|More than 20 families were represented on the NORPAC mission by members spanning three generations.|
The North Jersey Political Action Committee’s May 20 mission to Washington, D.C., brought some 800 participants to the nation’s capital to advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Mission members of all ages met with members of Congress and their staffs, reaching the offices of 95 percent of the Senate and 80 percent of the House of Representatives.
While the NORPAC mission usually attracts a mix of students and professionals, this year the age spread was more apparent than ever, with more than 20 families sending three generations to Washington.
On the early morning bus ride, grandfathers busied themselves with Talmuds while their grandchildren were absorbed in their iPods. Still, despite the divergent backgrounds and ages, all participants shared a commitment to Israel’s welfare.
During the trip, participants reflected on the difference between political opportunities 60 years ago, both in Europe and America, and the high level of government accessibility enjoyed by organizations such as NORPAC today.
Primary among the mission’s concerns was the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which is pending in the House as well as the Senate. The bill reflects the hope that Iran’s behavior can be influenced through diplomatic means. It is aimed at the nation’s Achilles heel – although the country sits on a sea of oil, it is forced to import 40 percent of its oil because of a lack of refinery capabilities.
|Meeting with Sen. Susan Collins (center) were, from left, Alex Anhalt, Kenny Greif, Dr. Henry Anhalt, Rona Anhalt, and Eric Greif. PHOTOS BY SUSAN GREIF|
If the bill is passed, any company previously involved in helping Iran import oil will be forced to rethink its decision, choosing between doing business with America or with Iran. In the past, oil shortages in Iran have had significant domestic consequences. It is hoped that the threat of such a shortage in the future will modify Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Participants met with Rep. AndrÃ© Carson (D-Ind.), one of two Muslims elected to Congress. In the group was Henry Glenn, a Holocaust survivor.
“Mr. Congressman,” he said, “in 1929, Hitler threatened to kill all the Jews and everyone ignored him. I am here today with my grandchildren because I want to make sure that Israel will be in their future…. [Iran’s President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is threatening to destroy Israel. I am here to make sure that my grandchildren get to see Israel through their lifetime.”
Glenn then showed the congressman the number imprinted on his arm. Visibly moved, Carson assured Glenn that “we will not let this happen again” and pledged his support for the group’s agenda.
Elaine Jacobs from Englewood said that during the Holocaust, U.S. Jews were powerless to respond to the atrocities in Europe. Today, things are different.
“How proud I was to be in Washington with my children and grandchildren and experience firsthand the openness of our American democracy,” she said. “I just heard that an additional 27 congressman and 33 senators added their names to the growing list of sponsors for the Iran legislation.”
|Meeting with Rep. Steve Rothman (third from left) were, from left, Rabbi Menachem Genack, Dr. Mort Fridman, Dr. Ben Chouake, Jerry Gontownik, and Dr. Richard Schlussel.|
Dr. Herbert Schlussel of Monsey, N.Y., spoke of the importance of Israel.
“When I was 13 years old in 1948, my bar mitzvah gift was the creation of the State of Israel. Since then, it has been a beacon of inspiration and protection to Jews around the world.”
Abigail Blinder, a ninth-grade student from the Frisch School in Paramus, said this was the first mission she attended.
“I did not know what to expect,” she said, “but I learned a lot about what we can do to support Israel and I would definitely go again.”
Despite the threat posed by Iran, the tone of the day was not glum, with the trans-generational makeup of the group providing a sense of hope. While each generation has seen various threats to Israel, a persistent dedication to her survival contributes to Israel’s security. The older participants provided perspective while the younger ones offered optimism.
The participants said that a single bill cannot protect a country and no one action can eradicate a global threat, but the NORPAC mission showed how the American process empowers committed citizens.