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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Growing Resistance to Evacuating Jews From Their Homes

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

Resistance to participating in the upcoming evacuation of some 300 Jews from their homes in Amona is growing among Israeli soldiers and Border Guard Police officers.

On Saturday night, a dozen elite soldiers from a top IDF unit decided to risk the military penalties of going AWOL (absent without leave) rather than force themselves to follow order they considered to be a moral crime.

The soldiers, who were from the Givati Brigade, collected their personal gear after the end of the Sabbath, left their weapons behind and set out for the bus station from their army base.

A second before boarding at the station, their regiment commander arrived, apparently after having been warned of their disappearance. After a short discussion on site, the 12 soldiers hiked back together with their commander to the base on foot, where discussions continued from that point on.

“We just cannot take part in a mission to evacuate Jews from their own homes,” the soldiers had told their families, according to a report posted on the Hebrew-language military 0404 website.

This particular unit is, according to the site, one that only one year ago, was among the top of all Givati fighters, and which had eliminated countless deadly Palestinian Authority terrorists in the greater Hebron area.

Last week there were several reports of police and soldiers from various other units who were photographed without their faces showing, holding hand-written signs that read, “Don’t make me evict a Jew from his home.”

The Supreme Court, which ordered the demolition of Amona by December 25, has so far been unwilling to grant a delay in the proceedings despite several requests by attorneys for the State for a postponement in order find and/or build new homes for the residents elsewhere.

In February 2006, it took seven hours and nearly 3,000 Yassam special ops forces and various other police forces to evacuate residents and protesters from nine homes and partly completed structures, all located in two short rows located close together in a new neighborhood that was under construction in Amona. During that period, 216 people were injured, some of them critically, most of them civilians.

The community of Amona today is comprised of 40 homes, not including the synagogue and so forth, with completed buildings scattered all over an entire hilltop. In between, there are also new, hastily-built particle-board and other temporary-type structures that have been put together quickly by volunteers to house the hundreds of volunteers who are streaming in to help residents resist the evacuation.

Fewer than 10,000 Jewish Israeli citizens were expelled from Gush Katif in Gaza and four northern Samaria communities in August 2005 and to this day, some people have never received full compensation for the homes and businesses that they lost. Some still live in the “caravillas” to which they were forced to relocate when they were dragged out of their homes in the Disengagement from Gaza under the administration of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, now deceased.

Although there was no real violence, that experience resulted in numerous suicides, divorces, permanent mental health problems, broken homes, and teens at risk. No housing solutions for the expelled communities were made available for years; a mistake the residents of Amona say they don’t intend to repeat.

Hana Levi Julian

Report: Hamas Terrorist Killed in Tunnel Collapse During ‘Mission’

Monday, October 24th, 2016

A member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, was killed in Gaza on Monday after an underground tunnel collapsed on him, Ma’an reported. The al-Qassam Brigades released a statement saying one of their fighters, Amir Jaber Abu Tuima from the town of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, died during a “mission” when the tunnel collapsed.

The announcement did not specify the nature of the mission, which was most likely digging a terror tunnel.

On Saturday another al-Qassam terrorist was killed in a tunnel collapse. Ma’an acknowledged that a considerable number of Gaza Arabs have been killed in the “vast tunnel networks that lie below the besieged enclave,” which is dedicated to commercial and military smuggling in the south and future terrorist kidnapping in the north.

Last Saturday morning, the head of the Egyptian army’s Ninth Armored Division was assassinated for his role in destroying tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip by filling them with water.

The smuggling tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and flow of weapons and commercial goods from the Sinai, including food, medicine, and infrastructure materials. The latter are being used mostly for digging military tunnels into Israeli territory.

The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas suffered 160 deaths under collapsing tunnels since 2007. In August 2014, al-Jazeera cited 400 as the updated figure for tunnel collapse casualties.

Ma’an cited a UN report from September suggesting the damage from the three clashes between Hamas and Israel since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, including the destruction of local water, sanitation, energy, and medical facilities, together with a slow reconstruction (as Hamas is usurping the building material for building terror tunnels), will render Gaza “uninhabitable” by 2020.


