Often, as teens, we are told that we have the power to make a difference in our community. Everyone tells us that the youngest generation will bring the change needed in the world right now. But where do we start? How do we start? How can we help to make a difference?
Being Jewish in today's world has amplified this interest because of how intertwined American politics are with the Middle East. As someone who frequently reads the news and is infatuated with current events and politics, I thought I was fairly educated on the Middle East. However, after attending the Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit (SAIHSS) hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), I came to the realization that I didn’t know nearly as much about the Middle East as I had thought I did. The mission of AIPAC is to strengthen and protect the U.S.-Israel relationship by direct and ongoing contact with Congress. The goal of the summit is to give students the tools and information they need to be effective pro-Israel advocates on and off their school campuses.
This experience was hosted in the Washington DC area, the center of American politics. As four hundred teens came to make their impact on Congress, I was able to reunite with friends from the BBYO delegation, as well as make many new friends from across the country. Everyone had a different reason for attending the summit, and it was powerful to see so many non-Jewish delegates who came to support a country who is one of America’s greatest allies.
Israel shares technology, and intel, among other things with America. Today, over 30 states have signed bilateral agreements with Israel to further developments in technology, business, agriculture, homeland security, and energy. The first two days of the summit were filled with speakers educating us on the Middle East, about what AIPAC does, and why. We learned about legislation that supports Israel and why it was in America’s best interest to help Israel. On our third and last day, we went to lobby, or convince, Congress to support Israel. Every participant was placed into a group based on where they are from and was assigned a local congressman or congresswoman from their area. If their local congressman or congresswoman was unavailable, we met with one of their staffers or employees. AIPAC employees set up appointments for the participants and were given all the tools to help us successfully lobby Congress.
We arrived on Capitol Hill and the whole experience became so real. Lobbying no longer had a simple definition in my mind but was an action that I had taken because of my passion for Israel. I was standing in a place where great change had occurred before me, where strong leaders had come to pave the way for future generations My group and I met with a staffer of Yvette Clarke (D-NY) who is a native of our area and also Jewish. The conversation went smoothly as we were not enforcing facts or our own opinion upon the staffer. We voiced concern over Iran and its recent military actions, and urged Ms. Clarke to support a bill that would grant 3.3 billion dollars in aid to support Israel’s military. A large percentage of this aid would go back into the U.S economy through Israeli technology. At the close of our meeting, the staffer said that Ms. Clarke was a strong supporter of the U.S-Israel relationship and that she staffer would relay all of our concerns to her. We thanked Ms. Clarke for supporting The Ileana Ross-Lehtinen U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Act of 2018 (S. 2497) which seeks to ensure that Israel can defend itself against growing threats.
This opportunity has widened my view of the Middle East and has given me a better perspective on the area than any textbook ever could. Despite the negative stigma lobbying might have, I enjoyed lobbying Congress and hope that I can lobby again in the future.
You have more power in our society then you may believe. Talking to your representatives can be as easy as clicking a button, something you can probably do from the comfort of your bedroom. You can send an email, make a call, or even use social media to contact your local representatives and express your concerns and opinions. Congress wants to hear from you, their constituents, on issues you are passionate about. Remember, they are elected to represent you.
Farrah Fuld is a BBG from Big Apple Region who loves the beach and traveling.
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