More than 50 members of JUF's Government Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Lee Miller and Vice Chairs Jason Friedman, Judy Smith and Steve Victor, spent May 1 and 2 in our state's capital on the Committee's annual Springfield Advocacy Mission.
Delegates included JUF Board members, including Board Chairman Andy Hochberg, Government Affairs Committee volunteers, and staff and board members from JUF's network of affiliated agencies, including the CEOs of EZRA Multi Service Center, CJE Senior Life, Jewish Child & Family and Services, Sinai Health System, and The Ark.
While in Springfield delegates lobbied state legislators and administration officials on 4 issues:
- Improving and speeding up the Medicaid eligibility determination and redetermination process;
- Raising the rates paid to human services providers;
- Expanding children's and young adults' access to mental health services;
- Improving community safety and security through state-funded security infrastructure improvements for religious institutions and closing flaws in rules and regulations related to gun ownership revocation.
Delegates met with more than 30 legislators, including Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Jim Durkin, and House Majority Leader Greg Harris. Other meetings were held with State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Healthcare and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson, and Medicaid Director Doug Elwell. Representatives of the Pritzker Administration including Deputy Policy Chief Ramon Gardenhire briefed the group on the Governor's "Fair Tax" plan, and on Thursday morning, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton met the group for a breakfast briefing where she discussed the tax plan, justice reform and the need to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred.
One of the highlights of the trip to Springfield was Wednesday night, when the delegation was broken into five groups for intimate dinners with 17 legislators from the Jewish Caucus, Latino Caucus and Black Caucus. "It is always critical to get to know your freshmen legislators, "said Jason Friedman Vice Chair of Government Affairs-State, "That process is helped when we at JUF spend quality time away from the Capital with bright and dedicated people like Ram, Jen, and Bob. Investing in these relationships now means that they see JUF as their partner in building our State." (Senator Villivalam, Representatives Gong-Gershowitz and Morgan.)
The mission concluded with the seven Jewish Federations in Illinois joining the Governor's office to co-sponsor the annual Statewide Yom HaShoah Observance. Community members, elected officials and faith leaders emphasized the need to recommit to "Never Again" - not just as a slogan, but as a reality in the face of rising antisemitism worldwide. Khana Stolyar told her story of surviving the Holocaust in Ukraine, which she said was only possible because of her father's strength and resilience. Andy Hochberg implored those in attendance to "…rededicate our efforts to making sure that contemporary forces of evil do not gain ground." Speaking on behalf of the Jewish Caucus in the General Assembly, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz said, "hate has no political party and no religion," and that "our children deserve a world where they can go to Sunday school without fear they will be gunned down in the classroom."