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Rabbi Urecki invited to speak at American-Israel policy conference

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Victor Urecki, the rabbi for Congregation B'nai Jacob in Charleston, will speak on a panel Monday morning and talk about how he and others have strengthened ties with members of West Virginia's congressional delegation on U.S.-Israeli relationships.       

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is hosting the conference Sunday through Tuesday in Washington.

Urecki called the chance to speak a real honor.

"Because of our size, because we are a very small, close-knit community, our members have formed close friendships with each member of our congressional delegation. West Virginia is different.

"There will probably be 10 times the number of Jews in that room at the conference as in our entire state. Nevertheless, we have conversations with our members of Congress. That is thrilling."

AIPAC's mission is to strengthen the ties between the United States and its ally, Israel, according to AIPAC's website.  

As America's leading pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC works with Democrats, Republicans and independents to enact public policy that enhances the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Urecki is scheduled to be part of a panel on Monday.

"We think it is going to be on Monday morning, starting at 9:30. It may be covered on C-SPAN," Urecki said.

But all meetings during the three-day conference will be broadcast live on AIPAC's website, www.aipac.org/pc.

Urecki said he would not be talking about major "issues of urgency" that will get focused on by some panels, including issues about "Iran's nuclear program, Syria and Egypt, or foreign aid -- a critical issue of Israel as for the rest of the world."

Urecki said he would focus on work here in West Virginia.

"Whether you are from West Virginia or New York or California, your participation matters in Washington.

"You can make a huge difference when you stand together. It gives me a clear appreciation of what goes on in Washington, how important it is to make our feelings known and to have conversation with our members of Congress in a polite and intelligent fashion, not by screaming," Urecki said.

Vice President Joe Biden will be the main speaker at one of the general assembly sessions during the three-day conference.

The event also will feature appearances by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. 

Ehud Barak, Israel's former prime minister and defense minister, will also be among the conference speakers.

"The general assemblies will be explaining what AIPAC is all about, and the U.S.-Israel relationship," Urecki said. "And it will be a thrill to be up there highlighting what West Virginia is all about."

There will be up to 200 breakout sessions after the featured assemblies, some of which will be conducted in Spanish.

"We will also have a Palestinian negotiator and a former Israeli negotiator to talk about their work. We will hear a very intelligent dialogue about critical issues and about how complicated the situation is.

"We will talk about Iran, about how difficult that situation is and whether they will abandon their nuclear program," Urecki said. "We are trying to do everything we can do to avoid a military conflict.

"We will have 13,000 people gathering at the conference. We will hear different thoughts and ideas. We all come to listen to people.

"It is unbelievable how much bipartisanship there is. Unlike a lot of conferences, AIPAC makes sure everyone gets their time. Everyone will be polite, despite what is going on in Congress right now. It is exciting."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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