Our National Advocacy Days Congressional briefing and
visits were a great success. Sixty dedicated national and local
activists convened in Washington, DC on June 27-28 to train with
leading advocates and policy makers, and deliver our message
directly to Senators, House Representatives and Bush
L to R: Daniel
Orenstein, CEO Diane Balser,
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Philip G. Rosen, Jeffrey
In 40 meetings
with political leaders and their support staff, we were greeted
warmly and respectfully as a force to be reckoned with in the
American Jewish community. We built good relationships with
representatives and their staff, who were hungry for a sensible,
moderate message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We worked
in tight, mutually supportive teams, strengthening our resolve
and organizational identity. Our challenge will be to apply the
lessons we have learned from this experience in leading our
local communities to support our pro-Israel peace message.
On the first day, we held briefings with a
wide range of experienced advocates and policy makers. The
speakers included Lara Friedman, Legislative Director for
Americans for Peace Now; M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy
Analysis for the Israel Policy Forum; Paul Scham of the Middle
East Institute; Ellen Germain, Political Officer at the State
Department's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs; Reva
Price, Director of Jewish Outreach for House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th); Richard Verma, Senior Foreign Affairs
Counsel to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV); Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA
4th); Jeremy Rabinowitz, Chief of Staff for Rep. Lois Capps
(D-CA 23rd) and Howard Diamond, Legislative Director for Rep.
Gary Ackerman (D-NY 5th).
See the complete schedule.
|L to R: Steve Masters, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),
David Steiner, Robinn Steiner
the speakers all drew from their own unique experiences on
Capitol Hill, there was common agreement among them that despite
significant challenges, the present moment represents a new
window of opportunity for peace and progress in the Middle East.
They also recommended similar strategies for a visible and
effective advocacy campaign: 1) send delegates to the Hill on a
regular basis; 2) organize in the home districts and visit
elected officials as often as possible; 3) speak in public or
write letters on issues that concern us; and 4) offer thanks and
praise to public officials when they stand with us. Many of the
speakers remarked that our identity as a national Jewish
organization is extremely important, especially since we can
mobilize potential votes. When asked how we would know what
works, Congressman Frank replied, "If you don't make your
biggest effort, you will never know if you can succeed."
On day two, we visited a noteworthy 39
Senate and House offices, and also met with Herro K. Mustafa
Director for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs, Jordan and Iran on the
National Security Council. These were generally promising
meetings. The leaders and staff members we met with often
expressed great interest in our message; they were grateful to
hear from a moderate Jewish peace group at a time when far-right
and far-left advocates have been so vocal. Many also took
notice of our nationwide constituency of over 28,000 and our
rapid growth over a three year period.
Price and Exeutive Director Aliza
Most Brit Tzedek delegates, particularly
those who had never before participated in Capitol Hill
advocacy, felt encouraged and empowered by the experience. One
such delegate was Sue Swartz who met with Kim Savit, Senior
Professional Staff Member for Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN),
Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Swartz said,
"It was really thrilling to sit in the office of my Senator and
have a staff member assure our delegation that we have a friend
on our issues with the Senator." Rabbi John Friedman of the
North Carolina delegation was also pleased by the meeting with
Rep. David Price (D-NC 4th). Friedman said that Price agrees
with us on every substantial issue pertaining to the Middle
East, and that he will be a good friend to us when important
legislation is at stake.
We take from our Advocacy Days the clear
understanding that Brit Tzedek's message is one for which many
American decision makers have been waiting. Congress is not a
monolith and neither are the two parties. In the past, members
have been inundated with aggressive policies many know are not
quite right. We in the peace camp must find new and better ways
to reach those on both sides of the aisle who want to see peace
and justice in the Middle East. Under the present circumstances
- the planned disengagement and the election of Mahmoud Abbas -
there is greater openness in Congress and the Administration
alike. We must exploit this openness
aggressively and get across the fact that ours is, in fact, the
|L to R: Frank Bamberger, Alison Koles (Leg. Asst. for
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Schloss, Marie
Pepper, Harry Jellinek, Albert Rosenblatt, Talia Peleg,
Furthermore, we must demonstrate the huge
potential of our organization--by energizing our supporters,
winning over those who are uncommitted, and serving notice to
our opponents that there are many ways to be pro-Israel.
In the coming months it will be vital to
maintain strong relations with members of Congress and the Bush
Administration. This involves scheduling appointments with
members or staff in their home districts, writing letters to
newspaper and magazine editors, and inviting political leaders
to Brit Tzedek events. The momentum we have gained from Advocacy
Days must continue to build as we enter a crucial time for
jump-starting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
There are, quite literally, lives at stake.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish
Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
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