Advocacy is one of the ways your JCRC helps our Jewish community bring our values to life—pursuing justice (tzedek), not standing idly by (lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa), and repairing the world (tikkun olam). As an adult, advocating was one of the first ways I learned to not just be Jewish, but also live Jewishly.
I can think of no better quotation that captures the essence of our legislative agenda than the words of Hillel. Im Ayn Ani Li, Mi Li? U’She’ani Le’atzmi Mah Ani? Ve’im Lo Achshav, AyMatai? If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
In advocacy, part of being a good ally is knowing when to step up and lead—as in addressing antisemitism, hate, and bias, and supporting our local Jewish agencies; and when our JCRC should support other leaders—in funding healthcare for undocumented immigrants, or combating the epidemic of gun violence. This year, our JCRC had the opportunity both to lead on critical priorities and collaborate with many local organizations, Jewish and not, to help move dozens of bills and budget priorities across the finish line.
Let’s take a look at several important examples of what we achieved together in the 2023 session:
Combating Antisemitism, Hate Crimes, and Bias
Holocaust and Genocide Education – Our advocacy helped secure $1.5 million over two years for the Holocaust Center for Humanity to help them reach thousands of new teachers who will share the important lessons of the Holocaust with students across Washington state. At a time of rising antisemitism and hate, there is greater urgency than ever to equip Washington’s students with the foundation to be a force for change.
State Nonprofit Security Grants – Our community knows what it’s like to experience a violent, antisemitic attack. And we are not alone. In recent years, local Muslim and Sikh institutions have been the victim of attacks. For years, your Federation has advocated for funding at the federal level for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program—dollars that help provide critical security upgrades, like lighting, fencing, secure entries, and more to our local Jewish organizations and other religious communities. This year, for the first time ever, we secured $500,000 in the state operating budget that will augment federal funding and help more local religious and other vulnerable nonprofits with necessary safety upgrades.
Helping Families in Need
It’s a tragic reality that amid our state’s plenty, one in 10 Washington households don’t have enough food. We were glad to be one of many groups advocating for greater funding for hunger relief. The Legislature met this request and passed legislation providing $28 million for hunger relief. The Legislature took additional steps to help families living in deep poverty: an 8 percent increase in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grant, $8 million for community organizations to help more people understand what resources are available to families needing support, and an increase in the diaper stipend for families with infants and toddlers.
Countering Gun Violence
Our team has been part of Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s coalition work for years. And this year, our combined advocacy to address the epidemic of gun violence resulted in landmark achievements. Our successful collaboration delivered legislation barring the manufacturing and sale of assault weapons, requiring safety training and a 10-day waiting period for firearm purchases (especially important for preventing suicide, the leading cause of gun deaths), and holding firearm manufacturers accountable for enforcing existing gun safety laws and preventing sales to straw purchasers.
Furthering Racial Equity
As many of us know, Washington has a shameful history of covenants that bar sales of homes to Jews, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Locally, there are still thousands of deeds in place that contain such odious clauses. While federal law enacted in 1968 made discriminatory covenants unenforceable, the legacy of discrimination remains, including lower homeownership rates for marginalized communities and inequitable access to credit. To begin addressing this problem, lawmakers passed legislation establishing a commission to study discrimination impacts and recommend special credit programs to remedy them.
For a full list of our legislative accomplishments, click here.
These amazing accomplishments do not happen in a vacuum. They require an incredible team of both JCRC professionals and volunteer leaders working together. I would like to extend my deep gratitude to our team for their efforts. To my colleague, Aliza Mossman, who courageously led our team’s advocacy work while I was on parental leave, and my colleague Cassie Garvin, who unwaveringly supported her in my absence. To our amazing contract lobbyist, Nancy Sapiro, who dedicates endless time and energy to our community in Olympia. And last, but not least, to the members of our JCRC Public Advocacy Committee, led by Zach Carstensen and Hannah Lidman. Each week, they took the time to work through issues and challenges, strategize, meet with legislators, and support and guide our work in a myriad of other ways.
Our wins are your wins! Together, this year, we made a difference! Kol Hakavod and thank you!
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs