BBYO Teens Join Forces With Political, Diplomatic and Foreign Affairs Experts to Lobby for a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship at Annual AIPAC Conference
April 17, 2006
A 25-person delegation of Jewish teens representing BBYO, the world's leading pluralistic teen movement, traveled from all over the United States to Washington, DC, March 5-7, to participate in the largest-ever annual Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The teens played an active role in the pro-Israel community's pre-eminent event, which drew a record-breaking 5,000+ participants from all 50 states and several foreign countries, including the world's leading experts in politics, diplomacy and foreign affairs; AIPAC activists; and over 1,000 students.
"Attending AIPAC was the experience of a lifetime for me," said Josh Balser, a high school senior and BBYO member from Marietta, GA. "Getting the opportunity to meet and learn from prominent policymakers in the world of Israeli affairs has inspired me to do everything I can to make my voice heard in support of our Jewish homeland."
With three jam-packed days of programming featuring more than 100 breakout sessions and addresses by top experts in fields related to U.S. policy toward the Middle East, many considered this year's AIPAC Conference to be the most important ever, as it coincided with Iran being on the brink of developing nuclear weapons, Hamas taking control of the Palestinian parliament and Israel experiencing historic changes in leadership.
Following are a few of the conference highlights for the teens:
- The teens attended plenary sessions featuring United Nations Ambassador John R. Bolton; United Nations Weapons Inspector, Dr. David Kay; Israeli candidates for Prime Minister: The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu, The Honorable Ehud Olmert and The Honorable Amir Peretz; various leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate; and AIPAC Senior Staff.
- They took part in lobby training workshops; held a strategy session for launching a nationwide petition drive called the "iCan Be Heard" Campaign to collect signatures urging government officials to take a stand against nuclear proliferation in Iran; learned about the effects of Hamas on the Palestinian Authority; and discussed what to expect as Jews on college campuses.
- BBYO co-sponsored a student reception, where hundreds of "iCan Be Heard" megaphones were distributed, showing youth that they have a voice and the power to make a real difference in the world.
- The conference culminated with the teens getting the opportunity to lobby congressional members on the subjects of Iran, Hamas and foreign aid to Israel.
"Strengthening U.S.-Israel relations tomorrow is dependent on developing strong Jewish leaders today" said Lynn Schusterman, chair of the BBYO, Inc. board of directors, whose financial support enabled the teens to attend the conference. "Educating today's Jewish teens about Israel, encouraging them to visit their homeland and inspiring them to take action to support Israel is critical in securing the Jewish future."
For more information on BBYO, visit www.bbyo.org.