From the outside, the Kline Galland Home for assisted living is peaceful. The sprawling two-story building is set back among trees and gardens. The grounds are usually quiet, with the occasional car entering the gate or people strolling along a path.
Maintaining a high level of health and hospice care for Kline Galland’s elderly and disabled patients has been an ongoing challenge, according to CEO Jeff Cohen, but he says the job has been made easier by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s dogged advocacy on behalf of human services programs.
“I think the Federation is a force in lending a voice to those who usually would not have a voice,” Cohen says. “It’s very important that the Jewish community speaks with one voice. The Federation has always been there to help amplify our issues and galvanize our community.”
Advocacy is a core program of the Federation’s vision to create Jewish Connections for Life. An element of this work is advocating for Jewish Puget Sound to all levels of government. As part of its advocacy work, the Federation teamed up with Kline Galland several times to bring improved quality home health and hospice care to Jews in the Puget Sound region. Only seven years ago, according to Cohen, Seattle was the largest city in the U.S. with a significant Jewish population that did not have a Jewish hospice program. Kline Galland’s application to the Washington State Department of Health for a hospice program initially was rejected.
Refusing to give up, Cohen sought assistance from the Federation, which gathered more than 200 letters from the community to support Kline Galland’s application, resulting in the program’s approval. Through the partnership with the Federation, the Kline Galland Center & Affiliates now has a full-service home health care and hospice program as well as a Medicare-certified home health agency.
“That was a really great partnership that we forged to develop this really important program for the community,” Cohen says.
Kline Galland’s expansion of services is one example of the Federation’s advocating for Jewish community priorities. The Federation also works with the Jewish Federations of North America on federal issues impacting Jewish Puget Sound. In August, the Federation secured $282,000 for local organizations from the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Since the programs inception, the Jewish community has been awarded over $2 million in
security grants from Homeland Security with the Federation's assistance.
At the state level, the Federation works on a variety of issues that are of paramount importance to the Jewish community, including civil rights, protecting services for the most vulnerable, education, and combating anti-Semitism.
The Federation “was able to make connections with legislators, so we were able to get an operating budget to preserve over 200 testimonies of local Holocaust survivors,” says Dee Simon, the Holocaust Center for Humanity's executive director. “We were able to preserve our entire testimony collection for future generations. It was really critical to our work.”
The Federation maintains an ongoing presence in Olympia. Government relations manager Maxima Patashnik meets regularly with
community organizations and legislators to set priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Patashnik also staffs the Federation’s
Government Affairs Working Group, which comprises representatives from community organizations, to determine community needs.
In the Legislature’s 2015 session, the Federation helped pass several bills, including Senate Bill 5317, ensuring that all children considered at risk for autism receive screenings, and Senate Bill 5518, which develops tools to properly deal with sexual assaults on college campuses.
“From our sacred text, we talk a lot about equitable treatment,” says Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia. “We don’t place an undue burden on the poor. Hopefully, [our advocacy] reminds the people making these decisions that these aren’t economic decisions, they are moral decisions.”
In 2014, the CEOs and volunteer leadership of four local Jewish organizations — the Federation, Kline Galland, Jewish Family Service, and the Pacific Northwest regional office of the Anti-Defamation League — traveled to Olympia to advocate, among other issues, for the protection of Washington’s social safety net, which provides essential services to the most vulnerable people in the state.
“It was just an impressive group that came down,” says Rep. Tana Senn (D-41st) and former member of the Mercer Island City Council.“It’s very important that the Jewish Federation brings that voice for those that need it. The Federation is bringing the Jewish community down to Olympia as one voice. That’s powerful.”
One way the Federation builds productive relationships is through the biennial Passover Legislative Seder, which is held during the Legislature’s budget-writing sessions. The seder is held in Olympia at Temple Beth Hatfiloh. Both Jewish and non-Jewish legislators and legislative staff are invited to attend. Typically, around 100 people show up.
“It’s an event that a lot of people look forward to in Olympia. The Federation’s reach is even beyond the Jewish members,” Senn says. “[The Passover seder] is an opportunity to tell the story of a stranger in a strange land not having enough food. They are stories that both Jews and non-Jews can relate to, and it’s so amazingly effective.”
Currently, the Federation’s Government Affairs Working Group is crafting a Jewish community statement on economic justice to serve as the basis for new areas of advocacy work next year.
“It is important for the Federation to be at the table because the Jewish community has a unique voice to bring,” Goldstein says. “It’s a voice that’s rooted in our history and spirituality, and the values that we hold that are found in our texts and teachings. Advocacy work is all of our work.”