Most people are unaware that I am a child of a mixed marriage. My dad was born to Syrian parents and my mom was a pure-bred Ashkenazi survivor from Poland. When I step into a Sephardic minyan, people are nice, but the look on their faces tells me they are curious what the pale European dude is doing there. My paternal grandparents left Aleppo to find less discrimination in America. Our family had been in Syria for generations before feeling the need to leave. They immigrated to America in the early 19’0s and my father was born shortly thereafter. Although little can compare to the horrific experiences my mother endured in Europe, I was always upset that Jews were forcibly expelled from the Muslim countries.
About five years ago, a Jewish congressman from the Bronx, Eliot Engel, was being challenged in a primary. Although Engel was a five-term incumbent, in an unusual decision the county leaders supported Engel’s challenger. NORPAC members felt this was discrimination and got involved in the campaign. It was a low-turnout primary election and, in part through our assistance, Engel won the race by a narrow margin. That congressman, whose seat we helped save, introduced the Syrian Accountability Act.
In the following years, NORPAC members went to Washington, lobbied members of Congress, and gave this legislation its final push to be passed into law. It gives me personal satisfaction to have played a part in bringing justice to a country that sponsors terrorism and has so badly treated its Jewish citizens. This is what good people pursuing good issues can accomplish in America.
This has been a difficult year. Each day I follow domestic and world affairs. Like most good Jews, I am drawn to the bad news first, and it has been plentiful. The upcoming trial of former top AIPAC staffers on charges of espionage is unprecedented, using a 100-year-old law as never previously applied. I believe that there is still a significant presence of anti-Semitism and this is why this case was pursued. We have Iran wishing to expand its nuclear power, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists firing rockets, and Hamas, whose charter openly advocates Jewish genocide, now an official government within Israel’s borders. The good news just goes on.
Noted professors at two prestigious universities recently wrote an article on the alleged influence of the "Israel lobby." That such a paper, which is just an updated version of the "Protocols of Zion," could be printed under the Harvard banner is itself a cause for real concern. (Harvard has since distanced itself from the paper.)
If you wish to see real power, look at the oil industry, whose revenues in one hour exceed the combined annual budgets of all Jewish organizations in America. The newly retired CEO of just one oil company had a salary and payout of $400 million this year. This financial behemoth and its rotating-door policy for former government employees are what we are up against.
The truth is that the pro-Israel community does have power, if we are unified and use our rights as citizens. America remains the sole world superpower — militarily, economically, and politically. In our country we have the fortuitous ability to make an impact, and through extra effort to affect an outcome. Congress is likely to change hands in ‘006, making its members more inclined to hear what activists have to say.
As a people we have suffered greatly when we lacked the political ability to help ourselves. We just commemorated Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance. We are again reminded that it was our lack of political empowerment during World War II that allowed all the countries of the world, including America, to refuse to provide a haven for Jewish refugees. Their fate was the Nazi death camps. The president of Iran is preparing to repeat history. Are you willing to stand by and watch helplessly as American Jews did in the 1940s?
So I ask you to take one day from your hectic schedule and come with NORPAC to Washington on May 17 to lobby members of Congress on the U.S.-Israel relationship. We have the good fortune, through the immense dedication of our membership, to meet with members of Congress and their staff. They will listen to, and it is likely they will be compelled to agree with, the good issues we will bring to the table.
There are 5′ Wednesdays each year. Yet I can remember only one in particular for each of the last several years. That was the day of the NORPAC mission, when I would meet with the leaders in Washington and make the case for Israel. I remember each meeting and so does each child or friend I have taken to lobby with me. When you look back at your life years from now, what will be important is not that extra deal you made, but the time you spent doing positive things with your life, be it that extra time you spent with your loved one or in this case going to Washington to fight for the survival of the Jewish people. Spend a day with the leaders of our country to let them understand that saving Israel is a worthwhile legacy for America.
This year we anticipate a record 400 meetings with members of Congress and their staff. We need you to come and participate. Come alone, come with your friend, come with your spouse or child 1′ and older. It will be one of the most inspiring days of your life. It will be a Wednesday you can make a difference.
You can sign up for the mission by going to www.norpac.net or calling Joel Davidson at (’01) 788 5133.