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Washington Heights to Washington, MTAPAC Lobbies the Hill

On Thursday, April 3rd, I had the chance to be a part of the third annual MTA lobbying mission to Washington, D.C., on a trip we’ve dubbed “MTAPAC.” Fort-five students from all grades and seven staff members made the trip to lobby for Israel. We had a great time and conducted a very successful mission, ultimately meeting with seven different Congressional offices.

In advance of our appointments on Capitol Hill, we had a preparatory meeting the day before with Jasmine Patihi, the Director of High School Programming for StandWithUs, an organization that promotes Israel and teaches about all the good Israel does throughout the world. We learned how to bring Israel and Israel advocacy into our lives both during and after our trip to the capital. Ms. Patihi taught us about different things that, as students, we can do to incorporate Israel into our daily routine. We already have a lot of Israel activities in school, both through our Hatzioni club and magazine, as well as Israeli speakers and professors who teach at Yeshiva University. But Ms. Pahiti taught us how to turn our passion into action through hobbies and social media.

Our first stop in Washington was Kesher Israel, a local synagogue, where we had lunch and enjoyed a special presentation from Katharine Nasielski, the Director of National Initiatives for the Israeli Embassy. Ms. Nasielski told us about the two main areas where the Israeli government seeks American help: Iranian sanctions and the Palestinian peace process. She stressed that America must make sure to do everything in its power to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Also, Ms. Nasielski told us about the importance of advocating for Israel both as Jews and as Americans, and reminded us to be sure to thank the congressmen and congresswomen who already support Israel.

After arriving on Capitol Hill, we split into groups of six or seven students and a chaperone, with each group assigned to meet with a different member of Congress. Every participant had the opportunity to meet with someone from the office of a Senator or Representative of their state, and to speak about Israel and other relevant topics. Although these representatives all already support Israel, there was still much to discuss. We thanked them for all the work they do for us, specifically concerning Israel, and reminded them that the people they represent care deeply about both Israel and the United States.

As this was my first time lobbying, I was very nervous, but it ended up being very enjoyable. My group met with Christopher Barr, an aide to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). We discussed a recent bill authored by Senator Menendez, which increases sanctions on Iran until a more binding policy can be peacefully created. We all had the opportunity to ask questions and give our own opinions on recent events in the Middle East.

All in all, the students felt that the mission was a great success. We celebrated our diplomatic achievements with a delicious Chinese dinner in nearby Rockland, Maryland, before heading back to our hometowns. Ultimately, every student enjoyed visiting Washington and the incredible opportunity to express our ideas and gratitude to those who work in government.

By Ari Hagler (YUHSB ’16)

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