On March 22, YUPAC, the Yeshiva University Political Action Club, led their annual Mission to Washington. A delegation of 160, including 130 Yeshiva University students and a few dozen high schoolers, traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby Members of Congress and their staff about issues pertaining to the U.S.-Israel relationship and security assistance. The students broke up into 15 groups and had intimate conversations on the topic before reconvening to hear from a few keynote speakers.
The students started their day by waking up early in the morning. After a four-hour bus ride, they were divided into groups for the first sessions, spreading out all over Capitol Hill to meet with their assigned politicians. At about midday, the students met on the Capitol Steps and described their mission of promoting Israel-related values to Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), whose inquisitive nature and interest in the topics were displayed. Cardin opened up by asking the students what they wanted him to do, and throughout the back-and-forth nature of the speech, students requested the senator continue to support the U.S.-Israel relationship, provide security assistance to Israel, and work to advocate against BDS and to combat antisemitism. The senator spoke of his continuous support for Israel throughout his tenure, and the importance of student activism.
After more meetings with different congressional offices, the students joined once more to hear from the former Assistant Secretary of State at the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics, Robert Charles. He gave a few charming anecdotes of his time in politics, focusing on the need for strong character and care of people in Washington, D.C. Meeting Charles was “a highlight of the trip,” said Yael Berger (SCW ’24). “I really felt like he cared about what we had to say.” Later, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke briefly to the students on the steps of the Capitol, explaining the importance of the Israeli-American relationship to both countries, the critical nature of the mission of combating antisemitism, and the significance of both topics having continued bipartisan support in Congress and across the U.S.
The students ended the day by hearing a panel at the AIPAC office, learning about the day-to-day lives of young people who work on broadening support for Israel in American politics professionally.
The ability to go to the nation’s capital and lobby for these causes was a reflective experience for many YU students. The President of YUPAC, Allie Orgen, spoke to the group between the talks from Charles and Cruz. She pointed out that many students had grandparents and great-grandparents who survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Our ability to go to the doorstep of the most powerful nation in the world to lobby for its continued relationship with the Jewish State should not be lost on us.
The high schoolers who joined for the lobbying trip told board members of YUPAC what they gained from the opportunity. “It was an incredible experience,” Ellie Weisberg (Frisch ’23) said. “Even though I’m only in high school, I felt heard, and I felt like I was making a difference. I felt inspired by the college students that participated in and led the program.” Shimon Ross (TABC ’23) spoke along similar lines. “Having the opportunity to be one of a handful of high schoolers who were invited to go on the mission was really special,” he said. “The mission helped to expose me to the intricate workings of the government and to the unique ability we have to make an impact on the priorities of congresspeople.”
Reflecting on the day, YUPAC Vice President Hillel Golubtchik (YC ’25) said: “Being able to lead a group of Jewish students to speak up and take action for a cause near and dear to our hearts was an incredible privilege. Whether it was learning the power of their voice, engaging a little bit in how the U.S.-Israel relationship is important on both ends, or just feeling a sense of gratitude for how far we’ve come as a people, I hope every student who made the decision and dedication to come to D.C. left changed in some way. At the end of the day, we were able to not just (hopefully) convince others to support Israel, but we also proved to ourselves that we are committed to supporting our Jewish homeland, even when we have to do it from afar.”
YUPAC Vice President Jacqueline Enganoff (SCW ’24) added: “As our group was waiting for an appointment in the Senate office building, a woman passed by using a device that I immediately recognized as a ReWalk. Seeing the Israeli invention, which gives individuals with lower body disabilities the ability to walk, being used in the halls of the U.S. Capitol was a moment I’ll never forget. It made me realize why we were sitting there, why we planned this trip, and why the U.S,-Israel partnership is something everyone should care deeply about.”
Sam Weinberg is a sophomore at Yeshiva University and a YUPAC Board Member. To learn more about the Yeshiva University Political Action Club, please visit our website at www.yupacupdates.org