June 7, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NORPAC Sends 1,200 Advocates to DC

A group from East Brunswick prepares to meet with a legislative aide to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The 2024 NORPAC Mission to Washington, D.C. set some new records for the reach of the organization. Mission Logistics Chair Jeffrey Schreiber of Highland Park told The Jewish Link that 1,200 people registered to participate in the mission, of which 1,100 traveled to the capital on 25 buses from 13 different locations; and mission participants held 310 meetings in congressional or senate offices.

What motivated so many community members to take a day off of work, travel hours on a bus, memorize nuanced talking points, and rush to get to different appointments in D.C.? One big motivator was current events and the chance to make a real difference.

Dr. Elisha Russ-Fishbane (standing) recites the Tefillas HaDerech as bus captain Milton Erdfarb (l) looks on.

“Our communities have been deeply affected by the unimagined cruelty of the Oct 7 Hamas massacre and the indifference, and open hostility, of much of the Western world to Israel’s efforts to defend itself,” said Dr. Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC. “And we’ve been distressed to see the explosion of antisemitism in our cities and especially on college campuses.

“We say each year that our mission in NORPAC is to make the case for Israel to the many members of Congress, and that this is more important than ever. This year, it feels far more imperative.

Ora Russ-Fishbane (l) presents one of the issues to Ashlee Bierworth, legislative director for Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, Iowa), as other group members look on.

“The NORPAC Mission to Washington is the largest Jewish citizen advocacy group going to D.C. this year,” Chouake continued. “We [speak] directly with hundreds of members of Congress, senators, and their top staff about support for Israel and advocacy against anti-semitism in the media and on campus. This effort is essential to all Jewish causes and survival.”

Another motivation boosting attendance was the well-regarded efforts by NORPAC leaders to select issues and pending legislation that matter to the community.

A group from Edison, led by Dr. Marc Hanfling, met with Rep. Tom Kean.

For the 2024 mission, NORPAC focused on these four topics:

  1. Discuss the Israel/Hamas War and remind the Congress members, senators and/or their staff about the October 7 massacre, the hostages still in Gaza, and Israel’s many efforts to prevent civilian casualties.
  2. Remind the Congress members/senators and/or staff members about the upsurge in antisemitism in the U.S., point out the role of Students for Justice in Palestine—a pro-Hamas organization, and the fact that campus protests often denounce the U.S. Ask senators to cosponsor The Antisemitism Awareness Act and thank Congress members who voted for it. Also ask them to support a $500 million appropriation for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
  3. Talk about the role of Iran in funding and training Hamas and Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen and ask them to support The Iran Sanctions Enforcement Act, which creates a new way to fund the seizure of Iranian assets and to pay for investigations of Iranian sanctions violations.
  4. Review the value of security assistance to Israel and ask them to cosponsor the United States-Israel Anti-Tunnel Cooperation Enhancement Act and the $3.8 billion security assistance package for FY ’25 without any additional conditions. Also to press the administration to stop withholding arms from Israel.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R, Florida) greets Meredith Mainzer, a teenage NORPAC participant attending with her father,
Dov Wasserman, from Teaneck.

Before the small sessions in congressional/senate offices, mission participants heard from prominent supporters of Israel in Congress. Representative Ritchie Torres, who represents Riverdale, praised NORPAC for supporting him before many others did, early in his career. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma celebrated the House’s passage of the AntiSemitism Awareness Act and urged the Senate to pass it, too. He decried the prevalence of misinformation online and told attendees, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but not everything you read on the Internet is correct.” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog also spoke to the crowd.

Another big draw of the NORPAC Mission was the opportunity for parents to share their passion for Israel activism with their children.

A group from Edison/Highland Park, including Fishel Brooks, his son Asher and his daughter Adina, meet with a legislative aide to Rep. Diana DeGette (D, Florida).

Bryan Strub of Highland Park accompanied his dad, Hank, and spoke to The Jewish Link about his impressions of his first mission. “The most meaningful moment of the day was when Senator Cory Booker came personally to see our group and talk with us. I also thought Senator James Lankford’s comments in the theater were very meaningful. Senator Lankford spoke about how the fight to defend Israel should be important to every American, and made me hopeful that the silent majority who support Israel can stop being silent.”

Asher Brooks of Washington Heights, a principal in the Theorist social media agency in NYC, attended the mission with his father, Fischel Brooks from Edison. Asher said: “It’s much easier to represent Israel within the context of a big community, like NORPAC. There’s something really special about the impact of the NORPAC mission.”

A group from Highland Park/Edison, led by Barry Levinson, meet with Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, Iowa) and her legislative director, Ashlee Bierworth.

Dov Wasserman of Teaneck shared: “My daughter Meredith Mainzer got to meet Congresswoman Kat Cammack [R, Florida], at the end of the day, and each was impressed with the other. Meredith said she was inspired to become a congresswoman herself someday, to which Kat quipped, ‘You’re trying to take my job?!’”

Joey Small of Teaneck said: “I’m proud to be here with my eighth-grade son, Noam, who attends Yeshivat Noam, to advocate for Israel, and to be a part of 1,200 people supporting Israel. I am proud to remind the government of issues of importance to us, which should also be important to the United States.”

Rebbetzin Sara Markowitz of Fair Lawn attended the mission with her 16-year-old daughter, Avigail. She shared that they were both first-time mission participants and said: “I say that the mission is important every year; this year, though, it wasn’t a question. It was imperative to take action, to advocate, and to lobby for Israel. And it’s very impressive to see the turnout.”

A group from Edison/Highland Park meets with Rep. David Schweikert (R, Arizona).

It wasn’t just parents shepping nachas or their children who felt that the NORPAC 2024 mission was an exceptional opportunity to make an impact.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hess of the Young Israel of East Brunswick said: “I’m here to support Medinat Yisrael and advocate for U.S./Israel relations. There should be no daylight between us, because our values are in sync. We are responsible to support each other.”

Heather Gable of East Brunswick, a member of YIEB, said: “The most meaningful moment of today’s mission was being one American Jew getting together with roughly 1,200 others to stand up for our ally Israel and meet with members of Congress to express the important facts. Quoting NORPAC, ‘The United States should not hold back security assistance to Israel and limit its ability to defeat Hamas.’ It was a bonus to walk in the halls and see a few Congress members proudly displaying the signs ‘I Stand With Israel.’”

A group from Edison/Highland Park, including Rabbi Eliyahu Kaufman, rav of Congregation Ohav Emeth (r), prepares for a meeting in a Congressional office.

For more information on NORPAC and how to get involved, please see: https://norpac.net/


Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County editor of The Jewish Link. He can be reached at [email protected] and he welcomes feedback from readers. Harry is always awed by the dedication, focus and energy of the participants in the annual NORPAC mission to Washington, D.C.

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