Being only 5 feet tall is pretty overwhelming when you walk around and are constantly being towered over. Often, you’re not heard or listened to because you are just so short.
But standing in a room of more than 14,000 pro-Israel activists is beyond overwhelming. It is stunning, mind-boggling and absolutely amazing that I am able to surround myself with so many people who feel the same way about Israel as I do. It is astonishing how so many people who do not have a strong personal connection to Israel — a good portion of those at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month weren’t even Jewish — feel so strongly about the safety and well-being of the Jewish state.
This year was my second experience at AIPAC. In November, I had been fortunate enough to attend the AIPAC Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit with BBYO. BBYO has supported me and given me so many experiences to support my love for Israel. During the summer of 2013 I took a trip to Israel with BBYO and got the chance to work with a group of Muslim teens, travel the country, learn about the past and have multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
BBYO also has a program called Speak UP that allows teens to support and create a stronger bond with Israel. This year, with the help of other teen leaders and adult advisers, I have been able to start a sister chapter program between my local BBYO chapter and a chapter in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city. BBYO has supported and helped my love for Israel flourish, and getting the chance to travel to the AIPAC policy conference with BBYO was a great chance for me to learn more about how I can locally help support Israel and educate others.
BBYO gives me infinite experiences to grow as a person, a leader and a Jewish individual. Before I had been in BBYO I saw no point in keeping up Jewish traditions, and I was not very proud to be Jewish. BBYO has given me a whole new perspective on what it means to be a Jewish teen and to be a Jewish leader. I may be short in size, but BBYO helps me stand tall and work my hardest to be a leader inside and outside of my BBYO community. Attending the conference was just another way to continue to learn how I can teach others about Israel, how I can advocate for causes I believe in and how I can be a leader no matter how tall or short.
Leah Fishman is a sophomore at The Park School and a member of Achot BBG in BBYO’s Baltimore Council. She currently serves as chapter president. To learn more about BBYO, contact Baltimore Council program director Danielle Hercenberg at email@example.com or 410-559-3549.