YUPAC 2015: YU Inundates Washington with Student Lobbyists
On February 4th, the Yeshiva University Political Awareness Club, or YUPAC, descended on Washington D.C. to advocate for Israel. By 6:45 am, the busses of sleepy students pulled away from Amsterdam Ave. and 185th and headed south. Over 175 high school and college students, the largest pro-Israel student lobby group in the United States this year, took the four hour drive down to the nation’s capital. for a day of lobbying, sightseeing and new experiences. The trip was organized in conjunction with various student councils, the Office of Admissions, and the Office of Student Life.
Immediately upon reaching D.C., the students filed into the AIPAC official headquarters for inspiration and instruction from the pro-Israel professionals. Jonathan Kessler, Leadership Development Director at AIPAC, compared the large group of Orthodox lobbyists to the famous march on Washington by 500 Orthodox rabbis who unsuccessfully demanded US intervention in saving European Jewry from the Nazis in 1943. “Never again will we be strangers to power,” he charged. Although the rabbis made an impressive demonstration outside of Capitol Hill, their lack of influence within the governmental bodies, he explained, is the reason they weren’t heard.
Now, with the Jewish State facing the increasing threat of a nuclear capable Iran, the students traversed Capitol Hill, meeting with Congresspeople and Senators, to make the case for sanctions against Iran. The agenda, specifically, was to push support for the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. The bill would set a deadline by which previously rescinded sanctions would be reinstated, under the recognition that Iran has delayed the resolution of a deal on their nuclear program. For every month a deal is not reached with the rogue government, new and harsher sanctions would be imposed.
The students met with the offices of various governmental officials including Senators Menendez (NJ), Blumenthal (CT) and Gillibrand (NY) as well as an array of members of the House of Representatives.
For Esti Hirt, a sophomore at Stern, the trip was beneficial to more than just the tiny democracy. “It’s one thing to look at the news and see all that goes on in a world of politics that seems distant, but through going today to Capitol Hill we really felt a part of it.” For many students this mission was a rare opportunity to get involved in the political process. Chanoch Aminsky, a senior at MTA High School and first time lobbyist, felt it was part of his duty as an American Jew to be involved. “I think it’s great that we are able to actually meet with government officials and show them that we are concerned with the issues,” he explained. “It really made me feel like I have a say in the decisions made by the government.”
The end of the day offered both groups of students a unique experience. High school students were sent to the Israeli Embassy where they were briefed on various activities within the office, while the college students paid homage to our nation’s most notorious home, the White House. There they heard from Matt Nosanchuk, the official White House Jewish Liaison, on his office’s involvement within the national Jewish community.
Co-president of YUPAC, Rebecca Saragossi, believes student involvement in the political process is of utmost importance. It’s important, she explained, “to give them the tools they need and show them they can make changes and be future leaders.”