Spotlight on…..Avi Schranz
BUSINESS NAME AND POSITION: NORPAC, Executive Director
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 26
LOCATION: Cliffside Park, New Jersey
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 4
What made you start this organization?
It was created by the community in Englewood, NJ – and specifically by Rabbi Menachem Genack and David Schlussel – who saw a decline in the U.S.-Israel relationship in the late 1980’s. The organization then expanded to Riverdale, NY (the original “R” of “NORPAC”) and then outward to Manhattan, Long Island, Teaneck, and elsewhere.
For those that don’t know, can you explain what NORPAC is about?
NORPAC is a nonpartisan Political Action Committee (PAC) whose goal is to promote strong U.S.-Israel relations by meeting with members of Congress from both the House and Senate and discussing pertinent issues with them. Most of these meetings are done via political fundraisers in the tristate region. The NORPAC Mission brings everyone willing to join to meet with legislators in DC. We are different than a group such as AIPAC in that we are not a lobbyist organization – we primarily raise funds for Members of Congress. All of our members are volunteers who use their own time and resources to promote our agenda.
When is your annual mission to Washington?
Usually, we hold our Mission to Washington in May, which is after other major pro-Israel events and just before legislators leave DC to spend a larger swath of time in their home states. This year’s Mission will be on Tuesday, May 19th.
What is your one-day mission to Washington?
NORPAC’s Mission to Washington is a single day advocacy event where we bring over 1,000 people from the tristate area down to DC to meet in small groups with three or four members of Congress about U.S.-Israel relations. We provide training and busing for many communities, and each group has a leader who is knowledgeable on the issues presented. It is an impactful day for high school and college students, adults and retirees. NORPAC’s Mission critically introduced many Members of Congress to the Iron Dome anti-missile defensive system, and we were among the first to successfully advocate for its funding. We have furthermore helped pass legislation to increase joint military and scientific projects, and each year we ensure that $3+ billion in aid to Israel remains a priority in Congress.
What is on the agenda for this year?
Our agenda changes throughout a three-month process leading up to the Mission. Given the fluid nature of legislation and focus in Congress, it is still too soon to tell what exact issues will be on the table many weeks from now. Our staple issues include military aid to Israel, missile funding, Iran issues, and fighting BDS. Sometimes other issues crop up, such as a Hezbollah sanctions bill we learned of just a few days before our Mission in 2015. We successfully piloted and advocated for that bill, which finally passed a year later after being reintroduced.
How can one get involved?
People can sign up online at our website, www.norpac.net, or by calling us at 201-788-5133.
Washington is clearly in a state of division with few items getting bipartisan support. How does this divisive culture affect Israel?
Most of Congress is still pro-Israel, even if they disagree on certain details. The goal is to promote those items which garner a wide consensus among members of both parties. There’s a great caucus now, the Problem Solvers Caucus, chaired by one of our local members, Rep. Josh Gottheimer. It’s all about finding common issues that Republicans and Democrats can work on together. That is largely also our model, too: let us find the minutiae in the legislative language that works for the majority of both sides and doesn’t compromise on the matters that are important to America and Israel. It’s also highly impactful when you come to DC and present yourselves as concerned American citizens. Partisan or not, legislators are impressed just to see ordinary people actually show up in person and take the time and effort to advocate. They may not come to your side at the end of the day, but it does make an impact and it garners a personal relationship that may be helpful down the road.
The BDS movement is one agenda you are passionate about. We have been seeing it gain in popularity on college campuses. How can that be combatted?
President Trump’s recent clarification of Title VI and clarification on the definition of anti-Semitism is a big help. On the broader side of BDS, measures such as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act give American companies a means to prevent the United Nations and other NGOs from exerting pressure on them, both directly and indirectly, to cease partnerships with Israeli businesses.
What is the benefit of supporting the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)?
Sanctions are crucially important in keeping belligerent nations and groups in line through economic pressure. Sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in 2015, and they crippled Hezbollah’s access to international finance in recent years. Sanctions against Iran, which were outlined in the ISA and other previously passed bills, are coming back in place and have great force due to the nature of the original legislation.