The Senior Fellows of JUF's Write On for Israel program traveled to Washington, DC, this week for an intensive two-day experience focused on issues of importance to Chicago's pro-Israel community.
Fellows attended a special Constituent Coffee with Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as nearly all members of the Illinois Congressional delegation or members or their staff to advocate for the importance of U.S military aid to Israel, combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and more. Some of the most enlightening discussions took place around the issue of gun violence, and the Fellows' questions about how lawmakers plan to make schools safe.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10) commended the group for their passionate command of complex issues. "You're speaking out on issues that most members of Congress didn't know about before they got here," he said. "Your voice matters."
The Fellows heard a lot about the impact they can have by sharing their views, and by engaging in the political process. Among other messages, they learned how true it is that support for Israel truly is bipartisan.
Reflecting on the two-day Washington experience, Write On Fellow Jacob Lefkovitz, a senior at Deerfield High School, shared an exchange he had with a young Congressional staff member: The man, who hailed from a small rural farming town in northern Illinois, "was able to look me in the eye and, with a firm conviction, tell me how important Israel is to him and his Congressman. What a world we live in!"
Shira Hirsch, a senior at Evanston Township High School, said, "I am inspired to continue this journey of Israel advocacy, both supporting Israel's extensive and positive contributions to the world, and challenging aspects of Israel that could and should be reformed."
Ben Marcus, a senior at Oak Park-River Forest High School, summed up the trip this way: "I am excited to continue my advocacy, whether it's on Israel, Judaism, or other topics. The skills I learned in the District of Columbia are skills I will take with me throughout my life and I can't wait to utilize them."