By Linda Scherzer, CRC Director
Little did we know last summer, as we were beginning to plan a two-day lobbying mission to Washington, that during the week our group would be meeting with the Trump Administration’s International Envoy and Mideast Negotiator Jason Greenblatt, the President – according to news reports – may be making an historic announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Or, that three days after the Senate voted for sweeping tax reform (and as the bill goes to conference) our 16-member group would be meeting with every member of our New Jersey Congressional delegation to argue against elimination of itemized charitable deductions and for a $25 million increase to the federal Non-Profit Security Grant allocation.
While the timing for impact couldn’t be better, the initiative, to meet with our elected officials and lobby on the issues of critical importance to our Jewish community, has always been a fundamental priority for CRC. As the political arm of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, CRC’s role is to encourage civic engagement and advocate on issues that are central to our Jewish agenda. We do that by making phone calls, writing emails, and, occasionally, visiting our elected officials in their local offices. But clearly, there’s no substitute for getting on a train, travelling to Washington, and speaking one on one with members and their staffs; no better way to make the case for preserving the social safety net, or the critical importance of Iran oversight, than to take time out of our busy schedules to meet with legislators from the 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th congressional districts in our nation’s capital.
These are turbulent and divisive times. As we contemplate the grim possibility of cuts to Medicaid and Medicare or the elimination of charitable tax deductions that incentivize our donors to contribute to Federation and other philanthropies, we know that time is of the essence. Our 16-member delegation, chaired by Steve Klinghoffer, has been studying the issues and preparing talking points. On Tuesday, December 5 we will meet with every member of our congressional delegation along with several other members who’ve accepted our invitation to a Greater MetroWest reception at Florida House, across the street from Capitol Hill, including Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), a former member of UJA Leadership Cabinet; Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD); and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
What are the possibilities of President Trump achieving “the ultimate deal,” namely a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians? We’ll discuss that, as well as U.S.-Israel relations during the Trump era, with former Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross, AIPAC Managing Director Elliot Brandt, and Israel’s Deputy Ambassador Reuven Azar.
While our primary focus is lobbying on the domestic and overseas issues important to our community, our goal is also to deepen our relationships with the six members of our congressional delegation (Frelinghuysen, Lance, Gottheimer, Sires, Payne, Jr., and Watson Coleman) and our Senators, Booker and Menendez. Tuesday will be a busy day on Capitol Hill, but we look forward to meeting with each one of them and sharing our thoughts on the tax bill, especially the need to preserve vital human services during a time of great challenges for social service funding.
We hope that you’ll follow our progress and travels on social media (on CRC and Jewish Federation's Facebook pages) and consider joining us on our next lobbying mission in 2018. To those who are joining Steve Klinghoffer and me, thank you for being part of this important mission and safe travels to D.C.!