By Shira L.
A central tenet of the YU ideology is its support and activism for Israel. So it comes as no surprise that 165 YU undergrads chose to miss a day of classes on Thursday, April 11, to lobby for Israel on Capitol Hill. Led by Judith Frankiel (Stern ’13) and Ben Scheiner (YC ’13), YUPAC (Yeshiva University’s Political Awareness Club) 2013, as the annual lobbying mission is called, received rave reviews from students, AIPAC, and congressional members alike.
The buses left Stern at 5:30 a.m., then picked up the men from YU’s campus in Washington Heights. After a four-hour journey and a rest stop in Delaware to daven Mussaf with a minyan (it was Rosh Chodesh), the lobbyists arrived in Washington D.C. The first stop was AIPAC headquarters. Moderated by the indefatigable heads of the YUPAC mission, Judith Frankiel and Ben Scheiner and members of the YUPAC cadre, Martha Baumgarten and Noah Small, the YUPAC mission was incredibly privileged to hear a stirring and inspirational address from AIPAC’s leadership development director, Jonathan Kessler. The lobbyists then heard a video address from YU’s vice president, Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph, who thanked the YU students for being Yeshiva University ambassadors on Capitol Hill representing the ideals of the university. Esther Kurtz, a professional AIPAC lobbyist, also spoke, giving the students tips for effective lobbying.
Students then split up into groups to meet with 38 Representatives, Senators, and members of the congressional staff. Modeled after AIPAC’s lobbying methods, students prepared talking points in advance of the meetings directed at three specific issues concerning Israel: Urging Senators and Representatives to support bills aimed at preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities; strengthening U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation; and maintaining the amount of U.S. foreign aid for Israel. Students reported great receptiveness on the part of the Congressmen. “At the beginning of the meeting, when we asked if the Congresswoman had signed onto one of the bills, she told us she would consider it. At the end of our discussion 15 minutes later, she emphatically agreed to add her name to the bill,” marveled one student. Once all of the congressional appointments concluded, the mission reconvened to hear Eric Cantor (VA-7), U.S. Representative and House Majority Leader, speak eloquently about the unshakable alliance between the U.S. and Israel.
After the congressional appointments, students were free to explore stately Washington D.C. Some students visited the Library of Congress, others got to watch Congress in session, while still others chose to spend time in the beautiful botanical gardens. With the temperature hovering in the eighties and the famed cherry blossoms in full bloom, it was almost impossible not to enjoy the scenic vistas of spring peppered by stately national monuments and the Capitol towering above.
The YUPAC Mission of 2013 concluded with a picnic shared with friends on the Capitol lawn with pizza and French fries courtesy of Ben Yehudah Pizzeria of Silver Spring, Maryland. After Minchah on the lawn, students reloaded the buses for the four-hour trip back, arriving back in Manhattan at 11:00 p.m.
The mission was a resounding success. “AIPAC was so impressed with your enthusiasm,” wrote Judith Frankiel in an e-mail sent to YUPAC members after the mission. “John [Kleinhans, AIPAC’s field representative] repeatedly told me that this was one of the greatest lobby missions he has ever been a part of and that really is a testament to your hard work and preparation.” In what may be considered the greatest triumph of the mission, one of the bills that the YUPAC mission strongly emphasized to Congressmen passed in the Senate barely a week later; the Senate Committee adopted Senate Resolution 65, which shows Israel a strong bipartisan support against the Iranian Nuclear Threat.
YUPAC could not have been the great achievement that it was without the undying dedication of YUPAC leaders Judith Frankiel and Ben Scheiner, as well as the other YUPAC members: Chana Posluns, Rivky Nathanson, Mati Engel, Peter Feher, David Goldrich, Amir Hemmat, Noah Small, Robert Bray, Martha Baumgarten, Kayla Weil, Danny Goldberg, Malky Kreiger, and Josh Fitterman. Most of all, YUPAC could not have had the impact that it had without the participation and support of so many YU undergraduates. These students showed themselves to be truly eloquent activists, and they are emblems of Yeshiva University’s commitment to Israel and the Jewish future. v