionally, more than 4,000 high school and college students took part in the event, adding sparks of youthful energy and optimism to the conference.
"This AIPAC policy conference was amazing as being with 18,000 plus people who share a passion and concern for Israel and listening to speakers on topics including innovations and security concerns is incredibly inspirational," said Sherry and Mike Herring, who also attended last year. "Being with our Jacksonville Jewish community was the best part and having the opportunity to meet our elected officials on Capitol Hill, to voice our concerns on Israel policy is what the event is all about.”
‘Come Together’ was the central theme of the entire forum, emphasizing everyone's shared dedication to the security and success of Israel. "Many people are Pro-Israel but aren't really sure how to channel that sentiment into action," said Yaakov Fisch, Senior Rabbi at Etz Chaim Synagogue. "AIPAC really does an incredible job at its annual policy conference by educating people about the core issues that challenge Israel and empowers people to directly communicate their positions to our elected officials in congress."
The Policy Conference included a wide variety panel discussions, break-off sessions and talks by leading political personalities. In addition, cutting edge exhibits, special venues and a wide variety of videos showcased the heart and soul Israel. On the last day of the conference, each AIPAC delegation attended scheduled appointments with Senators and Congressmen. The Jacksonville delegation joined the larger Florida delegation in a wide-ranging, question-and-answer session with Sen Marco Rubio. Later that day, led by Rabbi Yaakov Fisch, the Jacksonville delegation met with Congressman Ander Crenshaw in his office on Capitol Hill. Crenshaw noted that among the attendees were several students, including Rachelli and Tammy Fisch; Sabrina, Zoe and Jasmine Mail; and Aaron Kitay. The students were included in the discussion and voiced their strong support for Israel.
“Bringing our teenage girls was one of the best decisions and investments Steven and I have made as parents," Andrea Mail explained. "Jasmine said she feels lucky to be Jewish and wants to get more involved with politics, while Zoe wants to work for AIPAC."
A beautiful Shabbaton preceded the conference and was enjoyed by more than 1,500, including many from overseas. The warmth of Shabbat permeated every moment, which included personal choices of beautiful Shabbat services, superbly catered meals, stimulating speakers and a truly memorable musical havdalah.
"AIPAC’s 2016 Policy Conference was three days of back-to-back intellectually and emotionally inspiring experiences," said Lisa Ansbacher of her experience. "We connected with18,700 other pro-Israel activists from diverse demographic backgrounds, learned about important topics that affect Israel’s future from some of the world’s top political minds, and had face-to-face discussions with our congressmen."