By Dr. Alex Sternberg
On Tuesday, May 21, over 200 Five Towns residents joined more than 1,000 of their fellow activists and pro-Israel lobbyists from the tri-state area to travel to Washington, D.C. and speak to senators and congressional representatives to strengthen the U.S.–Israel relationship.
NORPAC, an East Coast-based pro-Israel lobby, organized the effort to bring the large, motivated, and well-prepared group to remind the members of Congress about issues vital to the security of Israel. The lobbyists, representing many of the local shuls and yeshivas, arose at 4:30 in the morning to catch the buses that left at 5:30 a.m. The early morning four-hour bus ride was exhilarating and included a Shacharis minyan, coffee, and donuts, courtesy of NORPAC.
The ride also gave an opportunity for the groups to get to know each other and become familiar with the issues to be discussed in Washington, D.C.
Stanley and Trudy Stern, the presidents of the Long Island NORPAC, with Trudy one of three mission chairs of the entire NORPAC effort, were responsible for organizing this undertaking. In a herculean effort, they assigned everyone into groups of 8–10 members each, with a group leader who was responsible for the smooth operation of the group’s effort. No detail was left out, including providing all with a glatt kosher lunch and snacks.
For many of the members, this was their first foray into such a lobbying campaign. However, there were enough veterans with each group whose experience guided the first-timers and assured that the intended message was delivered.
Those who signed up for the effort a few weeks ago were sent Talking Points, clear and logical reasons why the members of Congress should support Israel and vote for specific bills. Issues ranged from supporting Congressional and Senate bills aimed to increase sanctions on Iran to limit her capacity to cause mischief in the Middle East, to providing additional Iron Dome technology. Other bills targeted were for funding for research in joint U.S.–Israel technology to develop more advanced defense capacities such as lasers. With the hundreds of thousands of rockets in the Hamas and Hezbollah arsenal, Israel needs additional muscle to supplement the Iron Dome defensive shield.
The senators and congresspersons seemed to genuinely welcome the enthusiastic and well-informed group. An oft-heard sentiment was “Don’t take us for granted but come to remind us of issues important to you.” They seemed to be especially pleased to meet with the hundreds of bright and intelligent young people in the group. Well-informed about the issues, these students representing area high schools were a vital part of the mission. NORPAC is proud to encourage their participation.
After concluding the lobbying on the Hill, it was back to the meeting point to catch the buses for the four-hour ride home. Exhausted but exhilarated, the passengers’ conversation centered on who they visited and which senator they spoke with. “Did you get a picture?” was a frequent question. This effort was not only genuinely helpful in promoting the pro-Israel narrative, but it gave all a chance to do something positive both for Israel and for America. For the high-schoolers it provided a tremendous civics lesson and boost in self-esteem and confidence.
During the morning bus ride, some expressed hesitation in having enough familiarity with the issues when talking with Members of Congress. But the bus ride preparation gave most the needed information as well as the boost in confidence to carry the day in the meetings.
The NORPAC Mission, a quick one day in and out of D.C., is a vital effort to reinforce to Members of Congress that we in the pro-Israel community care. All around, it was a great success and everyone looked forward to catching up on their sleep and getting ready for next year.
To book your spot for next year or for information about NORPAC, please contact Avi@norpac.net.