Will Detroit’s Historic Holocaust Museum Stay True To Its Mission?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit.

For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. The Washington museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first freestanding museum in the country devoted to the subject.

This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides.

Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life-and-death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic factors that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of General Motors and Henry Ford.

That the museum allowed me to speak freely on the latter was a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

The museum became known for more than just lectures; its extraordinary exhibits delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. Rabbi Rosenzveig and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were.

When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the museum, the conversation was often just silence and the unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing, but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust – the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit and me speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained that its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto front pages everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used the term “Second Holocaust” and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program.

The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas-guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one U.S. city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism – thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event, and my comments were cut short due to the abundance of speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear that the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, in July 2008, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. Referring to Iran’s nuclear program, McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature and helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renowned Paper Walls author David Wyman on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to him in the foreword as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” Wyman also saluted the Detroit center for being the first freestanding Holocaust museum in America.

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern, who had also worked on the Wyman book. He is still with the museum and now heads up its Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only longtime devoted staffer at the museum. The center maintains a valuable library archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss.

In 2012 I returned to Detroit for a museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I updated my 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at a nearby synagogue. In the museum auditorium we helped set the stage for a global recognition of the Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht.

While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event at the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.; in New York in a Manhattan synagogue; in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries; and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day – a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and now are devoted to both the Holocaust and genocide in general, or simply to global genocide.

Don’t get me wrong; as one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, I know that all those shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls; otherwise, “Never Again” is just a slogan rather than a fateful warning to the world.

But we in the Holocaust community do this best when we conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring.

Recently it emerged that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising – two spheres that aren’t always in sync. (Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom when he created the museum.)

Guyer confirmed to me that the museum and its board are undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. Asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to several e-mail and voice requests for further information.

The museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and e-mails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store.

Despite the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the museum continues to remain mum about its plans.

Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust museums, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. The boards of directors of such museums are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Guyer should therefore check with the community before any “strategic thinking and transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

Ein-Gedi Scroll Target of Hi-Tec Recovery Mission

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Prof. Brent Seales and his team from the University of Kentucky have further unlocked the text in the ancient Ein-Gedi scroll — the very first, severely damaged, ink-based scroll to be unrolled and identified noninvasively. Through virtual unwrapping, they have revealed it to be the earliest copy of a Torah book – Vayikra-Leviticus – ever found in a Holy Ark.

“This work opens a new window through which we can look back through time by reading materials that were thought lost through damage and decay,” said Seales, who is a professor and a chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Kentucky. “There are so many other unique and exciting materials that may yet give up their secrets — we are only beginning to discover what they may hold.”

Seales and his team have discovered and restored text on five complete wraps of the animal skin scroll, an object that likely will never be physically opened for inspection.

In a study published in Science Advances Seales and his co-authors, including researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, describe the process and present their findings, which include a master image of the virtually unrolled scroll containing 35 lines of text, of which 18 have been preserved and another 17 have been reconstructed.

“We are releasing all our data on the scroll from Ein-Gedi: the scans, our geometric analysis, the final texture,” said Prof. Seales, adding, “We think that the scholarly community will have interest in the data and the process as well as our results/”

The software pipeline, referred to as “virtual unwrapping,” reveals text within damaged objects by using data from high resolution scanning, which represents the internal structure of the 3-D object, to digitally segment, texture and flatten the scroll.

In 2015, Seales and his team revealed the first eight verses of the Book of Vayikra in the scroll, which is at least 1,500 years old and was badly burned at some point. Due to its charred condition, it was not possible to either preserve or decipher it. However, high resolution scanning and virtual unwrapping has allowed Seales to recover substantial ink-based text at such high quality that Jerusalem’s Hebrew University scholars can now conduct critical textual analysis on it.

