New and improved—Jewish Federation of North America’s Washington Conference 2022

May 19, 2022

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Earlier this month, Jewish Federations of North America relaunched the biennial Washington Conference. The original incarnation ran from the late 1970’s through 2004. JFNA hosted the event once again for a group of more than 450 community members from across North America to learn and work collectively for the safety and security of the Jewish community. The three main topics for conference participants were the war in Ukraine, ensuring the security of Jewish communities, and combating hate in all forms.

Day one opened with a plenary of speakers welcoming attendees to DC. Among the interesting speakers featured was Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, who shared some of her thoughts and experiences since the onset of the war. After the opening session, participants joined breakout sessions focused on education and advocacy training.

One breakout session featured representatives from the National Urban League, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Human Rights Campaign, and Congressman Don Beyer. The topic was fighting hate together, with a focus on outreach and partnership to other minority groups in order to foster intersectionality and greater understanding. Representative Beyer shared the importance of advocating for robust funding for the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act.

The second session of the day focused on the issue of antisemitism in schools and tools to empower parents and students to advocate for increased inclusion. In addition to discussing the existing means and relationships the Jewish Community Relations Councils can utilize on a community member’s behalf following an antisemitic incident, ways to engage with teachers and administrators before a negative encounter were also explored. Some suggestions included speaking to teachers at the beginning of the year and offering to share some Jewish traditions in the classroom, or speaking with an athletic coach at the beginning of the season to point out potential calendar conflicts.

The evening concluded at the U.S. Institute for Peace, and featured numerous insightful speakers, including Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt and Pittsburg Steelers’ Zach Banner.

Day two of the conference was the day many people were waiting for. Everyone had the opportunity to take what was learned and advocate on those matters to members of congress. My group met with freshmen congressional representatives Sara Jacobs, and Kathy Manning. During our time with each congresswoman we advocated on the policy topics at hand, and heard how their Jewish identity impacts the work they do every day.

The 2022 JFNA Washington Conference concluded with an interactive session that featured local Jewish community leaders, Senator Ben Cardin, and Representative Steve Scalise on the efforts each of them make every day for a more secure and peaceful future.

Consider attending the next JFNA Washington Conference, which should be even more incredible than this year’s.

For more information about Jewish Federations of North America, contact Elka Mednick, assistant director, Jewish Community Relations Council at United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, at emednick@ujft.org.

-Elka Mednick


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