By Trudy Stern
As I sit at my desk ready to write my usual yearly article about the importance of going on the annual NORPAC mission, I realize that there is nothing usual about the importance of attending the mission this year. During my lifetime, I, like most of us, have been able to practice my religion freely without personally experiencing one single incident of antisemitism. Support for Israel was always widespread. The phrase “Never Again” was something I said, but it always felt remote and unrealistic. How quickly this has changed.
Just recently, the New York Times International Edition published a cartoon portraying a blind President Trump wearing a kippah and being led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was depicted as a dog on a leash. On his collar was a Jewish star reminiscent of the anti-Semitic imagery used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The BDS movement is sweeping across college campuses. This global campaign is promoting boycotts against Israel in attempts to isolate and economically cripple her. As a result, college campuses have seen a tremendous rise in antisemitic attacks against Jewish students all over the country, including at institutions like NYU, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Emory, and Berkeley, to name a few.
Even more troubling, newly elected members of the U.S. Congress are openly and brazenly reviving age-old anti-Israel and antisemitic tropes. Minnesota’s Representative Ilhan Omar’s blatant and inflammatory comments about Israel have been so alarming that they have catalyzed an effort to create a bipartisan Jewish Caucus to push back against the rise in antisemitism. Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, is leading the effort to convince lawmakers to form such a caucus.
There is real danger brewing. Two weeks ago, as we all celebrated Jewish redemption during Pesach, a Chabad shul was attacked by a gunman just before Yizkor. A rabbi was shot, and a woman who came to shul to daven on the chag was brutally murdered.
This turn of events is foreboding, and, as always, the brunt of the growing threat is being borne by our brethren in Israel. Israel is facing mounting threats from Hamas and Hezbollah. This past weekend, Hamas launched 600 missiles into Israel, killing four and terrorizing thousands. Hezbollah is strengthened and supported by Iran and Syria as the group continues to carry out its pledge to destroy Israel. And Iran remains a dangerous and insidious menace.
With the world in this perilous state, and antisemitism visibly on the rise for the first time in decades, it is more important than ever for everyone who is able to join the NORPAC Mission to Washington this year. As Americans, we have to do our part. Our small number means that we cannot afford for anyone to sit on the sidelines anymore.
So, I ask you to take one day from your hectic schedule and come with NORPAC to Washington, D.C. on May 21 to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and Senate and to advocate for the U.S.–Israel relationship. It is fair to say that the U.S. Congress is the most important power in the world with regards to Israel’s diplomatic, military, and financial security. Congress, with total control over the American budget, allocates $3.8 billion for Israel’s security each year; compare that to the sum total of all charitable giving to Israel, which amounts to approximately $500 million annually. Congress’s broad support for Israel, which many of us have taken for granted, is rapidly becoming less certain. If you are alarmed by this, if this thought makes you nervous or terrified, as it does me, it means little to say so to yourself, your friends, and your children. Your intentions and commitments are demonstrated to our nation’s leaders by showing up in Washington, D.C.
As an American citizen, you have a voice, a voice that can reverberate throughout the halls of the Capitol. But your voice is meaningless if you don’t use it. Members of Congress take note of actual citizen activity. Every email you send to our representatives is equivalent to ten votes, each phone call equals 100 votes, and personally going to DC equals 10,000 votes. It sounds like a lot, and it is. The NORPAC leadership is arranging meetings with most of Congress. We are all busy, but ask yourself: Is there anything you must do this May 21 that is more important than taking the opportunity to personally make the case for Israel to the leaders of the most powerful nation, your nation?
Please come on the NORPAC Mission. You can register at Norpac.net.