JCRC DC Mission Addresses Critical Community Concerns

Front Row (L-R): Stuart Silver, Judi Schuman, Anne Jacobson, Matt Kutcher; Back row L-R: Alan Hurst; Jonathan Westin, Senior Director, Health Initiatives, JFNA; Mark Shaum; Emily Grabelsky; Alicia Spero; Robert Russel; Matt Levin; Chet Kay; Rabbi David Steinhardt; Marissa Trowbridge

A committed delegation of sixteen leaders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and its Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) headed to DC on May 16 for the Federation’s first community Mission to Washington. They spent two days in briefings with experts and advocating with their Members of Congress and U.S. Senators on issues of high importance to the Jewish community. And they returned even more committed to raising their voices for the most vulnerable among us.

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The mission began at the DC office of Jewish Federations of North America. Key staff including William Daroff, JFNA Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office shared the office’s extensive efforts to impact issues of great importance to Jewish communities throughout the country as well as around the world.

Walking on Capitol Hill

“Every day, JFNA’s Washington Office exercises a powerful voice on Capitol Hill, representing the interests and concerns of hundreds of Jewish communities including ours to members of Congress and the administration,” said Matthew C. Levin, Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County President & CEO. “The office continually collaborates with our JCRC, to enhance our ongoing local efforts regarding legislation that impacts the well-being and security of our people - from our own Federation-funded beneficiary agencies that help so many in our community, to Israel and across the globe.”

JFNA policy experts then educated our delegation on the issues to be addressed with Members of Congress and U.S. Senators the following day. These issues are now of particular urgency in light of proposed cuts in funding to vital programs and services:

  • Unmet needs for assistance to the nearly 25% of Holocaust survivors who live in poverty; the federal program has been only half-funded for the past three years.
  • Protection of funding for vital federal programs relied upon by Jewish agencies to aid seniors, those with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. The funding has already been reduced dramatically in recent years, with additional deep cuts proposed.
  • Protection of health care access for low-income children, seniors and persons with disabilities. Proposed changes to Medicaid would jeopardize access to vital services for those most vulnerable, while efficiencies with less potential human costs are available.
  • Opposition to a proposed change to the ABLE Act that would adversely affect the interests of persons with disabilities.

Meeting with Senator Nelson

From JFNA, the group headed to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where Robert Satloff, Executive Director, and other experts provided insights into the region, including Iran concerns and their work with the new U.S. administration. Their day of education ended with a private tour of the powerful “Some Were Neighbors” special exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

An early breakfast briefing on Israel with leaders at AIPAC began the mission’s second intensive day, before the group headed to Capitol Hill to speak with Members of Congress and U.S. Senators who serve our area. In visits with Representatives Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, and with Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, our delegation addressed key areas of concern for our community on which they had been briefed the day before at JFNA.

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“I was honored to be included in the Mission to Washington,” said Emily Grabelsky, Co-Chair of the Federation’s Special Needs Initiative. “It was important for me to speak on behalf of so many in our community, both Jewish and others, who have family members who cannot speak for themselves, yet who will be most affected by the proposed deep cuts to Medicaid and other critical programs that can allow them to lead healthy and meaningful lives. We must make clear that we expect our elected leaders to help protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Meeting with Senator Rubio

“Federal policies directly impact the vulnerable in our community, our beneficiary agencies, and other resources that provide a wide array of life-sustaining programs and services,” said Anne Jacobson, Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Board Chair. “The Mission to Washington increased our effectiveness in speaking for those who need us. It provided a valuable complement to our JCRC’s year-round local advocacy leadership on federal and state issues, and we plan to have annual Missions to DC, as we do to Tallahassee.”

“This mission was an expression of our values as a people and as a community,” said Rabbi David Steinhardt of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton after the mission. “Our advocacy for those with disabilities and for vulnerable populations was made evident in our meetings with our Members of Congress and our U.S. Senators. It is so important that we allow our very strong voice to be heard to protect our needs and also the needs of others.”

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