By: Sara Cohen  | 

YU in DC: A Chance to Make a Change

They say everyone has a part to play in life. 

Whether this role is magnified by the media, lauded by others, or remains relatively unknown, it exists — one alongside the other. When I was in Israel on Oct. 7, I noticed that one of the immediate reactions of many Americans was to “run”. Israel was under attack and we felt surrounded by a haze of sirens and missiles as the entire country was in a state of shock and grief. Like many other Americans in Israel during this time, I was under the mistaken impression that once I was back in New York I would be safe. While over here, we thankfully do not hear sirens or have to dash to bomb shelters, we still are most definitely not as safe as we were on Oct. 6. Between college campuses slandering Israel, misinformation proliferating on social media, Hamas sympathizers demonstrating en masse and antisemitism sharply increasing nationwide and globally, America — including New York — is not the same safe haven for Jews as it once was.  

That is why, when the opportunity arose to go to our nation’s capital with the Yeshiva University  Political Action Club, I was eager to join. The chance to do something, to combat hatred and spread truth, was especially appealing to me. I had the privilege to be part of a group of over 130 YU students who made their way to Washington D.C in order to speak to different members of the House of Representatives and Senate about Israel. 

Once there, we split up into smaller groups and made our way to the politicians assigned to us. My group met with Emily Chaffin, a staff member from Senator Alex Padilla, (D-California) as well as Kevin Sayegh from Representative Mike Lawler’s office (R-NY 17). In both of these meetings, we thanked Emily and Kevin for their support, shared our personal stories and connections to Israel and conveyed the unfortunate reality of what it feels to be a Jew in America right now. They were engaged, asked questions and seemed genuinely interested. They also professed their representatives’ current and future pro-Israel stance. We spent the day in and around Capitol Hill including hearing from Representative Richie Torres (D-NY 15), and we concluded with a visit to the Israeli embassy. 

It was such a joy to hear Hebrew at the embassy, be around Israelis and see blue and white fly in the wind. We heard from senior members of the embassy staff including deputy military attache Shachar Feinmesser and Deputy Chief of Mission Eliav Benjamin. Although they mentioned the horrors of Oct. 7 and the current gravity of the situation, I walked away inspired by the enormous strength and resilience of Am Yisrael. In fact, they mentioned that since Simchat Torah, almost 18,000 Israeli babies have been born, many with names such as Beeri, Oz or Nova. 

I was struck with the Jewish concept of zachor; we remember and we fight. However, this fight can emerge in different forms. We might not be aware, but there is a battle to be won here. 

We, young college students, have a crucial part to play. As Americans, we need to vote, speak out and stand up for Israel. As Jews, we need to be aware of the importance of kiddush Hashem. Whether we like it or not, we are walking ambassadors for Judaism and Israel, and the kindness and respect we show others reflects the Jewish people as a whole. Unlike other times in Jewish history, there is no one battlefront, and not one kind of soldier. 

We all have a part to play. 


Photo Caption: YU’s Political Action Committee (YUPAC) on the steps of Capitol Hill

Photo Credit: Moishe Rechester