From college campuses to Capitol Hill, Melissa Rauch stands up for Israel. The 24-year-old former San Diegan and current Washingtonian promotes the Jewish state as part of her job as senior associate of political outreach at the American Jewish Committee.
Rauch graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arizona State University in 2013. She came to Washington to intern for Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat representing San Diego. Later, she spent two years working in the marketing, creative and events department at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Tell us about your job at AJC.
I work in political outreach, building relationships with congressional offices and ensuring that we can work on different pieces of legislation together and build support from any offices who believe in what we’re doing and want to promote our values, which are really combating anti-Semitism, promoting Israel’s place in the world and preventing a nuclear Iran.
What issues are you working on?
I focus on international issues. We worked hard on passing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. We are working right now on the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act. We have a bunch of BDS [anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions] legislation that’s in the works. We are also working on European Union labeling legislation within both the House and Senate, the importance of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship and allowing states the right to maintain sanctions on Iran.
How was your experience at AIPAC?
I had two different roles over the course of the two years, but primarily worked on speaker logistics. A lot of that was planning where different speakers were going to speak all across the country and in all of the different AIPAC regions. Our department also worked on every national event, including the policy conference. I worked on building the budget for the policy conference and had a hand in everything.
Putting together a budget for the 16,000-person conference must have been challenging.
The most challenging part was that it grew every year. With that, you have to accommodate more people, so it was definitely not easy. This year it’s probably going to be 20,000 people.
What was it like interning for Scott Peters?
I knew I wanted to go to D.C. He was my representative at home, but he also really stood for everything I believed in, so it was a perfect fit. Because of my Jewish, pro-Israel background, that became my sweet spot. If there were any questions on anything relating to the Middle East, Israel, foreign affairs it came to me.
What did you learn studying the Arab-Israel conflict at Hebrew U?
The general takeaway was being there in our homeland and feeling everything happening. It doesn’t matter what you see on the news, when you’re there you know what is truly going on. Feeling the connection, especially in Jerusalem, that there was a strong connection between the Arabs, between the Israelis. I would have hour-long conversations with Israelis, with Arabs, with cab drivers, with anybody I met in the shuk. Everybody wanted peace, and it was very reassuring to come away with that.
Are you concerned about the anti-Israel climate on U.S. college campuses?
Yeah, I would definitely say I’m concerned. Going to one of the largest universities in the country, I saw it firsthand all the time. The BDS on campus is out of control. Campuses all over the country are getting BDS passed, and I don’t know if they fully understand it or know what it means. But the message is clear that they’re not supportive of Israel, they’re not supportive of the Jews and that they don’t necessarily want peace between [Israelis and Palestinians].
How would you like to see the media report on Israel?
For me, I really just want to see the reporting done without any bias and from both sides. So when I see a headline of three Palestinians were killed in an attack, where then I look for other media sources and find that these three Palestinians ran toward an Israeli soldier with a gun or a knife or whatever it was, and were then killed in the attempted murder, that’s a lot different. So for me it’s seeing both sides of the story and not having an immediate bias toward one group of people.
Do you miss the Southern California weather?
Yes. The first time I ever saw snow was in D.C., which everybody has found very funny because it’s not even that much of a snowy city. But clearly after the blizzard we can say that it is now.