Pictured: Shalom and Iris Maidenbaum lead champagne toast; Senator Menendez takes questions from the audience; Ilyse and Alex Sternberg welcome Senator Menendez

Photo Credit: Josh Justic

By Michele Justic

Alex and Ilyse Sternberg and Shalom and Iris Maidenbaum cohosted a NORPAC event supporting Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The event, planned by Stanley Stern, NORPAC Long Island President, attracted a standing-room-only crowd to the Woodsburgh home. It was part victory party for the dropped charges against the senator; part reelection bid, as he pledged to run for a third term in the fall; part thank you party for his full support of Israel, both in the headlines and behind the scenes; and part reunion, as many core members of NORPAC, including founder Dr. Ben Chouake, have often met with the Senator in the quest for their shared mission to support Israel as America’s strategic ally and partner in the Middle East. The Senator commented, on his “David and Goliath” struggle, “Even David had a slingshot. Ben was that slingshot.”

According to NORPAC’s pre-event informational e-mail, “Robert Menendez has been one of the staunchest supporters of the US-Israel relationship in his more than two decades in Congress. As former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his name has appeared on virtually all bipartisan pro-Israel legislation. He was the first New Jersey Democrat—and second Senator from his party overall—to oppose the Iran deal, openly recognizing its flaws and dangers.”

After a champagne toast and cheers to dropping corruption charges, the event hosts spoke glowingly of the Senator’s character. When the Senator came to the podium, he hearkened back to his roots as the son of Cuban immigrants growing up in a tenement and trying his best at public school. He is immensely grateful for the chances he had to fulfill the American dream. Later in the event, he referred to research done as part of his role on the Senate Finance Committee reporting that our real income as not grown since 1999. He sees that many Americans cannot seem to rise financially in spite of hard work and that has made them turn against politicians who have not done enough as “guarantors of the American Dream.”

While his domestic accomplishments are significant, his foreign policy achievements are overwhelming. He consistently votes towards strengthening Israel’s defense (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, foreign aid), monitoring Iran and its proxies, opposing BDS, and promoting US-Israel economic cooperation.

The Senator described his decision making formula as considering if an action is in the national interest of the United States and in the security interest of the United States. To that effect, he supports the United States’ “strong unwavering relationship with the state of Israel as a significant trading partner, as representing shared values, and serving a common cause.”

Sitting in a room full of applauding supporters, this can seem an easy course but the Senator reminded us he has sometimes represented districts with a majority Palestinian population in which each declaration of support for Israel was followed by protests from his constituents.

Though the Senator tries to convince that Congress still shares bipartisan support of Israel, his role as the second Democrat (eventually leading to a total of four) to vote against the Iran Deal does not support that statement.

The Senator spoke about his role as an original co-sponsor on S. Resolution 368, a resolution supporting the rights of all Iranian citizens to have their voices heard. In addition, the resolution encourages the United States work to convene emergency sessions at the United Nations to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the government of Iran and establish a mechanism for monitoring such violations.

While many became aware of Iran’s dangers recently, Senator Menendez recalls questioning Iran’s motives long ago when they requested contributions for their energy program, all the while maintaining large oil reserves. Unfortunately now we are late in the game, their reactors are diversified and even if they follow through with their part of the bargain, it’s too little, too late to prevent potential catastrophe. He believes in constraining through sanctions to bring them to the negotiating table, while also supporting their detractors.

The Senator also spoke of his role in fighting anti-Semitism and BDS with world leaders and even as close to home as Rutgers University. He states, “I want them to know people at the highest levels are judging what they are doing” continuing, “There needs to be an environment where truth can be told.” He urges people to travel to Israel to see for themselves the free access to religious sites, the democratic society, as well as the immense challenges of maintaining safe borders in a volatile region.

NORPAC called Senator Menendez, “one of US-Israel relations’ best friends.” NORPAC invites everyone to join the upcoming mission to Washington, Wednesday, April 25, to visit friends of Israel in Congress while also making Israel’s case heard to other elected leaders. Visit norpac.net/mission-to-washington to register today.

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