Illinois is poised to become the first state to adopt legislation countering the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
Conceived by Governor Bruce Rauner, strategized in cooperation with JUF, sponsored by State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and co-sponsored by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, among others, the bill passed the Illinois Senate last week 49-0 (seven voted "present" and three did not vote).
The Illinois House is expected to vote on this coming week, and adding your voice in support is critical.
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Modeled on earlier state legislation that divested from South Africa, Darfur and Iran,
requires the state's five pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel. An Illinois Investment Policy Board will ensure compliance with the state's three operative divestment laws (Darfur, Iran and Israel).
Referring to the bill during remarks at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Chicago earlier this week, Gov. Rauner said, "67 years didn't happen without a fight. And 67 more won't happen without all of us staying strong and standing up to anti-Semitism - whenever and however it appears. Here in Illinois, we need to do our part. I made a pledge that Illinois would become the first state in America to divest its public pension funds from any company in the world that boycotts Israel."
David Golder, chair of JUF's Government Affairs Committee said those who wish to support the legislation should send emails, make phone calls, and write letters to their state representative in support of this bill.
"Illinois legislators have been hearing the bill's opponents say such things as the bill suppresses First Amendment protections. The bill does not, of course, infringe on anyone's free speech or association rights," Golder said. "People often ask how they can help fight BDS in a meaningful way… this legislation provides an impactful way to act. Please take that action now."
Suzanne Strassberger, JUF associate vice president of Government Affairs, who represents all the Jewish Federations of Illinois in Springfield, urges community members to contact their state representative with a simple message:
"Stand against companies boycotting Israel. Vote 'yes' for SB 1761, Senate Amendment 3."
For legislators' contact information and to follow the bill's progress, visit
"At the core of the BDS movement is a quest to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state," said JUF President Steven B. Nasatir. "So when Gov. Rauner approached us with this idea, we were thrilled to work with him and Richard Goldberg, his deputy chief of legislative affairs, to advance the bill. We've been working with members of both parties and from all parts of the state. We hope not only that it passes here in Illinois, but quickly becomes a template for similar action in many other states."
Bill sponsors Sen. Silverstein and Rep. Feigenholtz thanked their colleagues for their support, JUF for the significant advocacy brought to the issue and the governor for reaching out to shepherd the bill through the General Assembly.