Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Connected for Good
Connected for Good was the theme of the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., which took place this past week. Thirty-six delegates who joined us from Congregation Beth Israel and Kehillah High were among the 18,000 Jews and Christians who attended the policy conference, including 3,600-plus college students from around the country. Our Israel Advocacy Committee leaders, Rob Shoss and Martha Barvin attended, as did Irving Stern, Temple president, and his wife, Nancy. David Scott, Executive Director and Director of Lifelong Learning, accompanied the teens with Danielle Alexander, Director of Kehillah High, and I was pleased to be in the crowd to lead and learn, too.
AIPAC convened among controversy. If you read the headlines or the full stories, then you’d know that our politically polarized world has infected world Jewry, too. Far left-leaning Democrats have been accused of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Far right-leaning Republicans have been praised for their unconditional support of Israel. The truth lies in the middle, as it often does, and not on the extremes. During the conference and by the time we finished, it was clear that AIPAC will continue to persist in its mission to be a bipartisan advocate for the strongest and most reliable America-Israel relationship, and that Democrats and Republicans, alike, join that mission.
Liberal and conservative speakers, alike, were unwavering in their commitment to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms. Unlike recent tepid responses to obvious and insidious anti-Semitic statements by political leaders, AIPAC speakers named the issue if not the congressional leader, and promised to respect diversity and humanity without tearing open age-old stereotypes against Jews to do it. A delegate whom I met during the conference said to me, “At AIPAC, we’re not Democrats or Republicans, we’re all Americans.” Her comment is the beginning of civil discourse and a recipe for closing the gap that polarization has created between us.
Israel has been called America’s best friend and ally in the Middle East. It’s in America’s best interest to have a strong Israel, the only democratic state in the region. And, America is Israel’s best ally, because America understands the threat Israel faces on every border, and is prepared to support Israel in defense of her sovereign right to secure its borders and safeguard its people. AIPAC is uniquely prepared to educate congressional leaders on these matters, to lobby for the America-Israel relationship, and to do so without apology for the strength that the Jewish people and the Jewish state need and can’t survive without.
To anyone who questions Israel’s record on security, sovereignty, and human rights, there is always something to learn and improve upon, but there is never a time in our generation or future generations when Jews, of all people, should question Israel’s existence or its right to secure its existence against the usual threats including an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism. We don’t need self-hating Jews. There’s no time for such cynicism or irony. We need educated, mission-driven, and Israel-loving Jews who create a future wherein Jews in America and Israel can live freely and without fear. Those days were supposed to be behind us; so, it’s fallen on us to prepare the way for our best Jewish future.
Connected for Good. America and Israel stand together for our sake and the vision we have for a better future, together.
To watch videos from AIPAC Policy Conference 2019, go to watch.aipac.org.
Front Row: (L-R) Erica Altman, Arielle Ollagnon, Lyn Schmulen, Dana Massett, Michelle Olifant
Second Row: (L-R) David Scott, Belinda Reingold, Alex Cortez, Julia Turkel, Martha Barvin, Sherrie Eisenman, Nancy Stern, Irving Stern
Back Row: (L-R) Bernie Reingold, Sebastian Altman, Josh Barvin, Ryan Eisenman, Alan Eisenman, Carl Schmulen, Dan Lavin
Not Pictured: Michele Aron, Eric Barvin, Olivia Barvin, Grant Beiner, Ryan Bronston, Joshua Danziger, Alexis Diaz-Waterman, Rabbi David Lyon, Rachel Massett, Jonathan Paull, Alan Robin, Jean Robin, Rob Shoss, Robyn Shkolnick, Barrie Skalsky, and Inna Wizig
Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights, 2011) available on Amazon.com. He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM every Sunday at 6:45am CST. Listeners around the greater Houston area, and now the internet, tune in to hear his words about life and its meaning from a Jewish point-of-view. Each radio program is available as a Podcast, called “Heart to Heart with Rabbi David Lyon”. Click here to listen online, or download the iHeartRadio app.