In early March, a group of eight delegates from the Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE), accompanied by head of school Rabbi Jeremy Bruce and Lorie Zackin, joined 16,000 pro-Israel activists – including 3,000 high school and college students – at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
The students listened to speeches by several members of Congress, as well as world leaders, including Milos Zemen, president of the Czech Republic; Jose Maria Aznar, former prime minister of Spain; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Senator John McCain.
“A particularly moving moment of the Policy Conference was receiving an unexpected visit from the mother and father of Gilad Shaar and the fathers of Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach,” HHNE students Lianne Zana, Eitan Garfield and Samuel Fenster wrote about their experience. “Hearing from the parents of the three slain Israeli boys was an incredibly powerful and bittersweet experience that left an extraordinary impact on the pro-Israel community. It highlighted the very real dangers facing Israel, but also gave us shining examples of strength and perseverance within the global Jewish community.”
The students kept a busy schedule, attending morning, afternoon, and evening Breakout sessions that concentrated on specific issues, such as technological advances, high school activism, scientific innovations, socio-economic trade, and poverty.
On their final day in Washington, the students put the lessons they learned to good use when they visited at the offices of U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Congressman John Larson, to share their concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and their hope for a Congressional role in U.S. negotiations with Iran. Through the courtesy of Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, they also toured the Capitol building, including the entire main structure and the many corridors that congressmen use to maneuver inside the building.
“We encourage all synagogues and Jewish high schools to involve students in AIPAC and to send student delegations to the AIPAC Policy Conference next year. Students will feel empowered to advocate for Israel, strengthened to face the challenges ahead on college campuses, and filled with even greater pride in their Jewish heritage,” said the HHNE students.
CAP: HHNE students at the AIPAC Conference: (l to r) Lorie Zackin (HHNE chaperone), Efrat Ben-Naim, Rebecca Benichoov, Kiarra Austin, Ilan Small, Rabbi Jeremy Bruce (HHNE head of school), Eitan Garfield, Rafi Feigenbaum, Samuel Fenster. Bottom left to right: Maya Hasbani, Lianne Zana and Miriam Young