In 1787 the deliberations of the Constitutional Congress were evolving behind closed doors and the citizenry often milled around outside trying to find out exactly what was going on. One woman, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia, asked delegate Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Since that time, the United States has grown, but unfortunately many citizens now seem more concerned with football and baseball than with keeping a republic. Too many can’t even name their senators or representatives and one Milwaukee, Wis., fifth grade teacher didn’t even know who Scott Walker is. Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin!
One citizen, Avner Zarmi of Milwaukee (this author’s husband and a PJ Media contributor), seems to have heeded Franklin’s words well.
Even as a teenager, he made sure that he was aware of both national and local political affairs. At one point he decided that it was important not only to be aware, but to make a difference. Since his leanings were conservative, he first became a volunteer for Scott Walker when Walker ran for another term as county executive, then volunteered for him when he ran for the governorship of Wisconsin. Zarmi also volunteered for presidential candidates.
Zarmi helped form “Concerned Citizens for Shorewood,” a conservative local government watch group that attended school board and trustee board meetings to monitor these ruling bodies. He himself ran for a trusteeship, but since his Village is predominately Left-wing, he lost the election.
He then joined the executive board of the North Shore Republicans in the Milwaukee area, subsequently becoming its chair for two terms. He promoted conservative Wisconsin candidates and became an election inspector in his district.
Zarmi then took his participation as a concerned citizen a step further, when he became the instigator of an important Wisconsin bill tht Walker signed into law in October. The bill prohibits “any entity in state government or local government from adopting a rule, ordinance, policy, or procedure that involves the entity in a boycott of Israel.”
As the chair of the North Shore Republicans Zarmi attended every meeting, and speaking to legislators he came in contact with proposed a BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) bill against Israel. However the impetus for his gearing up into action came when he heard that the student government of the University of Wisconsin in Madison held a meeting on Passover so that Jewish students wouldn’t attend, and the student government then proposed sanctions on Israel.
After this April meeting, Zarmi attended the Wisconsin Republicans’ state convention. At the convention, he urged the passage of a BDS bill because of the student government’s action and, as he said, “to prevent any further such sanctions against Israel.”
At the convention he met the Midwest director of Christians for Israel, who urged his organization’s members to call their legislators to vote for such a bill. Two years earlier another Wisconsin resident, Peter Gilbert, also urged legislators at an earlier Wisconsin Republican convention to draft a similar bill.
Zarmi also urged state Senator Leah Vukmir and State Representatives Jim Ott and Dale Kooyenga to push such a bill through the legislature.
Zarmi was in constant touch with Vukmir’s office, helping to word the bill as well. The finished product was patterned after the Texas law and copied almost word for word.
Finally, with Ott, Kooyenga and Vukmir pushing the bill through their respective houses, it became law in October when Walker signed it.
So hundreds of years after the founding of the republic, which Benjamin Franklin said an active citizenry must work to maintain, private citizen Avner Zarmi did just that.
The Israeli government ran a story reporting the bill’s passage, and praising Wisconsin for passing it. Twenty-three states have passed such laws, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
Zarmi believes that any citizen can make a difference, just like he did.