While the rest of Jewschool was checking out the JStreet launches around the country this past week, dlevy noticed that I’d gone on a different route.  For the second year in a row, I attended the AIPAC Benefit Dinner at the Marriott Grand Marquis in NYC.  My friend’s family are patrons; for the last two years, they have invited me to attend, partially because of my interest in Israel education, and partially because of my ability to overeat at the shmorg like nobody’s business.  Regardless of my feel for AIPAC’s politics, I am grateful to my friend’s family for the opportunity to attend and learn with them.
I approach AIPAC with a healthy dose of skepticism, because, in addition to how I hold a pen, and how I waterski, I tend to be quite the lefty.  I ran into another friend at the benefit, and her buddy, a member of the young AIPAC group, explained to me what it is AIPAC does in simple terms.  Financial support, he said.  Lobbying.  I explained that I have done research in Israel education, and that I lived in Israel for a year, and he responded with more depth.  I asked him if AIPAC supported a one-state or two-state solution, and he replied that it’s more complicated than that.  I ruminated over a lot of sushi.
They ushered us into the dinner (some thousand Jews all shuffling from one floor of a hotel to another, I wondered aloud if anybody else felt the horrific irony of the situation) and served us more food, even though, at least in my case, the shmorg had been more than enough.
They talked about their upcoming Policy Conference, saying, “Policy Conference is our Bonnaroo,” to which half of the room laughed, and the other half asked, “What’s a Bonnaroo?”  Many of my friends over the years have enjoyed attending Policy Conference because they got to meet politicians, but it was never my cup of tea.  I am not attending this year.
The speakers were interesting.  Chuck Schumer pointed out that his last name means “protector” and he was going to protect Israel.  Another politician also spoke (I missed her name while I was attempting to attack the 1/4 chicken I had no business trying to eat), and misquoted Isaiah 42:6, saying that “Israel is a light until the nations” (emphasis mine, proper translations include “for” “in” “on” and “unto”). I think she was nervous, but still.
After these speeches, the keynote came from Daniel Gordis.  He tugged at the heartstrings, talking about what it’s like for an Israeli parent when they know their child is going to be out partying all night in Israel.  I liked when he said that “Israel is the one country with people from the same religion living as a nation, in the same location, and observing their religion the way they were doing 3,000 years ago.”  That’s not entirely true, since we don’t have the Temple any more.  Actually, what ran through my head was:  “Now, with less ritual sacrifice, at least in the traditional sense!”  I should work in advertising, no?
Gordis closed his speech by saying, “You want to go to an AIPAC event and hear ‘everything is ok’.”  There was a quiet rumble of agreements throughout the crowd.  He continued, “It will happen.  One day.”  “Everything is ok” is awfully subjective, and if you to reach into my brain, “OK” would mean something very different from the “OK” in, say, the brains of my family and friends that choose to live in the West Bank.  Whatever your “OK” is, I hope something gets better.  Because Israel is a crazy place.  And so is Palestine.