On August 8th, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago hosted a breakfast meeting of the National Association of Jewish Legislators (NAJL) at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual convention held this year in Chicago.
Ann-Louise Kleper, Chair of the JUF Government Affairs Committee, welcomed the 17 Jewish legislators representing 12 states. Joining her were Illinois StateRepresentatives Daniel Biss (17), Sara Feigenholtz (12), Lou Lang (16), and Elaine Nekritz (57). Seven NCSL Jewish staffers including Sheri Steisel, a nationally known NCSL spokesperson on Human Services issues, also joined the breakfast meeting.
"Thirty-five years ago, several Jewish state legislators, including then CT Senate majority Leader Joe Lieberman, convened a bipartisan group of Jewish legislators leading to the creation of the National Association of Jewish Legislators (NAJL)." said Jeff Wice, NAJL's director who also serves as a counsel to the New York State Senate.
"Over the years, NAJL has been active in issues of concern to our Jewish communities including anti-Zionist resolutions, religious displays in public spaces, hate crimes, homeland security, Holocaust assets taxation, Tay Sachs disease and kosher law enforcement. A national network of Jewish elected officials serves as a tremendous resource."
Representative Elliott Naishtat (Texas), who is co-chair of NAJL along with Patrice Arent (Utah), and Jay Kaufmann (Massachusetts), kicked off the discussion by describing an email circulated among the Texas State Republican Executive Committee. It called for the Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, who is a Jewish lifelong Republican, to be replaced by a "true Christian conservative." Other Jewish legislators talked about issues of special concern to the Jewish community such as the defeat of an initiative to boycott Israel in Minn and the passage of a bill in California forbidding communities from passing anti-circumcision laws and issues they all face as legislators in dire economic times.