“With the aid of the amazing tomography (imaging by sections) technology we are now able to zero in on the early history of the biblical text, as the Ein-Gedi scroll has been dated to the first centuries of the common era,” said Hebrew University’s Prof. Emanuel Tov, co-author and leading scholar on textual criticism of Hebrew and Greek bibles. Hebrew University’s Prof. Michael Segal also worked with Tov on the textual criticism. The text of the scroll and its analysis is published in Textus, the journal of the Hebrew University Bible Project.

The scroll was unearthed in 1970 in archaeological excavations in the synagogue at Ein Gedi in Israel, headed by the late Prof. Dan Barag and Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Yosef Porath of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The IAA’s Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center, which uses state of the art and advanced technologies to preserve and document the Dead Sea scrolls, enabled the discovery of this important find.

“The discovery of text in the Ein-Gedi scroll absolutely astonished us; we were certain it was a shot in the dark, but the most advanced technologies have brought this cultural treasure back to life,” said co-author Pnina Shor, curator and director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project. “Now, in addition to preserving the Dead Sea Scrolls for future generations, we can bequeath part of the Bible from a Holy Ark of a 1,500-year old synagogue.”


Steven Hill’s Mission imPossible

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Editor’s Note: The actor Steven Hill died last week at age 94. Hill’s decision in the early 1960s to become Orthodox made headlines and affected the course of his acting career. In 1966 he played the original leader of the Impossible Missions Force on the hit series “Mission: Impossible” but left after one year, at the height of the show’s popularity, because his filming schedule conflicted with his Sabbath observance.

After a hiatus that lasted more than a decade, Hill returned to acting in the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in a number of movies including “Yentl,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Heartburn,” “The Firm,” and “Legal Eagles.

Hill resumed his television career in a big way in 1990 when he took the role of district attorney Adam Schiff in the drama series “Law & Order,” a part he would play for 10 seasons.

In early 1969 – just two years after he left “Mission Impossible” and when many were wondering whether he regretted choosing Orthodox Judaism over TV stardom – Irene Klass, the late publisher of The Jewish Press, spoke with Hill. The interview appeared in the paper’s Feb. 7, 1969 issue.


It’s a far cry from Hollywood, California to Square Town, New York. But the person who de­cides to make the change might find it’s the best move he ever made. At least that’s been the experience of actor Steven Hill, original star of Television’s “Mission Impossible.”

Steve, tall and handsome, with dimples that appear whenever he smiles (which is often) looks more like a movie star than a Square chassid. But there’s no mistaking the influence Square Town has had on him. For it’s to the Squarer Rebbe that Ste­ven Hill gives credit for his re­turn to the Torah way of life – a life, as he says, “of meaning and purpose.”

The reader who remembers Mr. Hill as one of the top stars of the stage and television screen might have difficulty re­conciling that image with the Steve Hill who wears a black velvet skullcap, dons phylacter­ies for morning services, and re­frains from work on the Sab­bath.

“But there’s really no mystery about it,” he says. “I simply found myself, that’s all.”

“For a long time I had been searching,” the actor said. “I used to ask myself, ‘Was I born just to memorize lines?’ I knew there had to be more to life than that. I was searching – trying to find the answers – to find myself – and I did.”

How did it actually come about, one wants to know. Steve sits back in his chair as if to refresh his memory, straighten­ing his skullcap in the gesture familiar to religious Jews every­where.

“About ten years ago,” he recalled, “I went home to Seattle to visit my parents. I was feeling depressed because I seemed to be leading an aimless existence. Oh sure, I was a star with all the glamour and everything. But something was missing. My life seemed empty – meaningless.”

At his father’s suggestion Steven attended services at the shul he used to frequent as a boy. Something began to stir in him. “I guess that was the be­ginning,” he said.

Back in Cali­fornia he started making the rounds of the synagogues – first the Reform and then the Con­servative. But nothing much happened.

