Stephen Richer is President of Gather the Jews. To see two other pieces on AIPAC Policy Conference — on President Obama’s Speech — please click here.
Since moving to DC, I’m 4/4 on AIPAC Policy Conference. That adds up to 12 days, approximately 40,000 Israel supporters, 5,000 media members, 20,000 Ivy League degrees, and 50,000 Prada bags. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ve done my best to do it all:
- I’ve heard Obama speak;
- I’ve heard Netanyahu speak (twice);
- I’ve heard over 25 members of Congress speak;
- I’ve gone to breakout sessions on China led by Marvin Feuer (father of Danny, The Hero);
- I’ve scored a record-setting 12 points on my self-invented “Iran Game” (Game rules: go to a breakout session, stay until one speaker says Iran. Then can go to another breakout session. Repeat. Try to get to as many sessions as you can in one hour);
- I’ve gone to at least five speeches by three Makovskys (David) (Michael) (Alan);
- I’ve discussed Israel with the outside protesters;
- I’ve sung Hebrew songs loudly at the outside protesters;
- I’ve run through big groups of protesters and been punched at while stealing their biggest “Israeli Apartheid” flags… only to feel bad later about property theft (asinine protesters have property rights too! My apologies.)
- I’ve been the guy who tried to ask speakers “the question” in breakout sessions;
- I’ve sat in the media section and pretended that not only did I know The Times of Israel existed, but that I read it on a regular basis;
- I’ve tried to look “unassailably qualified” when checking into the media registration without a pen or laptop;
- I’ve learned what a hashtag is and used it (#IAmProIsrael this year);
- I’ve live-tweeted speeches to keep me awake (e.g. Harry Reid);
- I’ve sat through the abysmally long “roll call” just to cheer for Utah’s congressmen (there are no female Representatives or Senators from Utah);
- I’ve paid $5 for a bagel.
- I’ve eaten six sumptuous free banquet dinners (AIPAC served dinners in 2009, 2010, and 2011 … It got too crowded in 2012 … But at each of the three previous dinners there was always somebody at my table who didn’t feel like eating, and the food eventually made its way to me).
- I’ve gone to receptions meant for Floridians and Californians, two states I’ve never lived in;
- I’ve gone to college parties and told people I was still a student at University of Chicago (but haven’t done since I was 23!);
- I’ve seen the Maccabeats perform live at AIPAC twice, but I’m still looking for the guys that sang this Candelight song – they can’t be the same Maccabeats;
- I’ve sparked an AIPAC romance;
- I’ve made up with an ex-girlfriend over pro-Israel stuff;
- I’ve outdanced 90% of a bar’s attendants… At an AIPAC young professional after party (Park, 2010);
- I’ve counted out the 5:1 male/female ratio at the Lux afterparty the past two years;
- I’ve said “Oh hey man! How’s it going?” only to walk past somebody at least 100 times;
Have I done it all? No. Of course not. AIPAC is so huge and it’s such a flurry of activity that it’s impossible to capture its entirety in 26 simple bullet points (and that’s about all my brain can manage).
But that’s why you have to go. At least once. No matter what you think of AIPAC’s policies. It will maybe be the largest Gathering of Jews under one roof that you ever witness (13,000 attendees this year, probably at least 9,000 Jews), and AIPAC does such a phenomenal job creating its own world inside the Convention Center that by the time you leave hours later, you feel like you’ve just left a casino or opium den, and you have to, disappointingly, step back into reality.
If you missed this year’s event, then check out any major newspaper. Or check out the writings of community members such as Adam Kredo, Alana Goodman, Phil Klein, etc. But like I said, you can’t really be told what Policy Conference is – you have to see it for yourself.
This may be my last Policy Conference for a while — leaving DC 🙁 — but it’s been a wonderful run. Exhausting, certainly, but well worth it. Thanks to the good people at AIPAC for strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship; thanks to Lynn Schusterman for paying for some of my conferences; and thanks to Gather the Jews and Forbes for giving me the media gravitas needed to get me in at later conferences.