The sight of over 18,000 people coming together for a common cause is one that brings a feeling of unity like no other. The 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference had its biggest turnout yet, and I am proud to say that I had the honor of being part of it.
When we were all gathered at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, several speakers introduced different organizations and people who have contributed to the strengthening of the United States’ relationship with Israel. From Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Ankie Spitzer, the wife of Andre Spitzer, one of the 11 coaches and athletes taken hostage and killed in the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, people from different backgrounds gathered to share their stories, their connections to Israel, and to the democratic values that it upholds.
One particular story that touched me was given by Avshalom Weinstein and his family. Weinstein and his father, Amnon, repair in their Tel Aviv-based workshop violins that survived the Holocaust, then gift the repaired violins to professional violinists. Weinstein and his father believe that every violin has a story and is a symbol of hope in times of great sadness.
“The violin has a neshama, a soul,” Weinstein said.
As their original owners played these violins, they saw their families make their way to the gas chambers, and through the music of the violin, they mourned.
“They couldn’t pray,” Amnon said. “The violin prayed for them.”
Soon after, the screen faded out to a video of Hagai Shaham, an Israeli virtuoso, playing one of these rescued violins. He played with such love and emotion, that it left the crowd silent. The screen then went black and the lights on the stage began to flicker to reveal Shaham standing there, continuing his performance from the film that was just playing above us. As Shaham played “Hatikvah,” everyone in the audience stood up and joined him in singing the national anthem of the State of Israel. It was at this moment that I truly felt a connection to everyone sitting beside me in the arena.
AIPAC taught me that whether we are Jews or Christians, Democrats or Republicans, young or old, we all have the ability to unite and stand strong as one nation when it comes to fighting for the promise and future of a Jewish state.