Then he came East on an as­signment, sporting a beard for the Broadway role of Sigmund Freud. Seeking relaxation from the rigors of the theatre, Steve drove out to Square Town to watch the dancing of the chassidim he had heard so much about. But although he came to laugh, “he remained to pray.” For he found something here in these chassidim that he had not found anywhere else – a dedication and devotion to the Torah which gave them a certain serenity; a certain nobility of character; a certain truth and purpose to their lives. He saw a love of G-d so intense that it must find expression not only in their diligent observance of His commandments, but in the ecstatic chassidic dance.

Steve felt himself drawn by the spirit that moved them. The spark that had been kindled in the shul in Seattle became a fire that would not be quenched – that demanded to be fed. Nothing less than total commit­ment to Torah would do!

Steven Hill in 2010, dancing at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Lakewood, N.J.

Steven Hill in 2010, dancing at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Lakewood, N.J.

He began to study the Torah under the guidance of the Squarer Rebbe and was amazed at its “deep insights.” So many things became clear to him. “ ‘It’s like walking in a wilderness at night,’ ” he quoted Rav El­chanan Wasserman, zt”l. “ ‘Sud­denly there’s a flash of light­ning and everything is illumi­nated.’ That’s the way it is with the Torah – it illuminates every­thing,” he said so sincerely that you could see this was not just a passing fancy.

Once Steve had made up his mind that this was the life for him, nothing could change it. His movie contract, thereafter, stated that he would not work on Shabbos and Yom Tov; and that his clothes were to be non­-shatnes. How did Hollywood react to this?

“They thought I was some kind of nut,” he grinned. “In Hollywood, you see, it’s the smart thing to do to go off on a `kick’ – any kind, even a reli­gious `kick’ – but don’t make a pest of yourself by sticking to it or you are a weirdo.”

“Strange when you think about it,’ Steve said. “Some of these people put their very lives into the most meaning­less things” – yet labeled him a fanatic for being equally com­mitted to his religion. He shrug­ged his shoulders – the look on his face seemed to ask, “How ridiculous can you get?”

“The world’s absurd,” we agreed.

“Insane and abominable,” as Voltaire said; not the least example of which is the blatant sex and violence that greets you at every turn both in reel and in real life.

What did he think about this obsession with sex on screen and stage? Steve registered disgust. “What we left in Egypt three thousand years ago, the lunatics are bringing back now,” he said.

Irene Klass

Steven Hill, Star of ‘Law & Order,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ Dead at 94

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Steven Hill, who starred in “Mission: Impossible” as the versatile team’s leader Daniel Briggs, and as District Attorney Adam Schiff on “Law & Order,” died Tuesday at age 94. He was born Solomon Krakovsky, to Russian Jewish immigrants in Seattle, Washington.

Hill only lasted one season on “Mission: Impossible,” and was replaced by Peter Graves, for being “difficult to work with,” most notably since he refused to work late on Fridays, because of his Shabbat observance. His fellow Jewish cast member Martin Landau described Hill’s only season saying, “I felt he was digging his own grave.”

Hill was apparently less difficult to work with on the set of the long-running series “Law & Order,” whose producer Dick Wolf released a statement following Hill’s passing, saying, “Steven was not only one of the truly great actors of his generation, he was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He is also the only actor I’ve known who consistently tried to cut his own lines.”

In a 1996 interview, Dick Wolf called Hill “the Talmudic influence on the entire zeitgeist of the series,” saying “Steven has more moral authority than anyone else on episodic TV.”

Hill’s first Broadway stage appearance was alongside Marlon Brando in Ben Hecht’s “A Flag Is Born,” in 1946. His big break came when he got a small part in the hit Broadway show Mister Roberts. “The director, Joshua Logan, thought I had some ability, and he let me create one of the scenes,” Hill told the NY Times. “So, I improvised dialog and it went in the show. That was my first endorsement. It gave me tremendous encouragement to stay in the business.”

After being dropped from “Mission: Impossible,” Hill spent 10 years of what he described as “tremendous periods of unemployment.” He left acting in 1967 and moved to a Jewish community in Rockland County, NY, where he wrote at night and sold real estate by day. After 10 years, he was ready to act again. He returned to work in the 1980s and 1990s, playing parental and authority-figure roles in Yentl (1983), Garbo Talks (1984), Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Heartburn (1986), Raw Deal (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Billy Bathgate (1991), and The Firm (1993).

