JCRC Hosts Briefings at Legislative Sendoff
As part of its ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of the community and the Jewish people, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County invited State Senators, Representatives and their staff to the Federation campus to meet with Jewish community leaders in advance of this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee. Joined by professional and lay leaders from the Federation, its beneficiary agencies and other local organizations as well as the Israeli Consulate and federal offices, they gathered in Zinman Hall for the Legislative Sendoff to learn about the needs of vulnerable residents of Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
Jill Rose, JCRC Co-Chair, greeted the guests, stressing the vital role the legislators continue to play in the growing partnerships among state government, the Federation and its beneficiary agencies. Neil Schiller of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., the firm that has lobbied for the Florida Association of Jewish Federations in Tallahassee for more than 25 years, echoed Rose’s statements and pointed to some concerns of particular interest before the legislature, including: a resolution that affirms the importance of the US-Israel relationship and condemns the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel; developing a Holocaust Memorial in the Capitol courtyard, and the success of Florida/Israel joint ventures through the space industry and technology enterprises.
Presentations from the Federation beneficiary agencies Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC) highlighted local human needs and how much is at stake amid waiting lists and shortfalls in funding for services.
JFS President & CEO, Danielle Hartman, outlined the poignant need for increased resources to address the rapidly growing concern of senior hunger. She also described the critical need to improve affordability and accessibility to mental health services (as 1 in 5 American adults with mental illness reports they are unable to get the treatment they need, and Florida ranks 49th in the nation in per capita spending on mental health services). Hartman further spoke of the dire need for more Holocaust Survivor Assistance as increased numbers of survivors continue to outlive their resources and require more care. She particularly asked for restoration of a special $250,000 state allocation for Palm Beach County that was received for 2014 but not renewed for 2015.
JARC’s Executive Director, Deborah Hallow, and Director of Program Services, Nancy Freiwald described the agency’s range of services for adults ages 18 to 80 with intellectual disabilities, amid Florida’s #46 national ranking on spending in this area. They focused on the need for supportive resources to enable those with disabilities to work, which they see as “not a privilege, but a right.” Their pre-employment training and JARC-supervised experiences at community based training locations have proven successful – however, they receive no support from any state or federal program and hence, while many people are eager to participate and would benefit, opportunities are very limited.
JCRC Co-Chair Andrew Robins moderated supportive responses from elected officials and staff of elected offices. The group heard from State Senator Maria Sachs and Representative Dave Kerner. Also represented were the offices of Members of Congress Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel; State Senator Joseph Abruzzo; and State Representatives Bill Hager, Lori Berman and Irv Slosberg. JCRC Director Stuart Silver recognized the officials and their staff, who are instrumental to our work together on behalf of the community and the Jewish people.
The JCRC will lead a visit to officials in Tallahassee as part of its ongoing advocacy efforts throughout the legislative session.