This year, you don’t have to go to Trenton to speak to state legislators about the Jewish community’s concerns on behalf of the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
This Tuesday, March 21, the JCRC will hold its state legislative advocacy day, starting with a breakfast and a briefing on key issues at the federation’s Paramus office. Then participants will fan out to the offices of state senators and assembly members throughout the federation’s North Jersey catchment area.
“This is an opportunity to stand firmly with your community,” JCRC’s director, Lori Fein, said. “Our community feels itself under attack and very vulnerable,” she added, referring to the repeated bomb threats sent to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly along with other JCCs across the country. “We can strengthen ourselves by standing together and taking purposeful action.”
Security and anti-Semitism tops the list of four issues the JCRC has put on the agenda for the meetings, Ms. Fein said. Concretely, the state government administers the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which has helped many local institutions — including synagogues and schools — beef up their security.
The JCRC also is asking for the state to supplement the federal grants, because they are targeted at urban areas. Those areas include the federation’s catchment area but excludes some of the state’s remote Jewish communities.
The JCRC also will ask the legislators to allocate funds to help institutions pay for security guards. The federal grants can be used only for specific items of security infrastructure, such as cameras and bulletproof window coatings.
Vered Adoni, an assistant prosecutor at the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, will discuss these issues at the briefing.
The second issue to be discussed will be senior and disability services. “Federation is one of the largest funding organizations for senior services,” Ms. Fein said.
“The third issue is educational funding parity” — state aid for Jewish day schools — she continued. “To the extent that the state can fund completely secular areas of the school, we advocate for it. We were successful last year in getting allocations to increase. We hope to do it again.”
Maurie Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union, will explain the details at the briefing.
“Support for Israel among elected officials” is the fourth item on the agenda, Ms. Fein said. “Last year we were successful. We had an anti-BDS bill that was passed with almost unanimous support by the legislature, preventing the state from contracting with companies that support a boycott of Israel.
“This year we’ve decided to highlight a potential area for partnership with Israel,” she said. That area is water.
“Much is said about Israel’s dynamic technical companies and institutions, their incredible advances in so many areas of science and technology,” Ms. Fein said. “One such area is the advances made in water preservation, water conservation, and water resources. In a short period of time, Israel has gone from drought and water shortages to become a water exporter. It’s exporting not just water but water technology as well.
“Many specific advances are things that could have important implications for New Jersey, which has some overlap and some differences in its water problems.”
“There’s a chance to build something that’s better for New Jersey and better for Israel,” Stan Goodman said. Mr. Goodman is chair of the JCRC’s government relations committee and will present the case that New Jersey can learn from Israel on water matters at Tuesday’s briefing.
Mr. Goodman said the advocacy day “is part of a long-term effort to build relationships so they recognize us and understand our interests.”
Taking the meetings to the legislator’s district offices, rather than to Trenton, “has a lot of advantages. We can include more volunteers.”
All told, the federation extends into nine of the state’s 40 legislative districts. If volunteers don’t show up from all of the districts, the JCRC will send a delegation anyway, Ms. Fein said. “As much as legislators generally do prefer to hear from their own constituents, the legislators are very happy to hear from whoever is coming from Federation representing the Jewish community as a whole.”
So why should newcomers to the JCRC show up on Tuesday to join in the advocacy?
“This is an opportunity to make a difference on issues that are important for the whole community,” Ms. Fein said. “It’s an opportunity to meet your legislators and develop your own personal relationship with them. And of course it’s an educational opportunity to learn more about these issues through our briefing.”
And after the meetings, it’s an opportunity to return to the federation offices for lunch and a briefing.
What: JCRC State Legislative Advocacy Day
When: Tuesday, March 21, 8:30 a.m. — 3 p.m.
Where: Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus
More information: Call David Silverman at (201) 820-3944, email him at Davids@jfnnj.org, or go to www.jfnnj.org/advocacy.