It was 1974. I was in medical school and the student union was giving out donated tickets to the Rangers game. I went on the subway to see the game. Most of the seats were taken. Suddenly, in the midst of a pleasant ride to Manhattan, a large muscular man walked across the aisle and started beating a young woman. I jumped to my feet to intervene, confident there would be at least 10 people behind me to assist in stopping this assault.
This giant of a man turned to face me, and it was now only the two of us standing on the train, while the rest of the passengers stared in either anticipation or apathy. Remembering what my father had taught me about basketball – “short and Jewish, shoot from the outside” – I was in a disadvantaged position for a fight with someone somewhat drunk and twice my size. Facing two large raised fists, I spoke quietly but firmly, telling him this was unacceptable and while I did not want to fight (I really did not), I could not sit by and allow the assault. This criminal, like most, followed the path of least resistance and left the train at the next stop. When I returned to my seat, a young man next to me asked why I stood up to the assailant, telling me that I could have gotten myself killed. This bystander made more of an impression on me than the confrontation.
For what is it worth making an effort, and for what is it worth putting oneself at risk?
We recently commemorated Yom HaShoah and soon will attend the Yom HaZikaron service. Many events around the globe tell the stories of those who survived and those who perished. We honor those who have sacrificed in Europe and Israel so that we, as a Jewish people, once more have a homeland and sanctuary. It is certainly important to go and participate in these programs. It is even more important to take action to prevent our people’s murder. We need to protect ourselves in the most effective way possible, by using our privilege to advocate politically.
We have the ability to speak to the leaders of this great enterprise known as America and to have a voice in its decisions. On May 12, NORPAC will hold its annual mission to Washington, where we will meet with members of Congress to make the case for Israel. Few citizens take advantage of this privilege, so those who do have shockingly disproportionate influence. The voice of a personal visit to Washington is like a thousand who never made the effort.
One of the great lessons of our recent Passover seder is that in each generation a danger to Jewish survival presents itself. The Islamic Republic of Iran is working feverishly to produce nuclear warheads and has threatened genocide against Israel. What Hitler did to the Jews in 12 years, Iran wishes to do in 12 minutes.
For the last several years, the national pro-Israel community has been working to enhance economic sanctions against Iran. The Iran sanctions legislation that was introduced during the Bush administration was very far-reaching and comprehensive, but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. However, there was a simpler bill that NORPAC also championed, which was a lowering of the amount of capital a company can invest directly or indirectly in Iran, plus a gasoline embargo. Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline, and experts believe this bill will cripple Iran’s economy and ability to fund its nuclear weapons program.
This bill, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009, which NORPAC members put on the map, became the current national effort on Iran sanctions legislation. This is the first Iran sanctions legislation to move successfully through Congress since the Clinton administration. It has been passed by both the House and Senate, and the slightly different versions just need to be reconciled by congressional leaders. NORPAC will also be advocating for continuing American military and diplomatic support for the Jewish homeland.
Which of us would not risk our life for the survival of Israel? Unlike those honored during Yom HaZikaron, we are not asked to defend Israel with life and limb. However, we in the diaspora can stand up and join the fight by working toward political support on our issues.
For more information or to join the mission, go to norpac.net or call (201) 788-5133.