Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Richard Stone


Four weeks ago, a delegation of the Conference of Presidents went to Toulouse in France to visit Ozar Hatorah, the school where less than a year ago Jewish children and a rabbi were shot to death for being Jewish. At lunch, I sat next to the school principal, Rabbi Monsonego, whose 8-year-old daughter Miriam was among those murdered. The father, with all the energy he can gather, continues to run this wonderful school, but he's still reluctant to talk directly about what happened and he rarely does so and he rarely entertains visitors.

At one point, without any words or explanation, he simply handed me a digital photo of his daughter. I was acutely aware at that moment of the fact that a few months earlier Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Hollande of France had gone together to Toulouse, had visited Ozar Hatorah and had sat with the grieving father.

I understand that there's little we can really do in many ways for Rabbi Monsonego, and I understand that we are fighting still a difficult battle in Europe and elsewhere against anti-Semitism and against terror. Still, I tried to put into historical perspective the fact that the French president and the Israeli prime minister had traveled together to comfort the bereaved Jews of Toulouse.

And so in Toulouse I thought once again, as I do frequently, what a different world Jews live in because of the fact that 70 years after the slaughter of 40 percent of our people, a Jewish army and a Jewish government protect a Jewish state where any Jew is welcome. Israel has changed the ground rules of Jewish life in so many ways.

And the utter centrality of Israel to Jewish existence gives each of us the potential to play a role—an important role—in our common future; I wonder when ever that happened before. As Americans, we believe ferociously in American values and in the unique contribution America makes to democracy and to the decent treatment of human beings. As Jews, we know that the Jewish state of Israel blends these values into our destiny as a people. And as American Jews, we support to the fullest and without hesitation the strongest possible alliance between America and Israel.

The moment we now occupy in American history propels us to stand up for American values and Western civilization in a frightening world, a world in which terror, oppression, and evil sometimes find shockingly weak resistance. And the moment we now occupy in Jewish history gives each of us—each of us—an awesome responsibility but a new privilege, really, to stand up and actually do something tangible for the security and future of the Jewish people. And no organization has shouldered this new historical responsibility with more devotion and more skill than AIPAC.

Howard and your staff, Michael and your astonishing lay colleagues, you are amazing. I stand here as chairman of the Conference of Presidents brimming with pride that I can claim to be a close partner of AIPAC and, as a board member, part of AIPAC itself.

There's so many examples of the extraordinary relationship we've helped build between two countries that really are at the top of any correct list of the greatest accomplishments in human history. But I wonder if any proof of the relationship has been more visible and dramatic recently than the cooperation and funding extended to Israel by the American government with respect to the Iron Dome defense, to which those of us who found ourselves in Israel during the Hamas missile attacks in November can bear witness. And I do hope that when Vice President Biden comes to see us shortly, the applause of more than 10,000 pairs of AIPAC hands will express appropriate gratitude.

We have a long way to go in all of our struggles. At every step we fight against an ancient hatred for which delegitimization of Israel is simply the latest proxy. And we fight against lies so huge and outrageous that there's hardly a place to grab on to start responding. The neighborhood America's greatest ally lives in gets scarier by the minute, if such a thing is possible.

But look back 70 years when the Jews in Toulouse would have found themselves profoundly alone, as were the Jews all over Europe. The cup shakes, but it's much more full than empty. America will stay strong. The administration and the great American Congress—the great American Congress—are determined. And AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents and CLAL—Royal will hang together and the cup will keep filling. We will do it because the stakes are so high and because our work is so sacred.

Good morning, AIPAC, and thank you.

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