By Karen Sallerson, Executive Director, Friends of Yemin Orde
Recently, I had the privilege of attending my 7th AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. It was great running into so many people from my past and present work from around the country who are active in the pro-Israel community.
At the breakout session on “Minorities in Israel: Israel’s Arab Israeli Community”, I heard someone say,
‘I’m from Minneapolis’, and I quickly turned around to see Ricky Kelber (photo at right) from my Israel Bond days and who happens to be a family friend.
It was interesting to learn during the session that Arabs prefer not to have their identity hyphenated as Arab-Israeli and that 70% are optimistic about being in Israel.
Friends of Yemin Orde’s current board chairman, George Blank, is on AIPAC’s National Council and I discovered that he is a star lobbyist. He always makes an effort to bring his children and grandchildren to Policy Conference each year along with his wonderful wife, Harriet, who is also on our board. I ran into Board members Morey Goldberg and Jon Cordish. I spoke briefly to Florida residents Phyllis and Al Newman who are planning to visit the village this year, and I had my annual dinner with Hartford friends and monthly donors Sharon and Bob Efron. I also spotted Boston supporters Lisa Golden and Neil and Lisa Wallack and shared a quick hello.
I learned that the West Coast does a wonderful job of bringing people to the conference. I loved seeing Steve Demby and our immediate past board chairman, Charlie Gwirtsman, both from Denver, as well as reuniting with brothers Phil and Dan Miller (from Las Vegas). I had the pleasure of travelling to Israel with the Miller brothers in December, 2016.
From San Diego, I hung out with friends Jeff and Hillary Liber. I also saw Jane Fantel (photo left), who gave Village Way Educational Initiatives the encouragement to establish a women’s gap-year leadership program (Mechina in Hebrew). From Orange County, I had the pleasure of meeting Rick Matros, who visited Yemin Orde before the December 2010 fire.
I experienced the bi-partisan adoration of our vibrant new representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley. She was like a rock star with all of the standing ovations. Amb. Haley tells a great story about her Native American background and learning from her parents that if you work hard you can succeed.
It was exciting to be one of 18,000 in general sessions that were diverse in so many ways: geographically, age (4,000 students), faith and race. I’m so proud to represent Yemin Orde Youth Village and Village Way Educational Initiatives at these conferences because our organization appeals to all ends of the political spectrum.
At the 2014 Policy Conference, a video about Yemin Orde was featured and introduced by our friend U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, who represents the Baltimore area in the United States Congress. See video below.
The enormous presence of Washington, D.C. police around the convention center and Verizon Center wasn’t surprising but it was impressive and we all felt safe and secure.