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BBYO Represents Largest Teen Delegation at AIPAC Policy Conference

June 11, 2009

Nearly 50 teens representing BBYO traveled from across the country to the nation’s capital on May 3-5 to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, which brings together more than 6,500 activists annually to hear from top Israeli and American policy leaders. The conference is the pro-Israel community’s pre-eminent event, and BBYO teens played an active role this year as the largest high school delegation out of the nearly 200 high school students in attendance.

“The people here supporting Israel are amazing because they don’t fall into the categories you expect,” said Daniel Cooper of Potomac, MD. “Pro-Israel activists are Jewish and Christian, black and white, young and old. There is diversity here, but what brings us together is our support of the Jewish State.”

With three jam-packed days of programming featuring more than 100 breakout sessions led 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. Conference participants heard about the Iranian threat from dozens of speakers, including keynote addresses by Vice President Joe Biden; President of Israel, Shimon Peres; and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. With a conference theme of “Relationships Matter,” it became clear that each and every person can affect this critical existential threat to Israel. Additional highlights of the 2009 AIPAC Policy Conference include:

• A Gala Banquet attended by more than half of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Gala is annually the largest gathering of Congress outside a joint session. • Optional electives with more than 70 leading Israeli political scholars for participants to customize their experience such as “The Toughest Questions About the Arab-Israeli Conflict and How to Answer Them,” “Inside the U.S. Government: How Foreign Policy is Formulated,” and “Sanctions Squeeze: Can Economic Pressure Cripple Iran’s Nuclear Program?” • Sessions such as “Lobbying for Beginners” in preparation for the conference culmination—more than 500 lobbying appointments for the AIPAC delegates to meet personally with their elected officials to discuss the US-Israel relationship.

Additionally, the BBYO teen delegation was invited to attend the 2009 Campus Activist Awards Luncheon attended by the more than 1,200 university attendees, 193 of which are student body presidents from universities of all backgrounds. BBYO DC Council Program Director, Ian Kandel, was presented with the “Campus Ally of the Year” award, recognizing his hard work at creating a pro-Israel activist community within BBYO.

On the evening of May 5, many of BBYO’s teen delegates remained in Washington, DC to be a part of “BBYO Israel Advocacy in Action: The Voice of Youth in the Political Process," an event which brought BBYO’s Board of Directors together with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) and Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) to discuss the importance of youth involvement in the political process. The teen delegates shared reflections on the conference and discussed how they can take what they learned back to their home communities.

To view the BBYO Teen Delegation Live Blog from the conference, click here.

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