Posted by The Jewish Center on 03/29/2019
This past week, I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC. It was a powerful time to be in Washington, especially in light of some major news stories. As I mentioned in my message last week, the two issues that I kept thinking about during the conference were the statements recently made by members of Congress about the role AIPAC plays supporting the US-Israel relationship, as well as the upcoming Israeli elections. It was also difficult to be together in Washington thinking about the Israelis that were sitting in bomb shelters as a rocket landed in Central Israel on Monday. We sat together and read the news stories online about the attack and heard from members of the Israeli political leadership about the people who were injured and the potential response from Israel.
Many of the people who spoke at the Conference made reference to both the statements made by members of Congress against AIPAC and other examples of anti-Semitism in American today. I never recall a time when so many people are speaking about anti-Semitism coming from so many different places in our country including major figures in America and from the halls of Congress. What is the proper response? What can we do to help people understand how destructive and hurtful these statements are? As someone at the Conference said, anti-Semitism is so anti-American. To this I add all examples of hateful speech including attacks on Muslims, African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community and every other minority in America. In a recent conversation with a friend, I suggested one specific thing that we can do for our children and grandchildren to help them confront anti-Semitism. I know that this is a very complicated issue and my suggestion may be too simple for some, but I want to share it. To me, one way to confront anti-Semitism in America is to help people feel proud to be Jewish and comfortable with their own Jewish observance. In my life, the anti-Semitic attacks that were directed at me never had a great impact because I was strong enough in my own Jewish identity to not allow them to hurt me. I want us to encourage our young people to feel more confident and prouder of their Jewish identity so that the anti-Semitic attacks may fall on deaf ears and not have the impact their perpetrators intend. This is the approach I will take in my upcoming conversations with our teens.
The other issue that I thought about often during the Conference is my own feelings about Prime Minister Netanyahu and the upcoming Israeli elections. The Prime Minister was scheduled to be with us on Tuesday morning but because of the rocket attacks that landed in Central Israel on Monday, he flew back to Israel immediately after his meeting with President Trump. He was not able to speak to us live at the Conference but he did speak via satellite from Israel. As the Prime Minister was introduced and people welcomed him to the Conference, I had to make a decision if I wanted to applaud or not - if I wanted to stand or not. My decision was to stand out of respect for the office of the Prime Minister but not applaud. I have my own feelings about Prime Minister Netanyahu on many major issues in Israel and therefore I felt I was not ready to give him a standing ovation. I did not want to be rude or disrespectful so I chose only to stand. I wonder what members of our congregation would have done if you were there with me for the Conference.
I hope to have more conversations in the coming days and weeks about my experiences in Washington. It is always an honor and thrill to meet with the members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation in our conversations with Senator Menendez, Senator Booker and Congresswoman Watson-Coleman. If you would like to know about those meetings, please let me know and I will share my reactions.
Tomorrow morning during our service, I will share one more story that I learned at the Conference and ask the congregation to join me in a special tribute to the hero of the story. I hope you will be with us tomorrow.
Rabbi Adam Feldman