People Watching at AIPAC

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Over the next three days, journalist Simona Fuma will be guest blogging from the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. This is the largest gathering of the American-Israel political action committee, where the organization’s direction is decided, steered, and reengineered.

I was going to write a blog post about why AIPAC’s regional branch in Los Angeles is so strong (apparently LA — or, possibly, California — has a larger contingent here than New York). But there was a late afternoon plenary session starring Newt Gingrich and as I stood on the main convention center floor among the schmoozers and stragglers, I couldn’t find any Angelenos to interview.

One of the great pleasures of attending large Jewish gatherings is the anticipation and fun of bumping into people you know. Amid the buzz and the delegates walking to and fro was a guy I had been a camp counselor with in the 1990’s. There was my buddy Barak from Jerusalem; a rabbi from Chicago; an ambitious young lawyer who had been on the board of my synagogue.

Not only that, but there were minor celebrity spottings as well: a host of congressmen, Canada’s former justice minister Irwin Cotler, and Israeli TV correspondent Gil Tamary. Last but not least was Torah celebrity Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, sitting outside the plenary among a circle of admirers, looking pretty and delicate in a blue silk blouse.

“It is wonderful to see Jews unifying as one around Israel. It is an amazing outpouring of every segment of our population,” said the petite blonde Holocaust survivor, who says she tries to attend the AIPAC conference every year. Although it is a great mitzvah to make aliyah, she says, “Israel needs many different soldiers,” and the AIPAC delegates living in the United States are doing their part to help the Jewish State. The most pressing issue is Iran. “We have to do something. Tomorrow might be too late.” Jungreis cites a midrash in the Yalkut Shimoni (Isaiah) asserting that before the Messiah arrives the King of Persia will develop a weapon that would terrorize the world. So does that mean Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon is a given? “All negative prophesies can be altered.” For instance, explains Jungreis, in the Purim story, Haman’s decree is altered by proactive Jewish involvement—and so is the prophecy against Nineveh in the Book of Jonah. “These are critical times for the Jewish people. We must respond to the challenges,” she warns. “We must cling tenaciously to our faith in Hashem.”

Read all of MJL’s AIPAC blogs so far.

Posted on May 4, 2009

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