May 30, 2024
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NORPAC: There’s a First Time for Everything

Impressive. That is the best way to describe my first NORPAC mission to Washington last week.

Like many of my fellow Teaneck/Bergenfield/New Milford coreligionists, my thoughts about NORPAC were “great to have it, but I am not taking off a day from work to go advocate in Washington” or “I am glad that there are other people who do this, but this is not for me.” How wrong I was.

NORPAC is a non-partisan committee of volunteers whose purpose is to support candidates and current members of the Senate and House who are committed to the strength and security of Israel. The group has various ways to ensure its success, including financial support and advocating efforts. One of their biggest accomplishments is their annual mission to Washington where volunteers meet with more than 90 percent of the Congressmen and Senators about the most important issues of the day facing Israel.

This year saw their largest mission ever, with a 50 percent increase to 1,500 men, women and children attending. The mission focused on three issues—to vote yes on:

1. Continued $3.1 billion in annual military aid to Israel

2. Allowing Congress to review any deal President Obama signs with Iran

3. The upcoming bill to place financial sanctions on Hezbollah

Following shacharis at Keter Torah, we loaded one of the seven Teaneck buses (out of a total of 35 buses from the tristate area) and proceeded to become immersed with information on the smooth four-hour trip to the Washington Convention Center. Some of what was relayed included

videos of NORPAC leaders talking about the key issues;

a mission handbook, which discussed what to do before, during and after a meeting;

a talking-points manual, which detailed the three issues we were to educate members about and ask them to support and

a “scorecard” on the Iran deal to be used as reference points in our discussions as well as a “leave behind” for the members of Congress to reference.

On the bus we also met the other members of our group of 10 and discussed as a team our strategy and who would be speaking (or not speaking) on each point.

Everything was presented and organized clearly and professionally and we could tell that many hundreds of hours had been dedicated to exactly which issues we should be talking about, what we were asking for and the best way to ask for them.

Upon arriving at the convention center, a choice of boxed lunches was waiting for us in the lobby (food is important). We then joined 1,500 people in the packed ballroom to hear Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and other NORPAC leaders talk about the issues and importance of the day. The room felt electric, especially when they introduced Senator Menendez, who promptly received a long standing ovation.

One of the most memorable lines of the session was when Senator Menendez described how he has been the leading advocate of Iran not getting a nuclear bomb for over 20 years, even when he was a Congressman in a district that had more Palestinians and Arabs than Jews.

After the session, the real action began. We boarded a waiting bus to the capital, where our first meeting was with newly elected Democratic representative Brad Ashford of Nebraska. A personable individual, we sat in his office and raised our issues and “asks” while a cordial dialogue began. It started with our group leaders’ teenage daughter asking Mr. Ashford to support continued military aid to Israel and ended with the Congressman describing his long interaction and affinity with the Jewish community in Omaha, where his grandfather was instrumental in fighting an anti-Semitic boycott. He clearly enjoyed our visit, which lasted longer than expected.

Our second meeting was scheduled with Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican from Montana. Although we were unable to meet with him personally, we did meet with his top aide to discuss our issues. (This is common on Capitol Hill since Members of Congress are extremely busy, with constant changes to their schedule.) Like many Republicans, we found out from his aide that the Congressman agreed with us on all of our issues.

Our last meeting of the day was with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho. After walking “across town” to the other side of the Capital, we met with the Senator and his Chief of Staff and top aide for 15 minutes in his significantly larger office, focusing almost exclusively on the Iran issue.

Senator Crapo was behind us 100 percent. In fact, he didn’t quite understand what President Obama was doing, as many of his colleagues were baffled with his Iran strategy. Senator Crapo was thrilled to have young adults joining us for the trip and was excited to hear that so many of us took the day off from work or school to speak with him and his colleagues. The short, warm meeting ended with an invitation for the Senator to come to New Jersey for a NORPAC event.

After taking a cab back to the convention center, boxed dinners were waiting for us on the buses as we headed back to Teaneck after an eye-opening day of walking through the halls and offices of the most powerful men and women in the world. It was a great experience of how our political system works and one that I am sure my son and I will never forget. I highly recommend that everyone make this trip at least once.

P.S. The day after the mission, it seems that our efforts were successful since both the Iran oversight and the Hezbollah sanctions bills passed overwhelmingly. Way to go NORPAC!

Uri (aka Allen) Jacobs is a proud father of four and a Teaneck resident. He works in healthcare marketing.

By Uri Jacobs

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