Federation Advocacy Made a Difference in Legislature

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO

The hard work the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and our partner organizations put into advocacy in Olympia this year paid off! Yesterday, the Washington State Legislature wrapped up its work for 2018, bringing a short, 60-day legislative session to a close, during which the Federation helped make significant progress on the top 2017-2018 concerns of the Jewish community.

This legislative session, we were able to spend more time advancing a positive agenda and less time playing defense against harmful policy proposals. Our advocacy accomplishments will help build a better world – from fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of hate and discrimination to preventing gun violence, from strengthening services for people in need to celebrating Israel’s independence.

Below are some of our most exciting advocacy accomplishments. Please check out a full report of 2018 budget and policy wins on behalf of the Jewish community and Jewish agencies on our website here.

The state budget is more than a spreadsheet detailing revenues and outlays – it is a statement of values, and of our society. And as always, our advocacy team worked hard to ensure the state budget reflects our shared values.

  • The Federation secured $200,000 in the 2017-2019 Capital Budget for Camp Solomon Schechter to upgrade its aging infrastructure. This victory will have broad benefits – in addition to being a great overnight camp for Jewish children and their families, Schechter runs OSPREY, a high-quality outdoor education program for schoolchildren, most of whom come from high-poverty schools and otherwise would not have the opportunity to access outdoor education.
  • To combat rising anti-Semitism, hate, and discrimination in our K-12 schools, the Federation secured $200,000 in the 2018 Supplemental Operating Budget for: 1) the Holocaust Center for Humanity to create a comprehensive online encyclopedia of Holocaust education resources, and 2) to expand by over 50 percent the number schools in Washington State served through the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate anti-bias education program.

Israel – Celebrating 70 Years
The Federation played a central role in organizing a Capitol celebration marking the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. We were grateful to host Israeli Consul General Shlomi Kofman as the honored guest of the day. Festivities included a private breakfast, the House Republican Caucus and the State Senate’s unanimous passage of a commemorative resolution, and culminated in a noontime celebration with music, speeches, and treats. The Federation welcomed dozens of legislators, community and faith leaders for the day of events.

Lobby Days

  • This year, 55 community members took part in Jewish Community Lobby Day in Olympia on February 21. The Federation welcomed Jewish community members representing a larger geographic area than ever before – visiting nearly 50 legislative offices! Constituents advocated to support immigrants and refugees, to prevent gun violence, and for criminal justice reform. And what a concrete difference participants’ advocacy made! Because of visits to representatives on February 21, you ensured the House budget included funding for the No Place for Hate program in its version of the 2018 supplemental state budget.
  • The Federation also helped organize a separate Lobby Day for Jewish Family Service, which drew about two dozen JFS staff and lay leaders to Olympia. These advocates met with 25 legislative offices to educate them about the work of JFS and to advocate for policy changes that would alleviate homelessness by highlighting the positive impact the passage of these policies would have on JFS clients.

I would be remiss if I did not give a huge thank-you to our incredible Jewish Caucus, who are true leaders and our partners in this work – and without whom none of these accomplishments would have been possible.

The entirety of our legislative work illustrates that the Federation’s advocacy, rooted in Jewish values and carried out collaboratively with our partner Jewish organizations, makes a lasting and impactful benefit – for our community and far beyond.

We can and should feel good about our collective efforts in this year’s legislative session, but we won’t be resting on our laurels either. There is always more work to be done to repair our world. We strive to live up to Abraham Joshua Heschel’s reminder that “A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith.” We’ll continue taking those leaps, thanks to your generous support of our work.