Friday, March 31, 2023

The annual NORPAC Mission to D.C., a tradition for well over two decades, makes a powerful impact on the citizen activists who participate and the hundreds of national elected officials and their top staff with whom they meet, because NORPAC leaders do their homework.

Six months ahead of the mission set for May 9-12, held again virtually this year, NORPAC began planning and promoting the activity to past participants and other prospective attendees.

Weeks ahead of the mission, NORPAC sent out well-researched talking points for five issues—in long version and in short form—to all registered attendees.

And over a week before the mission kicked off, NORPAC held a virtual training session on May 1, where NORPAC leaders discussed Zoom meeting etiquette and outlined each of the talking points at length. Over 75 computers from all across the New York/New Jersey area were signed in to the virtual training, representing 150 or more participants.

Avi Schranz, executive director of NORPAC, shared with The Jewish Link that this year’s NORPAC virtual mission to Washington, D.C. was one of the most successful missions, attracting 500 participants and holding meetings with elected officials or staff in nearly 300 congress members/senators’ offices. The mission is all the more remarkable because it is a massive logistical undertaking organized by a group of 25 volunteers with limited staff support.

The NORPAC mission also succeeds because the leadership selects issues of concern that matter deeply to the American Jewish pro-Israel community and which are widely seen are relevant and timely by the members of Congress and the aenators.

For this year’s mission, NORPAC focused on five issues and asked elected officials:

1. To support the Fiscal Year 2023 aid package to Israel, which includes $3.3 billion in U.S. military assistance to Israel and $500 million in cooperative missile defense funding, as called for in the 10-year memorandum of understanding signed by Israel and President Obama in 2016;

2. To urge the Biden Administration to ensure that any renewed nuclear deal with Iran be “longer and stronger” than the previous deal (quoting Secretary of State Blinkin), submit the renewed deal to Congress for its review, use diplomacy and sanctions to permanently ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, and address other concerns about Iran’s menacing international actions;

3. To co-sponsor S. 3421, the bipartisan Stop Iranian Drones Act, in the Senate (or to thank the Congress member if he/she supported the companion bill, H.R. 6089, passed in the House of Representatives on April 27th);

4. To co-sponsor the Commission of Inquiry Elimination Act, H.R. 7223, which restricts U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding the United Nations Human Rights Council’s open-ended and perpetual Commission of Inquiry against Israel; and

5. To co-sponsor H.R. 2374, the bipartisan Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act, to determine if content encouraging violence against other nations and ethnic groups remains in Palestinian Authority school curricula and to assess what steps the PA is taking to reform such curricula, in line with United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization standards.

Leveraging the advantages of a virtual mission, NORPAC scheduled small group meetings between participants and elected officials and/or their staff members throughout the past week.

This reporter participated in one of the small group meetings on Monday May 9, with three senior staff members of Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The NORPAC group was led by Yosef Schreiber of Highland Park, who also served as one of the organizers of this year’s NORPAC mission; other meeting participants were Sheila and Henry Schanzer of Edison, Aviva Schreiber (currently in Israel, participating in a Bar Ilan international diplomacy program), Leon Kozak of Manhattan, and Trudy and Stanley Stern Of Lawrence, New York.

The three staffers listened intently as the NORPAC group members made appeals for the different legislative initiatives, and they promised to look into the possibility of the senator co-sponsoring the bills.

Barry Levinson of Highland Park participated in the mission with his wife, Marcia. He stated: “We met with Hillary Pinegar, a staffer for Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) on Tuesday, May 10. She reported that the Congressman is very supportive of Israel and will strongly consider co-sponsoring bills providing for the US to better defend Israel within the UN and to discourage or defund the teaching in its schools of hatred of Israel and Jews by the Palestinian Authority."

Summing up the scope and impact of the 2022 NORPAC mission, Ben Chouake, MD, of Englewood, the national president of NORPAC, stated: “The NORPAC mission this year is the largest Israel advocacy mission in the country. Our volunteers educate members of Congress and work to keep America’s support for U.S.-Israel relations a priority.”

By Harry Glazer


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