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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


March 25, 2016  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Countless moral moments

Emilie Socash

Twenty four hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds.

I’m writing this column from Reagan National Airport at 1:12 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22. I’m flying home on a 2:55 American Airlines flight from my first AIPAC Policy Conference, where I’ll schlep to my car and drive home to St. Petersburg. I can’t wait to hug my husband, kiss my girls, and finally exhale.

The last 24 hours have been as jam-packed with making sense of my world as I ever hope a day to be. The nagging question of “Who will walk out on Trump?”– in hindsight, a mild distraction and hardly worth the mention– was quickly overshadowed with the more substantive question of our global safety, our humanity.

One hour ago, I chatted with my Ethiopian cab driver who asked why anyone would protest AIPAC. “We’re taught that Israel is holy, from my own holy books. Why would anyone work against Israel or you who love it?” We talked of protests, of radical Islam, of senseless hate and terror.

Two hours ago, I sat in a room with several hundred Floridians at the Washington Convention Center, hearing Sen. Marco Rubio speak to us about his perspective on Israel (America’s top ally), Iran (the world’s enemy), and his plans for the future (a possible interest in the NFL).

Two and a half hours ago I took selfies and group shots of our AIPAC delegation as we waited for Senator Rubio, chatting about anything but what was on all our minds. The Pinellas and Hillsborough County delegates, or at least those of the 150 who I could track down, were warm, welcoming, and happy to have a local Federation professional in their midst. I had already noticed the convention wind-down happening: the specific and nearly measurable shift from all passersby being identifiably Jewish to it being a mix of “us” and “them” on the sidewalk.

Four hours ago, I called my husband. We chatted about Brussels, about safety. I decided to take a cab to the airport rather than the Metro.

Five hours ago, as I decided between the Continental or American breakfast at the Hotel Rouge, I saw the CNN news ticker deliver the news about orchestrated attacks in Belgium, with significant loss of life and a confusion-ridden public. Metro and airport gathering places were the targets. Manhunt underway.

Six and a half hours ago, I had an early-morning FaceTime call with my daughter, Hila, who reported she was missing school and not feeling well. I looked up the airport on my GoogleMaps app and thought I’d walk the handful of blocks to catch the Metro blue line to the airport to save a few dollars.

Seven hours ago, I woke up. I had chosen not to set an alarm after a late night out with my colleagues from Hillel of Central Florida and a little indulgence in Ethiopian cuisine and honey wine at a restaurant called “Etete,” a nickname for “mother” in Ethiopia. The sunrise was spectacular; I was pleased at my decision to leave the curtains in my hotel room open.

Fifteen hours ago, I hopped in a cab taking me home from the restaurant, after a long discussion dissecting the presidential hopefuls’ presentations.

Eighteen and a half hours ago, I sat stunned by the energetic response to all of the political speakers, not just the one who had gotten the most speculation and consternation in advance. I watched as an imperceptible number of the 18,000 AIPAC attendees left the room; I asked the Christian teenager next to me who his candidate was. “Mitt Romney.”

Nineteen hours ago, I sat in a basketball/hockey arena, listening to John Kasich, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz speak to the AIPAC conference, presenting their uniform, predictable, and political sentiments toward Israel. Each mentioned the American stabbed in Tel Aviv. Each told of the rocket from Iran emblazoned with the Hebrew words “Israel must be wiped from the earth.” Each told of their trip(s) to the Holy Land and how meaningful it was to them, their families, their state, their constituents.

Twenty hours ago, I participated in the conversation about who would stay and who would go for one particular speech. I wrestled with the right thing to do. Theories were espoused from the ice-cream vendor, from the rabbi I shared a cab with, from one of my TOP Foundation donors, from the Indian woman working for Hillary’s campaign sitting next to me. What message would we send? How would this gathering represent the entire Jewish community?

Twenty-one hours ago, I waited to be evaluated by the Secret Service to enter the Verizon Center for the evening program. I said a quick hello to Bobby Goldberg, president of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and befriended a couple from Chicago who grew up in Argentina and had immigrated to the U.S. shortly before I was born.

Twenty two hours ago, I attended a session on the history of the US-Israel relationship with professor Gil Troy. The biggest takeaway was his call to action: “Never miss a moment to be moral,” an ideal that has carried through every Jewish and non-Jewish leader who has made an impact on the State of Israel.

Twenty four hours ago, I parted ways with Brian and Debbie Taub on our walk between the Verizon Center and the Washington Convention Center, as they headed to a lobbying pre-meeting, and I met up with Craig and Jan Sher in the Congressional Club lounge. We chatted about the demographic study that we’re working on, and batted around wagers on how many would walk out at the presentation by Trump.

All in a day’s work, but in this day, the world changed.

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