The halls of the U.S. Capitol building were packed on Tuesday, March 3, when a delegation from the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, came calling.
Organized by JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council, the 44-member group included high school, college and graduate students, lay leaders, and professionals who had come to Washington D.C. to hear from White House officials, to meet with Illinois senators and congressman, and to learn first-hand about advocacy.
Participants on the one-day Fly-In included a dozen university and college students involved in JCRC’s IsraLimmud Education and Advocacy Fellowship, as well as six high school senior fellows of the Write On for Israel program of JUF News and the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago. Joining the Fly In for the first time were three students from Wheaton College, thanks to a new JCRC initiative, Reach Across Illinois Campuses for Israel Advocacy. (Read Fly-In reactions by IsraLimmud participants Abby Damsky, Ari Kirshner, Zach Fertig, Barbara Maldonado, and Matthew Talbert; by Write On for Israel students Deborah Goldberg, Melissa Kravitz, Joel Pachefsky, John Peskind and Eric Silberman; and by Wheaton College students Ari Hyde, Paul Nelson and Elizabeth Ploshay.)
On the agenda for discussion with members of the Illinois congressional delegation were actions to thwart Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, support for Israel’s security and calls for Palestinian accountability, the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the problem of global anti-Semitism.
Briefings at the Executive Office Building by Obama administration officials covered a range of issues, including energy policy, economic recovery measures, and Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. Fly-In participants also heard from Daniel Meron, minister of Congressional Affairs at the Israeli Embassy.
Breaking into six sub-groups, members of the JCRC delegation hustled to meetings along with throngs of citizens representing every state and political stripe who also had come to the Hill. The groups convened together for in-depth discussions with Sen. Richard Durbin and nearly a dozen other members of the Illinois congressional delegation, who provided thoughtful and personal perspectives on national and international policy.
For some students, the visit to Washington was their first to the nation’s capitol; for nearly all of them it was their first experience exercising their civic right and duty—to appeal to elected representatives for action on pending legislation and to deliver messages of appreciation for past legislative support.
“It’s an incredible experience to make our voices heard,” said Josh Brown, a freshman at George Washington University and an intern in the Federation’s Washington D.C. office. “By doing this we can make a difference.”
Visit this page and subscribe to JUF News Express for links to articles by student participants in the Fly-In. Some of their comments also will appear in the April print edition of JUF News (subscribe here).