AIPAC conference offers Netanyahu, access to new congressmen

By Arlene Appelrouth

aappelrouth@atljewishtimes.com

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., March 1 to 3 is drawing 340 metro Atlanta residents north for the end of winter.

The AIPAC conference gathers more than 14,000 pro-Israel Americans to hear from speakers such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to convey their support for Israel to their congressional representatives.

Atlantans said they are looking forward to showing their support for Israel, learning more about critical issues facing the country and lobbying members of Congress.

Because of Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ retirement and its ripple effects, the Georgia congressional delegation has five members who weren’t on Capitol Hill for the last year’s AIPAC conference. All are Republicans: Sen. David Perdue and Reps. Barry Loudermilk, Earl “Buddy” Carter, Jody Hice and Rick Allen.

“AIPAC does a super job in keeping tabs on what elected members of our government are doing and explaining things to us,” said Dan Berger, an active volunteer and member of Congregation Beth Shalom. “After attending one of these conventions that is so well done, you feel patriotic. You are going to lobby your congressman on Capitol Hill. What is more essential than that? I am not a big fan of the type of activism that puts people on the streets. We have a system in place that works. This is an essential part of American democracy.”

Berger is attending the AIPAC conference for the second time.

Beth Shalom Rabbi Mark Zimmerman said that going to AIPAC is like “being in the Jewish Super Bowl.”

“The sessions are outstanding. Being with such a large gathering of people who care as deeply as you do is an overwhelming experience. Our voice is more important than ever,” said Rabbi Zimmerman, who is proud that 22 members of his Dunwoody congregation will be among the AIPAC participants.

Dr. Jerry Blumenthal, a member of Congregation Or Hadash, said he and wife Elaine are attending the conference for the fourth time.

“The future of Israel is tied to the world political machine,” he said. “Attending AIPAC is a way to become better informed and also put our 2 cents in. Another thing that is important is learning about the interconnect of business interests with politics.”

In addition to receiving updates about the politics of Israel, Toco Hills resident Betty Minsk said she looks forward to the convention’s showcase of new technology from Israel because learning about “new innovative products fills you with pride.”

“Last year I got a full dose of pride by attending,” Minsk said. “It’s wonderful to see all of Israel’s accomplishments.”

Next year’s policy conference will occur amid presidential primary season, but the impressive list of confirmed speakers this year (www.policyconference.org/article/confirmedSpeakers.asp) does not include any of the likely candidates who have emerged so far.

If you’re not among the 340 going to Washington, you can watch a live stream of the conference at www.policyconference.org.