At the AIPAC policy conference which took place last week in Washington, D.C., the student delegation from the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, New Jersey was honored to receive the prestigious AIPAC
National Early Engagement Exemplars Award. The award recognizes the high school leaders who have done the most to advance AIPAC’s mission over the past year. RKYHS is one of only two high schools in the entire country to receive this impressive award. Year after year RKYHS is the largest student delegation at the conference and this year was no exception, sending close to 40 students to the conference.
In their remarks when bestowing the award to the student recipients, AIPAC representatives noted, “Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School has done an outstanding job over the past year helping AIPAC Early Engagement by engaging in pro-Israel political activism. They have embraced AIPAC NGauge, which is AIPAC’s social media platform for student activists, have regular lobbying meetings with their members of Congress and continue to excel with AIPAC Campus Initiatives.”
The award was presented to the students in front of the New Jersey delegation and the group was able to see itself lauded on the “jumbotron” in front of the over 18,000 participants at the Policy Conference.
“The Policy Conference was informative and inspiring—to see over 18,000 people coming together to show support for Israel gave me a feeling of unity and awe,” commented Jacob Nelson, co-president of the RKYHS AIPAC group. I was amazed to find that there were so many Jews and non-Jews who could come together and fight for one cause. Going to the conference with the largest high school delegation gave me a sense of pride. It showed me that it didn’t matter that we were high school kids. It is possible to make a difference no matter who you are.”
“We are so proud of the RKYHS students and their inspiring mentor Rabbi Richard Kirsch for receiving this well-deserved recognition,” remarked Mr. Jacob Klein, Co-Chair of the AIPAC NJ Council who also serves on the AIPAC National Council in D.C., and is a member of the JKHA/RKYHS Board of Trustees. “Being among the 18,700 delegates at Policy Conference and seeing first-hand the high school and college students affirming their commitment to actively work on behalf of a strong American / Israeli alliance was heartwarming and incredibly reassuring. The future of this incredible partnership is secure because our young people are already hard at work lobbying our congressional leaders to understand why a secure Israel brings security to the United States—the two shining beacons of democracy,” added Mrs. Alice Klein, also a member of NJ Council and member of JKHA/RKYHS Board of Trustees.
For years, RKYHS has been one of the strongest and most reliable Early Engagement partners. Guided by dedicated faculty adviser Rabbi Richard Kirsch, who was recognized by AIPAC as Faculty Advisor of the Year in 2015, the students at RKYHS continue to exceed expectations and lead the way when it comes to high school activism. Over the summer, RKYHS was one of the few high schools in the country that AIPAC turned to, to lobby Congress against the Iran nuclear deal. When most, if not all, high school students were on their summer break, it was RKYHS students who came out in full force to lobby Congress, including Senator Corey Booker’s office. Senator Booker’s senior staff members remarked that RKYHS was the most informed group out of the hundreds of groups that they met with over the course of the summer.
Before the Policy Conference, RKYHS AIPAC co-presidents David Goldstein, Jacob Nelson and Sara-Shifra Stone trained the fifty AIPAC club students through slideshows about how to fight anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks on campus. The trio of presidents guided by Rabbi Kirsch presented history lessons about Israel so the students will be prepared and informed to back up their answers in the future. “A week before the Policy Conference, we created a mock conference, where the students would go around the room and hear different speakers speak about issues Israel faces today through our mock break-out sessions,” added co-president David Goldstein.
“We are very proud of our students and their leader, Rabbi Kirsch. Their generation will be called upon to defend, protect and support the State of Israel. The education they receive in RKYHS will inform their activism in the years to come,” commented Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, Klatt Family Rosh HaYeshiva and Head of School.