Facing unprecedented levels of antisemitism, North America leaders joined hundreds of other advocates around the country in Washington for the Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington Conference. The goal was to urge our nation’s leaders to combat antisemitism and hate crimes and increase funding for Jewish communal security. The group also advocated for expedited resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.
The historic Washington Conference first debuted in 1978 and was revived after a 14-year hiatus. Its return was propelled by a strong desire from young Jewish leaders to engage in hands-on advocacy to strengthen the Jewish community and effect change at this critical time. The conference was hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, National Women’s Philanthropy, and Advocacy Corps.
“I still remember lobbying with my peers at the Washington Conference 30 years ago when I was just beginning my path of communal leadership,” Mark Wilf of Livingston said during the opening plenary session. Mr. Wilf is the chair of the Board of Trustees of Jewish Federations of North America. “I saw then the impact that individuals can have when they make their voices heard on Capitol Hill and I am proud to return today in this leadership position to continue to advocate for issues that will affect the Jewish community and humanity at large.”
“We’re here as a delegation to our national Jewish Federations Washington Conference, advocating and lobbying for social services, increased funding for the nonprofit security grant funding, more resources for the No-Hate Act, further support for Ukrainian refugees, and more,” Dov Ben-Shimon, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, said. “I’m so deeply proud of all the professional and lay volunteers who have made it to this day to come to lobby at our Congress to meet with our representatives, to talk with them and share with them the key issues of the moment.”
During the two-day conference, members of Congress, other public officials, and thought leaders addressed the participants.
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. “Together we will continue to push for that $360 million” in nonprofit security funding, he said. “We all know how greatly this funding is needed, with antisemitism unfortunately on the rise.”
NFL star and advocate Zach Banner spoke about the unique bonds between the Jewish and Black communities in dealing with discrimination: “I think as an honorary ‘mensch’ and Black ally, the conversation today has to be about similarities and differences between the Jewish and Black communities.”
Eric Fingerhut, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, who represented Ohio in the House of Representatives, closed out the conference by encouraging the audience to raise their voices in support of issues that matter to the Jewish community.
“Collectively, together, we can partner with the representatives of government to build the flourishing Jewish communities that the Federations are working on in every single community – communities that are healthy, communities that are safe, communities that are caring,” Mr. Fingerhut said. For more information, go to jfedgmw.org.