January 21, 2021
Last week marked the beginning of the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session. As in years past, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has a robust package of policy bills and funding requests we are working to pass this year. And as was the case in years past, our legislative agenda was curated through a collaborative process with experts, advocates, and lay leaders and is based upon the results of the 2020-2021 policy priorities survey completed by community members like you!
That is where much of the similarity between this year and past years stops. Unlike years past, Governor Inslee has had to call in the National Guard to protect legislators and the Capitol. Unlike years past, a Jewish Community Lobby Day with bagels and friends in Olympia will not be possible. Unlike years past, advocates like us will not be making the daily trek to the Capitol.
In addition to practical and safety challenges, today’s political and social unrest, extremist violence, and the global pandemic have also created great legislative demands on our state. The significant economic impacts of the pandemic—affecting workers and business owners alike, forcing a large percentage of Washingtonians to choose between buying food and school supplies, and leaving many unable to pay their rent or mortgage—are top priorities for legislative leadership, as is working towards racial equity and addressing climate change.
Our professional team, in collaboration with the JCRC’s Public Advocacy Committee (who we look forward to introducing to you soon!) is working hard to ensure our lobbying on behalf of the community and local Jewish institutions is as effective as ever, but also to pivot and imagine new and innovative ways to help community members like you engage in the legislative process.
To that end, we’d love to see you at In the Wings with the Jewish Caucus, a three-part conversation series we’re hosting with Jewish legislative leaders on issues like housing and homelessness, the state budget, education, police reform, the social safety net, and more. The first conversation will be on Wednesday, February 3 at 6 pm.
In each of these notes, my goal is to include one or more actions you can take to engage in our shared work. Today, I have a number for you to consider:
Register here for the first of our new conversation series, In the Wings with the Jewish Caucus on February 3 at 6pm!
We also encourage you to check out our advocacy page where you can learn how to bring the Legislature to you—watch public hearings and floor action, sign in “pro” or “con” on bills, or even testify on a bill, all from the comfort of your office/home or wherever you are spending your time!
We will also be sending out action alerts regularly. These alerts are an opportunity for you to impact the outcome of passing bills at critical points in the legislative process. If you aren’t already signed up to receive action alerts you can do so here.
Today’s reality also highlights the need to strengthen and participate in our democracy. Judaism is rich with commandments to our people to live this out through our actions—protect the life and dignity of each person, pursue justice, repair the world, and do not stand idly by. Additionally, American Jews’ safety, freedom, and ability to flourish have been dependent upon the health of democratic institutions and our ability to effectively advocate for our needs. And so, the Jewish community has both a responsibility and a practical need to meet this moment with a committed acceptance of our duty to stand up and speak out together. I am reminded of a song I often sang in temple growing up,
“Don’t walk in front of me
I may not follow,
Don’t walk behind me
I may not lead,
Just walk beside me
and be my friend
And together we will walk
in the ways of H-shem.”
We hope to walk beside you in this work.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs