Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

National Advocacy Days Report

"If you don't make your biggest effort, you will never know if you can succeed." --Representative Barney Frank

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 Administration officials. 


L to R: Daniel Orenstein, CEO Diane Balser, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Philip G. Rosen, Jeffrey Albert

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 Williams

While 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.
Reva Price and Exeutive Director Aliza Becker

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 mainstream position.
L to R: Frank Bamberger, Alison Koles (Leg. Asst. for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Schloss, Marie Parham, Alison Pepper, Harry Jellinek, Albert Rosenblatt, Talia Peleg, Jack Alexander

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 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

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