January 24, 2023
By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
In my letter last week, I touched on our agenda for the 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature and its basis in Jewish values. This week, I want to highlight what Federation and our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) plan to accomplish in putting Jewish values into action by advocating in Olympia on the issues of greatest concern to community members like you.
By far our highest priority this year is fighting antisemitism, strengthening community safety and security, and preventing hate crimes. In the year that has elapsed since the horrific hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, concern about increasing antisemitism in our country, exemplified by upticks in physical assaults and vile rhetoric spewed by public figures, has grown more acute. This month, ADL released a deeply worrisome report that belief in anti-Jewish tropes among Americans is at the highest level in decades.
The JCRC is committed to combating antisemitism, fulfilling our collective responsibility to keep each other safe, and allying with other communities that also are targets of bigotry and hate crimes. Much of that critical work is done behind the scenes, a good example being our work with the City of Kent in 2022 on the antisemitic actions and behavior of the city’s then-assistant police chief.
Public policy, however, is essential for fighting this threat. The King County Council is expected to consider a proclamation adopting a definition of antisemitism as a necessary foundation of the county’s response to a scourge that endangers our community and the broader society. The JCRC is encouraging the Council to step up and join with the many states and localities that have forcefully condemned antisemitism in this manner.
High on our legislative agenda in Olympia this year is working with other Jewish organizations to support hate crime survivors through community services, increase identification and reporting of hate crimes, fund Holocaust and genocide education, and limit resources available to extremist groups and strengthen civil penalties for common tactics they use to perpetrate attacks.
Complementing our fight against antisemitism and hate crimes is fighting for a just, democratic, and pluralistic society. Among the priorities on the JCRC’s legislative agenda are strengthening voting rights, criminal justice reform, and increased funding for immigrants, refugees, and economically vulnerable families.
Our advocacy track record in our state capital is strong because concerned community members like you historically have gotten involved. You amplify our collective voice and put the compelling power of Jewish values behind our message.
The JCRC advocacy team will keep you informed about the many opportunities you will have to participate in this year’s session as citizen advocates. We hope that you can take advantage of the opportunities that call to you. Your voice and your dedication to Jewish continuity will make a positive difference for our families, our community, and the state that we call home.