Live from AIPAC conference: Blogging from STL co-chairs

Fifteen members of the 33-person St. Louis delegation to the 2011 AIPAC Policy Conference meet with Rep. Todd Akin in his office after the recent Policy Conference in Washington.

BY RICK CORNFELD

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has always considered its annual Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., to be three of the most important days affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship. This year, they are even more important.

The conference, which starts tomorrow, occurs at a pivotal moment for the Jewish state, with Iran moving ever closer to nuclear capability, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan perhaps in jeopardy, and turmoil throughout the region. Some people have been saying that this is a “moment in history” like few others for a country that has had more than its share of such moments.

This week some 13,000 Israel supporters will be converging on the Washington Convention Center, making it the largest Jewish gathering in U.S. history and perhaps the biggest gathering to support a Jewish homeland since Moses addressed the Israelites in the wilderness.

There will be 38 delegates from St. Louis, the largest AIPAC delegation of St. Louisans ever, including four rabbis — Josef Davidson, Hyim Shafner, Moshe Shulman and Ze-ev Smason — and two Israel-supporting ministers — Revs. E.G. Shields, Sr., and E.G. Shields, Jr.

United Hebrew Artist-in-Residence Rick Recht is not only a member of our group, but will be performing Sunday (you can catch him at about 6:00 St. Louis time on www.aipac.org).

We will be addressed by President Obama and three of his Republican challengers — Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum — as well as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, many members of Congress, Israeli officials, and more Middle East scholars, journalists and other experts than you can imagine.

On Tuesday afternoon, most of us will head for Capitol Hill for lobbying sessions in the offices of our Senators and Representatives. There will be more than 400 such sessions across Capitol Hill, all led by citizen lobbyists like us.

My wife Marcy and I will be sending our reports as we can — though we understand that the Secret Service will prohibit laptops on days that the U.S. and Israeli heads of government will appear, so some reports may have to wait till the end of the day.

This will be the seventh Policy Conference for Marcy and me, and we have never felt a greater need to be here.

One of the nice aspects of the Policy Conference is meeting Israel supporters from other parts of the country and even playing a little Jewish geography. Today while waiting in line to register we met Don and Barbara Hoffman from Deerfield, Illinois, who have family at Bnai Amoona.

Then we started talking to a nice couple from New York. Not surprisingly, New Yorkers are all over the place, but these people complained that, considering how many Jews live there, so few come to AIPAC.

We wish we had more than 38 here from St. Louis, but I guess it is all relative.

Rick and Marcy Cornfeld are Co-Chairs of the St. Louis AIPAC Council and are blogging from AIPAC’s Policy Conference 2012 in Washington, D.C.

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