Three Culver Academies students recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a bipartisan organization dedicated to the mission of strengthening, protecting, and promoting the U.S.-Israeli relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States.
Featured speakers included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. The students were able to experience different aspects of Israeli culture and innovation, attend workshops with sitting members of Congress, and learn about political and societal issues surrounding the Middle Eastern and global communities.
Samuel Kratzer ’15 (North Bennington, Vt.) described AIPAC as “beyond inspirational; it’s almost too much to take in all at once. The conference was geared to invoke some very strong and deep emotions from those who attended. I think we all felt it.”
The trip, organized by the Department of Spiritual Life, was sponsored through a gift of Randall Rose ’64 in honor of the 50th reunion of his class.
Culver students are thoughtful, ambitious young adults whom, when inspired by good examples and given opportunities to lead, can make a positive difference in their community and the greater world community as well
“Culver students are thoughtful, ambitious young adults whom, when inspired by good examples and given opportunities to lead, can make a positive difference in their community and the greater world community as well,” Rose said. Sending a delegation to AIPAC, “… gives Culver students access to outstanding American and Israeli leaders at the highest levels who are addressing issues of historical importance. It is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the complex world of international politics and to learn how great leaders understand and respond to security threats that affect us all.”
Rose believes the conference addresses issues that are both timely and significant for current and future leaders.
“At the core, Israel and the United States share common values and confront similar dangers,” he said. “I hope that the students who attended AIPAC 2015 gained a richer and deeper understanding of the strategic, political and military issues faced by Israel and her allies.”
Kratzer believes that Rose’s hopes were well-founded. “I can’t even begin to describe the scope of information that I absorbed. I learned about all things Israel: from hummus to the IDF, Iranian nuclear disarmament to Israeli-Far Eastern relations.” He adds that he enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to attend the conference next year when he is attending college.
Culver Academies Department of Spiritual Life saw the conference as an opportunity for students to learn about their Jewish heritage and spirituality as well.
“Attending the Policy Conference was an irreplaceable experience for our students,” Shannon Schmidt, the trip organizer and Associate Youth Minister in the Department of Spiritual Life, said. “(The conference) …connects directly to Culver’s mission to educate leaders and responsible citizens and our department’s mission to help students define their values. Not only were they able to connect with their Jewish heritage, but they also gained a larger perspective on international affairs. They will be better citizens for knowing more about the ways in which the American-Israeli relationship impacts each nation.”
The students also believed they were able to experience Jewish life in a new way at the conference.
“What was most meaningful,” Kratzer said, “was being around so many like-minded people. The speakers were fantastic, but what was most interesting was getting to know other conference goers. I think it was also great for all of us to just be around so many Jews. At Culver, we aren’t too heavily represented. It was such a fantastic experience. It actually opened my eyes. Before the trip, I would never have guessed the affect it would have on me.”