When the Washington State Legislature opens its annual session in January, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s advocacy team jumps into a swirl of activity — meeting with legislators, attending committee hearings, organizing citizen lobby days, and working closely with other local Jewish organizations to advance the community’s legislative priorities.

All of that hard work bore fruit in 2018 during the 60-day “short session” that the Legislature holds in even-numbered years, resulting in significant progress for the Puget Sound Jewish community, including:

 

More funding for essential community education programs to combat anti-Semitism, hate, and discrimination.

 

A Capitol celebration and a state Senate resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

 

Greater protections for voting rights, against housing discrimination, and for equal pay for equal work.

 

More services for people in need.

 

Stronger gun violence prevention legislation efforts.

 

“Federation advocacy, rooted in Jewish
values and carried out collaboratively with our Jewish partner organizations, is
making a lasting and impactful benefit on our community and beyond,” says
Nancy B. Greer, Federation President & CEO.

 

Take a look at a few examples:

BUDGET WIN

Combating Anti-Semitism And Hate

Federation advocacy resulted in the Legislature appropriating $100,000 each for two important programs for fighting hate — for the Holocaust Center for Humanity to create an online encyclopedia of Holocaust education and resources, and for the Anti-Defamation League to expand by more than 50 percent the number of Washington schools served by ADL’s No Place for Hate anti-bias education program.

 

Why It Matters

ADL reports anti-Semitic incidents rose a shocking 57 percent nationally from 2016 to 2017. Schools in Washington are seeing more instances of hate-based incidents against Jews and other minorities. Increased exposure to anti-bias education and ensuring the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten are essential for countering prejudice and helping schools to protect students.

BUDGET WIN

Camp Solomon Schechter Upgrade

Federation advocacy secured $200,000 in the state Capital Budget for Camp Solomon Schechter to upgrade its aging infrastructure.

 

Why It Matters

Not only will the upgrade benefit Jewish children who attend overnight camp every summer, but it will support OSPREY, an outdoor education program that Schechter runs for schoolchildren, many of whom go to high-poverty schools and otherwise would not have an opportunity to attend an outdoor learning program.

 

ENACTED LEGISLATION

Civil Liberties and Human Rights

Persistent advocacy over several legislative sessions paid off with passage of landmark bills: 1) the Washington Voting Rights Act, protecting the equal opportunity of minority groups to participate in local elections, 2) same-day voter registration, eliminating confusing deadlines that depress voter turnout, and 3) the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, Rep. Tana Senn’s bill strengthening safeguards against  gender discrimination in employment and career advancement opportunities. Senn’s legislation is the first overhaul of the state's equal pay law in 75 years.

 

Why It Matters

Federation advocacy is based on the Jewish values of tzedek (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), foundations of a just society where everyone’s vote counts equally and all are treated equally in the workplace.

 

LEGISLATIVE WINS

Services For People In Need

Passage of Breakfast After the Bell legislation was a hard-won victory following years of advocacy. Beginning in the upcoming school year, qualifying high-needs schools will be required to offer students breakfast after the bell at the beginning of the school day. Other Federation-supported bills that passed included prohibition of landlord discrimination against tenants paying rent with public assistance, and allowing people who receive state aged, blind, and disabled grants to also receive housing assistance, an important step for preventing homelessness.

 

Why It Matters

Judaism commands that we “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Our values call on us to help those in need as a matter of responsibility, righteousness, and justice. 

BIPARTISAN MEASURES

Preventing Gun Violence

No single measure can stop gun violence, but every sensible measure that is enacted into law is a valuable step forward. Two bipartisan measures the Federation helped pass included SB 5992, which prohibits bump stocks, the trigger modification devices that make a semi-automatic weapon operate like an automatic, and SB 5553, a suicide-prevention measure allowing individuals facing serious mental health challenges to voluntarily add their names to a “do not purchase” list.

 

Why It Matters

Jewish values speak clearly to the need for preventing gun violence. The Talmud teaches, “He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe, and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.” By advocating through collaboration with Jewish organizations and developing productive relationships with elected officials, the Federation is doing the work that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said is a moral imperative: “A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith.”

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