Discovering The Chutzpah To Stand For What Is Right
Through a fund established in the Birmingham Jewish Foundation by Willine and J. George Mitnick, both of blessed memory, the Birmingham Jewish Federation sends a delegation of young Jewish professionals to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual Policy Conference in Washington, DC each year.
The Mitnick Fellows join over 18,0000 other pro-Israel activists in a three-day conference packed with educational opportunities and policy addresses from political leaders.
To become a Mitnick Fellow, those interested must fill out an application. A committee then reviews the applications and approves those applicants they feel will best represent the Birmingham Jewish community.
The Birmingham Jewish Foundation and Federation sent two young Jewish community members from Birmingham to this year’s conference, which took place last week. After returning home from the conference, the Mitnick Fellows had thoughts to share, which are outlined below.
“Attending AIPAC was truly life changing. Prior to the conference, all I knew is that I am a practicing Jew who is pro-Israel. I did not really know the ‘in between.’ AIPAC taught me the history of the peace process, updated me on current events in the Middle East, and helped me understand the importance of US-Israel relations. We heard from a number of amazing speakers from different backgrounds and perspectives who all had the same message.
“There were Republicans and Democrats sitting on stage together who stated that they do not have the same views on most issues but on this issue they agree that it is imperative that the US maintain strong ties with Israel. Nikki Haley was one speaker who resonated with me. She is such a powerful woman who sticks to her guns and never backs down even when faced with increased pressure and resistance. She is someone who had no background in foreign affairs when President-elect Donald Trump asked her to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations.
“Nikki Haley showed all of us at AIPAC that we should never give up on our fight for peace and we should always stand up for what we feel is right. And I feel that Israel is what is right. The world needs Israel, not just for its advances in technology and its innovations in missile defense. The world needs Israel because Israel believes in human rights. Israel believes in freedom and democracy which the rest of the Middle East opposes. It is not enough to just say you are pro-Israel. You have to have the chutzpa (courage) to shout it.
“Since coming home, I have had multiple discussions with people about the importance of US-Israel relations. And I will continue to do so until everyone understands why we need to stand up for Israel. I want to thank the BJF and Foundation for selecting me as a Mitnick Fellow and providing me this amazing opportunity.” — Danielle Rosenbaum
“I was honored to be selected as one of this year’s Mitnick Fellows. My experience at AIPAC was truly transformational. I learned that there are so many different voices needed in our advocacy for Israel, and for peace in the Middle East. I found the break out session ‘Israel and Identity’ of particular interest. The panel consisted of three Israeli citizens from a variety of backgrounds, discussing the concept of a common national identity. Does such a thing exist? If so, what does it mean? This session provided great insight into the lives of average Israeli citizens, while also giving human context to the complexities of the peace process. I found it fascinating.
“I also enjoyed several of the sessions I attended on the process of archiving Israel’s national narrative. I heard from Mr. Aryeh Halivini whose non-profit Toldot Yisrael is working to record personal stories of the founding of Israel, and Mr. David Ferriero and Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, the national archivists of the U.S. and Israel, respectively.
“The opportunity to meet with our elected officials capped off an excellent experience. In particular, our meeting with Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama’s 7th District. Rep. Sewell took the time to listen to our personal stories and inquire about each of our individual AIPAC experiences. The conference as a whole was an opportunity that I’ll never forget.” — Sarah-Kate Roberts