“Every time I come to AIPAC, I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here,” were the words of President Obama in his address to the over 13,000 attendees at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference 2012.” He was greatly impressed by the students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our Democratic debate. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel also acknowledged the students’ support and presence at AIPAC, saying, “You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to make your own mark on the world. You are the future and thank you for assuring the future of Israel.”
One student, Shachar Avraham, NJ Regional President of NCSY, the Orthodox Union Jewish youth movement, and a senior at Frisch High School stated that this is his second conference and it has been “amazing.” He was at AIPAC with 30 other representatives coming from the OU. Regarding representation of the Orthodox Jewish community Avraham said, “It’s very interesting to see a lot of different Jews here but it’s also important the Orthodox community represents itself here at AIPAC from a religious and secular standpoint. The most important part for me is lobbying Congress because that is where we make the difference. We need to tell Congress that the Israel-American relationship is important to us all and America should continue its support for Israel.” He added that many had never experienced the hecklers and protesters outside of the AIPAC conference, and that “now that anti-Israel activism is hyping up on college campuses it’s crucial that high school students and college students come to AIPAC to learn how to advocate for Israel on a college campus.”
Jonathan Deluty, a senior at Ramaz High School, when asked what the most inspiring part of being at the Policy Conference was for him, had this to say: “I think seeing the cohesion of Israel’s supporters, regardless of any of their other political views, which by the way are as diverse as possible, shows the justness of the cause and that’s really inspiring.”
Jordan Anhalt, a senior at the Frisch School, said that “Being in the room with 13,000 people, the President and so many influential people gives such a feeling of energy and that has had the most positive impact on me. It’s so refreshing to know that we are being protected.”
This was Anhalt’s first time at AIPAC, and he expressed a strong interest in getting more involved once he’s in college.
Another student, Judah Joseph, International President of NCSY thought it was “remarkable to see an increase of close to 50% from last year to this year of attendees.”
High school students had the opportunity to attend a High School College Fair as one of the many breakout sessions where they interacted with AIPAC trained students from colleges and universities and were able to ask about the individual schools. Students also attended lobbying informational sessions to enhance their knowledge in three areas, namely, making the case for preventing Iran from developing nuclear capabilities, for enhancing U.S.-Israel security cooperation, and to support security assistance to Israel.
AIPAC student attendance included 1,600 student delegates from 500 campuses in all 50 states including: 217 elected student government presidents from schools in 50 states, 15 national and state leaders of the College Democrats of America and the College Republican National Committee, college students from 23 historically black colleges and universities, 37 Christian-centered and Hispanic serving campuses, high school students from 150 public and private schools including leaders of BBYO, USY, NFTY and NCSY, and Hillel campus professionals from 29 colleges and universities, including 17 Hillel Directors.
While AIPAC does not have chapters or affiliated groups on college campuses or in high schools, for more than 30 years the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has helped students find their voices in support of a strong United States-Israel relationship. AIPAC student supporters also have numerous opportunities to participate in a variety of training events throughout the year.