Hill’s role as New York District Attorney Bower in Legal Eagles (1986), foreshadowed his role of Adam Schiff in Law & Order. He modeled these roles on Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, who served from 1990 to 2000. When Morgenthau found out that Hill was making $25,000 per episode, he told him, “Steven, when you’re ready to retire, let me know. I want your job.”

David Israel

Sustaining Israel’s Friends On Capitol Hill: NORPAC’s Mission – and Missions – in Washington

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

To answer your first question: No, NORPAC is not affiliated with AIPAC, but you can certainly be forgiven for the confusion. Both organizations are passionate about their advocacy for the State of Israel and both feature the letters P-A-C in their organization’s name. However, despite the similarities, only NORPAC is a political action committee which means that only NORPAC is allowed to fundraise and donate money to U.S. senators and members of congress that share the organization’s belief in a strong and enduring relationship between the USA and Israel (AIPAC is a registered lobbying group, which cannot donate money, and the P-A-C stands for public affairs committee). This distinction is important, explains Dr. Ben Chouake, the president of NORPAC. “The advocacy we do and that AIPAC does is extremely important, but it is also important to help people get elected who are strong on your issues and fundraising is one way to help make that happen.”

NORPAC’s strategy to maintain the historically vital connection between Israel and America is therefore two-pronged. The organization’s flagship program is their annual mission to Washington, a one-day whirlwind of on-the-hill advocacy, but NORPAC also proudly hosts an increasing number of fundraising events for politicians from around the country throughout the course of the year.

Chouake assumed the position of national president in 2000, and over the course of his tenure, the organization has grown from a small New Jersey-centric program that sent 20-30 people to Washington D.C. on its annual mission and hosted one or two fundraisers a year, to a prominent voice for Israel which sends over 1,000 people from all over the tri-state area on the annual mission and hosts 40 or more fundraisers every year. Of course, Chouake doesn’t do it all on his own, and he’s the first to let you know.

“I’m a good cheerleader,” Chouake says, “but the key is to have a great team to cheerlead for.” With only one full-time employee, the indefatigable Avi Schranz, working for the organization, NORPAC relies on the tireless efforts of a small army of volunteers to meet their increasingly ambitious annual goals.

As NORPAC has grown, new thriving chapters have sprung up further and further away from the original chapter in Englewood, NJ. David Steinberg, a highly respected member of the Kew Gardens Hills community, is the president of the Brooklyn-Queens chapter of NORPAC. Steinberg also serves as a mission chair along with Richie Schlussel and Dr. Laurie Baumel. Together the mission chairs organize every aspect of the mission to Washington. The logistics are incredibly complex but important to get right, as consistency in message is vital to a successful mission to Washington.

“You don’t get a thousand Jews walking into Capitol Hill at one time who are all accidentally saying the same thing,” says Steinberg, “everything that happens on the mission requires an incredible degree of planning and discipline.”

Over the course of their one-day mission this year on May 18, the NORPAC volunteers met with 98 senators and over 340 members of the House of Representatives. In some cases, the meetings were hosted by senior members of the congressmember’s staff, but often the congressman or congresswoman themselves sat down with the NORPAC volunteers.

Jeff Schreiber, the logistics chair of the NORPAC mission to Washington, explains how NORPAC’s size provides exactly the type of flexibility that allows for such a successful and unique day of advocacy. “When AIPAC sends 15,000 people to Washington,” says Schreiber, “there is only so much they can do with a group that large. With our 1,000 to 1,300 volunteers we are able to send small groups all around the Hill and we are able to hold all of these incredible face-to-face meetings in the span of one day.”

Yehuda Raskin

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/politics/sustaining-israels-friends-on-capitol-hill-norpacs-mission-and-missions-in-washington/2016/07/21/

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