More than 30 Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago agency professionals, volunteer leaders, and professional staff participated in the annual Government Affairs Agency Advocacy Mission to Washington D.C. on May 15-16 during a particularly eventful week for Congress.
During the two-day fly-in, mission participants received briefings from policy experts and met with elected officials on a variety of policies and programs which impact the work of the Jewish Federation system throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.
"Whether it's back home or in Washington, I always appreciate the opportunity to meet with representatives from JUF to discuss how I can be helpful in Congress to support the work of Federation's affiliated agencies throughout Illinois," Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) explained. "Their voices on these issues, from funding for Holocaust Survivor care to addressing the issue of gun violence and community safety, are so important for the work we do in Congress."
Co-chaired by Government Affairs Committee Chair David Golder and Vice Chair Janna Berk, the mission also included participants from the JUF Board of Directors, the JUF Government Affairs Committee, CJE SeniorLife, Jewish Child and Family Services, Sinai Health System, Keshet, and the Dina & Eli Field EZRA Multi-Service Center.
"Our exceptional team of agency professionals and community leaders effectively demonstrated the breadth of our network of services and the impact that federal dollars and policies have on our ability to provide services to vulnerable children, families, and seniors," David Golder explained.
"Our ability to respond to the issues of the day in Congress and connect them to the work we do at our Federation agencies is critical for our advocacy efforts to have an impact in Washington."
Participants advocated for the preservation of Medicaid and SNAP as effective and accessible programs for the most marginalized members of our community and discussed the issue of community safety and gun violence with elected officials. Additionally, the group advocated for robust federal funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program in Fiscal Year 2019.
During meetings with members of the Illinois congressional delegation and their staff, as well as with Representative Ted Deutch of Florida and Greg Link of the Administration on Aging, participants stressed how the people served by the Federation system throughout Illinois would be impacted by proposed policy changes.
"I had the opportunity to meet with a dedicated group of community leaders who came to Washington to advocate on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago on important policy issues affecting the most vulnerable individuals and families," said Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14). "It was encouraging to hear these advocates from JUF affiliated health and human services agencies speak so passionately about protecting programs and services for seniors, children and families throughout Illinois."
"This trip was an outstanding opportunity to make Federation's voice heard on a wide variety of policy issues that impact our community," Janna Berk said. "Our group consisted of a great mix of professionals and volunteers and represented the full scope of Federation's system."
Just days after the trip, on Friday May 18th, the House rejected H.R.2, the House Agriculture Committee's 2018 farm bill, by a vote of 198-213. This bill, which JUF opposed, contained harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and was a main focus of the group's advocacy efforts earlier that week.
Heidi Kon, Director of the EZRA Multi-Service Center, added, "SNAP is an essential partner for the work EZRA and many of JUF's affiliated agencies do throughout Chicago to serve and expand opportunities for people living in poverty. While this fight is by no means over, the House's rejection of H.R.2 demonstrates the impact our voices, as advocates and community leaders, can have on the legislative process in Washington.